A. E. Jordan
...One other thing I'm trying is the NYC marriage applications/affidavits/
licenses recently obtained under the FOIL ... These are not the marriage
certificate, but are more detailed and may give me more of the information I seek.
It's all done by snail mail, so I'm eagerly waiting.
A few comments to clarify continuing misconceptions about New York records.
The marriage licenses have been available at the Municipal Archives for many many
years now so what was achieved was putting the images of the index online. The
index and the certificates were long ago put in the shelf at the Municipal Archives
and numerous people had talked about them here. Last year the Marriage Bureau
transferred the licenses though 1949 to the Archives as well but the Archives
already had the index into 1950 on the shelf.
There is a very common misconception that because the license files are two or
three pages that they are far more detailed. First if you read the three page
files you will see the questions and the information is the same between the first
and second page. Same questions and same answers. The first page is the marriage
details supplied by whoever performed the ceremony.
The questions are not only the same between the first and second page but the same
as what was asked by the Health Department on the more familiar files. In many
cases the bride and groom answered the questions answered the questions exactly
the same. Think about it, if someone asks you today where were you born you said
New York (for example) consistently. One time you do not say East 72nd Street in
Manhattan and the next time New York and the third time such and such hospital.
Our ancestors did the same when they were asked the questions. So if they said
Russia it was always Russia and most of the clerks said very good. Some clerks
seemed to push for more detail but that is very rare.
The same is true with things like names. If you said you mother born Malka was
Mollie you did not change the answer and the clerk did not say "Are you sure?".
The answers are most often exactly the same.
Where the two sets of records most frequently are different is when there was a
divorce involved or sometimes when the bride was very young. The Health Department
did not care about the divorce and simply recorded that either or both parties were
divorced and took down the number of marriages. The City Clerk however was more
inquisitive and wanted the details. The forms changed over time but they generally
recorded when and where the divorce took place and later on even the terms of the
divorce, if the spouse was still living and their name. So if you have a divorce
in the tree get the marriage license if you want to know about prior spouses. I
have even seen divorce decrees attached to the license file as proof (and if it is
there the Archives includes it with the copy).
I have also seen in the file back up documentation about ages but more often it
seems to come >from Italian origins or Catholic weddings. You find baptismal
certificates or letters >from the father granting the daughter the right to marry
or saying she is of age and those got attached and copied right along with the
That is not to say it is not worth getting the license but I want to manage
expectations and perceptions. There are some other reasons to get both files
because sometimes it is hard to read something and by cross referencing you get
As for it being snail mail ... yes that is true unless of course you use a
research or someone like me who does retrievals.
It is worth checking the people on the passenger list. I had a name for my great
grandfather and I checked them and searched them out. Nothing. When we did the
DNA we figured it all out and they were related.