Marriage records were often the earliest vital record in a community. Many are readily available online through database indexes. The information provided regarding birthplace and parents' names is usually more reliable than death certificates because the informant is closer to the source. Marriage records vary from place to place and time to time. Earlier records may not provide much detail but later records often list the names of parents and even former spouses.
Civil War veteran Josephus Carnes and his family offer a good example of the benefits of searching the entire set of siblings' marriages. First, the full set of siblings must be determined. Next, each of their marriages must be identified and the marriage records obtained. Lastly, it is crucial to properly analyze the data collected through these important vital records.
Identifying Siblings and Getting Their Marriage Records
The 1870 Cass County, Nebraska marriage license of JV Carnes and Rhoda Bowman listed their ages, color, places of birth, residences, fathers' names and mothers' maiden names. Josephus Carnes, 33, listed his parents as Benjamin Carnes and Sarah Day.
A search of the 1850 US Census index proved fruitful. Benjamin and Polly Carnes were enumerated at Bloomington Township, Buchanan County, Missouri in the 1850 US Census. Four children lived with them: Josaphat(sic), 12, Amanda, 8, Mary, 5 and Thomas 1. Josephus and the adults were Kentucky-born while the younger children were born in Missouri.
In 1840 there is a Benjamin Carnes enumerated in that same township with an adult male age 20-30, adult female age 20-30 and a male child under 5.
The Carnes' brothers were in Mills County, Iowa in the 1860 US Census. Josephus, 22, and Nancy Carnes were enumerated with an 11-year-old boy named Thomas. Where were Benjamin, Mary, Amanda and Mary?
Checking the 1856 Iowa State Census for Rawles Township in Mills County shed light on the situation. Humphrey P. Allison is the head of a family including Amanda, 16, Mary, 12 and Thomas Carnes, 7. Humphrey lived in Iowa for 4 years.
Mary Allison, 36, and the Carnes' lived in Iowa for only 3 years. She was Kentucky-born and the children were born in Missouri. Listed beneath Thomas Carnes, is Cathy Allison, one-year-old and born in Iowa.
Benjamin might have died and his widow married HP Allison before moving the family to Iowa. No marriage record has been found yet for the wedding of HP and Mary. In the 1856 Census they are married, presumably to each other. Was Mary Allison the former Polly Carnes?
A check of the Kentucky marriage records found that a Benjamin Carnes married Polly Day on 20 June 1837. Polly is a diminutive of Mary.
According to the 1900 US Census, Josephus was born in April 1837. If Josephus was born in 1837, could Polly Day have been Benjamin Carnes's second wife? Thirty-three years later, Josephus remarried two months after his first wife, Nancy, died delivering their fifth child in April 1870. Could Josephus have followed in his father's footsteps by remarrying in June only months after burying the first?
Earlier records, however, indicate that Josephus was born in 1838. He was enumerated as such in the 1850 and 1860 US Censuses. He enlisted for the Civil War on 12 August 1862 at age 24. If he was born in April 1838 as these three records indicate, Polly Day was his mother. Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Carnes had been married ten months in April 1838.
Using Marriage Records to Identify Relationships
Amanda, Mary, and Josephus Carnes married in Mills County in the late 1850s. The minimal information for a marriage was recorded: names, date, and official who performed the wedding. These marriage records provide little concrete evidence of relationship. Based on the 1850 US Census it was likely that these three were siblings or at least half-siblings. It is important not to impose relationships on members of households in earlier census records.
The 1860 US Census showed HP and Mary Allison with two girls; 5-year-old, CE Allison, and Emsey Allison, age 2, both born in Iowa.
Amanda Jenkins remarried on 5 Feb 1870, in Cass County, Nebraska. The marriage license listed Amanda as 27, born in Missouri and the daughter of . . . Carnes and Polly Day. Was Mary Allison her mother? Could Sarah Day be Polly's sister or just a mistake recording the name in Josephus' marriage license?
Ten days later, Caltha E. Allison married in Mills County, Iowa. The index to marriage records for the county provided the same limited information as the 1850s marriage records: names, date, official performing the wedding. Following the index to the actual record was most beneficial. Because the bride was not of age, she needed her parents' permission to marry. A handwritten permission note, signed by HP Allison, identified him as Caltha Emeline's father.
The 1870 Census showed that the Allison home included HP, Mary A, Calista E. and 8-year-old Bevra.
Polly Day was most likely the Mary Carnes from Kentucky and Missouri. Conclusive proof identifying Mary Allison as the former Mary Carnes could not be established from the early census records alone.
In 1874, Emza Allison married in Mills County, Iowa. The affidavit included HP Allison's signed statement granting his 16-year-old daughter permission to marry.
Alice Allison wed William J. Baker on Christmas Day 1878. Her mother, Mary Allison, signed the permission. These permission notes from 1870-1878 were unexpected and beneficial. It was not until 1880 that parents' names were recorded on Iowa marriage licenses. That same year the census enumerated Oscar Utterback's mother-in-law, Mary Allison, as a widow. Oscar's wife, Caltha, was therefore her daughter.
Thomas F. Carnes married Minnie M. Scott in Saunders County, Nebraska on 28 Aug 1884. The license listed him as Missouri-born, and the son of Benjamin Carnes and Mary Day.
Because Josephus and Thomas shared a father it is most likely that the girls born between them were also Benjamin's daughters. Since Amanda and Thomas had the same identified mother it is most likely that the sister born between them, Mary, was also the daughter of Polly Day. This would make Mary Carnes Alley the full sister of Amanda Carnes Jenkins Helms and Thomas F. Carnes. The presence of Ulysses Alley, aged ten, nephew, in the home Alice Baker in the 1880 US Census further suggests this sibling relationship. Ulysses' parents were born in Tennessee and Missouri just like Jefferson and Mary Alley.
On 13 Nov 1926, Alice Baker wed WM Braden in Logan, Harrison County, Iowa. This marriage record documented that Alice Baker was formerly Alice Allison. She was born in Mills County, Iowa, 64 years earlier, to Posey Allison and Mary Day.
This record established that Alice was a daughter of Posey Allison along with Caltha and Emza. This record along with Amanda Jenkins' 1870 marriage license, Caltha Utterback's 1880 US Census record and Thomas Carnes' 1884 marriage license, verified that Polly Day was the mother of at least 6 children born between 1841-1861.
The 1900 US Census enumerated Mary Allison in Monona County, Iowa, with Alice B. and William Baker. Mary was listed as the mother of 7 children, and 5 were still living.
When Mary Allison died in 1902, her obituary stated that five children survived her. Daughters Mary Carnes Alley died in 1877, and Caltha Allison Utterback died in 1882. Both are buried in the same cemetery as Mary and HP Allison. Mary Allison's obituary did not list the names of her children, but Amanda Helms, Thomas Francis Carnes, Emza Calista Creech, and Alice Bevra Baker were alive at the time.
Josephus Carnes was the only other person who could have been Mary Allison's child. No other child was enumerated with her in any census throughout Mary Day Carnes Allison's life. The vast preponderance of the evidence warrants the conclusion that Josephus was the son of Polly Day and that he was born in April 1838.
It was important to obtain all ten records. They occurred over a 69-year period and the total picture they created was worth the extra effort and money. While searching for the extra weddings, the dates of death for Amanda Carnes Jenkins Helms(1841-1922)and Bevra Alice Allison Baker Braden(1861-1934) were discovered. These later marriage records, of Benjamin Carnes' youngest child and Humphrey Posey Allison's youngest child, establish that Polly Day, Mary Carnes and Mary Allison were the same person. They provided ages, middle names, and relationships that were difficult to establish elsewhere. Researchers will be glad they spent a bit more time being thorough in their quest.