Thursday, December 03, 2009

Follow the minister

Here is a little something I have been doing lately in my own research that could possibly open up a new window for your research...follow the minister!  I have gone back and done researched the various ministers who performed the marriage ceremonies of my ancestors.  All you pretty much have to do is run their name through Google and see what you find and what pops up might surprise you.

Religion played a big part in many of our ancestor’s lives.  My wife’s family was mostly Catholic and my family was mostly Baptist, or so I assumed.  Once I started researching the names of ministers performing ceremonies for the various lines, I was surprised by the results.  It turns out that the Letts were pretty much Methodists and my wife's family actually had members of the Brethren in it.

Now, you have to take some of this with a grain of salt.  Just because a minister performed a service, does not mean that the couple attended his church.  Take my wife and I for example, we were married by the minister of my mom’s church, from when she was a young woman.  We have no affiliation with him, other than his connection with my mother.  However, he was obviously affiliated with my mother’s life.

You can help build the case by seeing who also married your ancestor’s siblings and perhaps a pattern will develop.  Finding the religion of a family can help your research because some faiths might indicate a distant heritage.  It also helps to paint a picture of the community in which your ancestors lived...who they interacted with at their church. 

So, the next time you see the name of a minister on a marriage license, take a few seconds and drop it into Google.  You may find that the minister had some historical significance of his own.  Maybe he wrote a book, started a movement or also performed the wedding ceremony for a president.  If nothing else, you will probably learn a little more about the life and times in which you ancestor lived.

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