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When Was Thomas Reed Married?

Kentucky marriage records can be viewed online for weddings as early as 1795. Some of my ancestors lived and married in Kentucky at the beginning of the 1800’s. This week I needed to verify a date by looking at these early records.

As I reviewed research notes from my Reed cousins, I came across a curious discrepancy for the marriage date of our ancestors Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Anne Kirkham (1783-1869).

Our family history The Reeds of Ashmore by Michael Hayden, written in 1988, reports their marriage date as 24 Nov 1806. This date is repeated in Coles County, Illinois county histories compiled during the 1870s.

The original notes for the Reed book contain a reference to another researcher’s claim that the marriage took place two years later, on 6 Oct 1808. My cousins discounted this idea and went with the 1806 date when they compiled the book.

Good genealogical practice dictates that conflicts must be resolved, and this date difference presents a big conflict.

I turned to FamilySearch for more information. There I found images of Kentucky marriage bonds, returns, and a Nelson County, KY marriage register. What did they tell me about Thomas’ marriage date?

  • The 24 Nov 1806 date used by my cousins and the county history belongs to the date of the marriage bond, not the marriage ceremony. On that day, Thomas Reed and Anne’s brother Henry Kirkham bound themselves for the sum of 50 pounds for a marriage between Thomas and Anne to be solemnized “soon”.
  • A marriage did take place, evidenced by a return from the Officiant Reuben Smith. This marriage return is undated, and it does not provide a marriage date.
  • The Nelson County, KY marriage register also verifies this marriage of Thomas Reed and Anne Kirkham, performed by Reuben Smith. The given date, 6 Oct 1808, matches the one claimed by the other researcher. It must have been her source.

My cousins, then, had only the 1806 date of the marriage bond. The register reports that the marriage took place two years later, in 1808. This seems odd.

On a hunch, I turned to the beginning of the register book and found an interesting disclaimer. This register was compiled from an older register in the summer of 1873. It says that marriage bond dates in the new volume are accurate, but the dates of the marriages themselves may not be. It refers to marriage certificates as the best source for information.

So, what about Thomas’ marriage?

It seems clear that he executed a marriage bond on 24 Nov 1806. Because the marriage return includes no date, we do not know whether he went on to marry the same day the bond was executed or at some later date. But did he wait nearly 2 years to marry, until after the birth of his first son in August 1808, as the marriage register states?

I suspect the couple married after the date of the marriage bond, sometime in late 1806 or early 1807. Without a marriage certificate I will never know the exact date. This document was not passed down through my branch of the family, and I do not know whether it has been preserved.

My cousins had the marriage bond date, not the marriage date. The other researcher had the date reported in the marriage register, an admitted probable miscalculation.

Neither could claim the correct date for the Reed marriage. That date is unknown.


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