Often we neglect an important piece of information on a marriage record which can be utilized to further our research goals. This is the name of the person who married the couple. There are several reasons why this is important. I will offer a few examples.
J. P. Marriage: If a Justice of the Peace (J. P.) performed the marriage, then my assumption is they went down to the courthouse and the ceremony occurred in the J. P.’s Office. That means a church marriage probably did not occur. While this is not unusual in itself, it does raise some questions. Why would a Catholic couple be married by a J. P. if there was a resident priest? My first guess would be it was a mixed marriage, with one party being non-Catholic, and a church dispensation could not be obtained for whatever reason. Knowing one party was not Catholic is important. Another reason may be the couple was not religious or have a denomination they leaned toward. Again, that could be an important clue, steering your search away from church registers.
M. G. Marriage: When a Minister of the Gospel (M. G.) marries a couple; that in itself has to be taken with some care. What is an M. G. anyway? Don’t assume the clerk did not classify a Catholic priest as an M. G. Depending on the civil clerk, an M. G. may be the same as a P. P. (Parish Priest). The name of the M. G. is important.
Identifying a Church: If you don’t know what church your ancestors attended, then you can learn this by researching the M. G.. This can be accomplished through directories, published histories, or through an Internet search. This applies equally for both Catholics and Protestants. Once you know what congregation, parish or denomination, the M. G. served; then you can proceed to search the correct church registers.
Although the name of the person performing the marriage may seem unimportant, if you do not know the name of a congregation or even denomination, this is the best way to identify that.
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