German SIG #Germany Re: Accuracy of dates in public records & sources #germany

Sally Bruckheimer

Dates are inaccurate for many reasons. People might remember wrong (or changing
calendars, >from Jewish or Julian to Gregorian), but I think most of the time is simply
differences in rites.

The records >from Europe are usually civil registry dates. This couple married civilly
on a certain date. However, they may have married religiously long before.
Sometimes you see civil marriage records where a couple had already had 15 kids.
Sometimes this is because a widow and widower married, but if you look at the birth
records of the kids, often the kids were the biological children of the couple, and
the civil marriage presumably takes place many years after the religious marriage.
Why this happens is often a mystery, but it may have happened because of changes
in the tax on (civil) marriages, or there may have been some effort by the government
to get people to marry. Perhaps, as we have 'vow renewal' ceremonies today, a couple
might have married civilly after many years, just to celebrate and confirm their marriage
(this is a guess on my part, I don't know of any instance, but we often don't know why).

Since there was no reason to marry civilly to emigrate, that probably wasn't done.
A man and a woman with kids could leave just as legally (or illegally) as a family.
And, if the couple was going to America, they needed no papers at all to immigrate,
but they might have wanted to have a civil marriage record, perhaps if they had a
fire and their ketubah was destroyed.

Sally Bruckheimer, Princeton, NJ

[Moderator note: "Civil" marriage in Germany is explained in the Expedia article
cited in this Forum yesterday.

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