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            September, 2004

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor

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 Original Courthouse
Records - Always Correct?
- by Charles Hansen

        Just over a year ago our county was having a budget crisis due to a new city being formed just east of Spokane. This new city has a population of about 88,000 people and so the county lost about a third of their income. Several of the departments also lost about a third of their work, so that helped those departments. The Auditor did not lose that much work. Since the staff had little time to check the records this made the records almost not accessible to the public.

        The Auditor or her assistant called the library where the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society has their resources and asked if there was someone that could help do lookups in the auditor's records. The very next Monday I was to start two weeks of jury duty, so before then I stopped by the Auditor's office and agreed to do the lookups. About a week later they had a form they send to anyone looking for the records kept by the Auditor. They had my E-Mail address completely wrong, so I corrected it for them. Since then I get E-Mails, letters and even phone calls from people looking for records.

        All the original marriage records for the county from 1880 to the present are in the Auditor's office. Since 1973 the marriage records are all on their computer so I don't do any lookups there. The Auditor also has death records and birth records from 1891 to the middle of 1907 when the State of Washington took over recording them. Births were not required to be registered till the middle of 1907 when the state took over. Births are one of the records a lot of genealogists look for and even though the county has about 12,000 births recorded, a lot were also never recorded.

        While this sounds like a lot of work, the queries are sometimes interesting. I can see why the Auditor was having problems with some of them. I have received queries for census and city directories, neither of which the Auditor has. A while back, I looked up the Certificate of Marriage for Arthur Grant and Louise Raun, he was 22 and she was 25. The next question asks if they are single, widowed or divorced. Arthur was single and Louise wrote divorced. The next question was the Number of the Marriage. Arthur and Louise both put one. I always thought you had to be married to be divorced, but this was Louise's first marriage according to the certificate. I guess that question is hard for some to figure out. Another Certificate of Marriage I looked up was for Peter J. Weeks and Ottila H. Gray. He was 70 and she was 50 both listed as widowed, but both put that this was their first marriage. Maybe neither was married before?

        Birth records are equally interesting. A while back I looked up a birth of a Beckworth child (no given name on the certificate). Mother Elsie Van Horn age 22 her second child. Father W.F. Beckworth age 27 a RR brakeman. Child listed as Legitimate and born February 22, 1903. On September 21, 1903 Walter Franklin Beckworth age 30 married Flora Davidson age 34 and it was the first marriage for both of them. If Walter was not married till September how could the child born in February be legitimate? Another birth was for a Marshall child (no given name again). Father J.W.Marshall age 50 a lawyer, mother William Payne age 43 her 7th child. After listening to all the controversy on same sex marriages on the news and problems it will cause future genealogists, was this family ahead of its time? Or was my biology teacher wrong, it does not take a man and a woman to make a baby?

        The query that really was interesting was to look up the marriage for Vernon W. Hewett and Geraldine F. Weniger. They were married in Spokane, March 8, 1937 and they even gave me the certificate number A54030. Then they went on to say both the bride and the groom used assumed names; the groom used Charles P. Thompson age 29 from Lewistown, Mont.; bride used Mary Carson. Witness was Margaret Thompson the mother of Vernon and she had remarried when Vernon's father had died. Her maiden name was Carson so that is where they got the name for the bride. As I was heading for the courthouse I was wondering how this marriage was indexed, but it was under Charles Thompson. I wondered if this marriage was legal, since they both used different names. Since there is a sign on the wall at the Auditor's office that says they can not give legal advice, I did not think people there would know. Both are probably dead now, so I guess that does not matter much.

        These are just some if the intriguing records one may come upon in searching courthouse records and some may be incorrect. Just because it is in the courthouse does not mean there were no mistakes, you should verify your facts with other sources if you can.

 Things to Consider
- by Carol Sanderson

        I would like to consider some of the basic things we learned early in our genealogy experience so that our searches may be more fruitful.

        We were taught:

  • to seek and use primary sources wherever possible. That is often hard to do. When we can't use them because they aren't there for some reason, we ought to look for other sources that verify the facts that we seems like there may be safety in numbers.

  • to remember moving boundaries when it seems as if our ancestors moved when we knew they hadn't. Boundaries of towns, counties, and states moved in this country as it expanded westward and grew in population. They moved in Europe and other areas too as wars were fought and areas came under the rule of different countries.

  • to ask our families about their early life and that of parents and grandparents. We listen to the oral history of our families and try to determine fact from myths that creep into the stories.

  • to label pictures to help our remembering. If they are not labeled, we try our utmost to find family to help identify people and places. I have boxes handed down by three generations. Some are labeled; some are not. I've poured over these time and again by myself and with others. Sometimes we luck out and one picture will help identify others.

  • to use all sorts of records, census and census indexes, tax, marriage, birth and death records as well as military records and many others. In examining these records we are all inclined to take what they give as fact. There is something satisfying to find what we are looking for but is it exactly what we were seeking?
        In the preceding article, Charles mentions looking up a marriage record. What he found on one record were names of two people both with men's names. Sounds like a same sex marriage doesn't it? Remember, though, that there are men out there with what we think of as feminine names...males named Beverly, Carol, Marion, Sue and others. In like fashion, women often have male names. I wonder if their parents had wanted a boy and just gave the girls the male name anyway. When we find unusual things like that we néed to search further to verify what we found.

        I have found that it is sometimes the odd things that stick out like a sore thumb that will lead us to solutions if we but use these clues. So let us keep things we learned in mind as we continue to search for and honor our ancestors.

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