Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this blog article, Mary searches old newspaper articles to find details about double, triple – and even quadruple – weddings, and shows how this information can help you untangle your family tree.
When two separate couples marry in a double ceremony, one has to wonder how traditional arrangements are modified. Historical newspapers, such as those in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, provide insights into these special events with details that can help you untangle your family tree.
Turns out double weddings are not all that uncommon. Here are some of my favorites.
In 1867 Miss Leu Lu Thorpe married M. F. Wilson, and Miss Mary S. Wilson married Mr. I. L. Russell, in the Cincinnati, Ohio, Presbyterian Church, with Rev. O. A. Hills officiating.
The brides chose traveling suits, and as they were passing down the aisle to leave the church, a beautiful dove fluttered over them before perching on the rafter. The reporter noted:
May their married life, so auspiciously begun, ever be attended by so sweet and pure a symbol of peace.
By 1914 photographs were common in the papers, such as in this wedding announcement – although I had to take a double take when I saw the headline. Both Florence and Katherine Dyer Webster were teachers and their maid of honor was their sister Beatrice. Katharine had met her groom, Edward Albert Eaton, in high school, and Florence met hers, Walter Lawrence Barnum, in Chicago. The article is filled with solid genealogical details including that the ceremony took place in the Congregational Church, assisted by the father of one of the grooms. The wedding was attended by members of their sororities. A reception was held at the Edgar Finch Webster home.
Double Sisters-in-Law and Brothers-in-Law
In 1906 the Tilson sisters married the Gravat brothers, making them double brothers and sisters-in-law.
A carefully orchestrated home ceremony was chosen. Both brides wore identical white lace robes with diamond and pearl sunburst veils. This newspaper article reported:
The single note of difference in the costumes were the bouquets, Isabelle carrying white roses and Estelle lilies of the valley.
First, Anna Isabelle Tilson followed her flower girl into the parlor escorted by her father and attended by her maid of honor. Following the nuptials, they were entertained by the “tender strains of Harrison’s ‘Spring Song.’”
Next, “as the Lohengrin nuptial chorus sounded through the rooms,” Estelle May Tilson – with her father as escort – descended the stairs attended by her maid of honor and flower girl. Both brides received handsome chests of silver as wedding gifts.
On 2 June 1868 the three daughters of Rev. Lyman Whiting married their beaus.
Helen married Samuel L. Taggert, Gertrude married Charles M. Duren, and Agnes wed William G. Farrar. The gaily decorated church held wreaths of evergreen flowers and a special wreath suspended under a chandelier, comprised of three circles with interspersed flowers.
The three matching gowns were white with head dresses of illusion veils and orange blossoms. The grooms wore black with white gloves. After their father, the officiant, spoke about three couples battling the destinies of life, the three rings were placed upon the brides’ fingers and they were proclaimed to the world as husbands and wives. After the divine blessing and organ music, they were greeted by friends and family in the front parlor of the parsonage.
The Four Farmer’s Daughters
On New Year’s Day in 1899, four Sumers brothers married four Hochstettler sisters in Canal Dover, Ohio, making this a very unusual quadruple wedding.
When siblings marry siblings, their children are first cousins – but when there are multiple unions, one has to wonder how a DNA test would sort out the relationships. Hopefully this family has kept detailed records.
Twins Marrying Twins
Another complicated DNA tree occurs when identical twins wed identical twins. Such was the case in 1898 when Adda and Alma McKee married William and Frank Brindle. As this newspaper article noted:
The extraordinary likeness between the twins, pair for pair, has been the occasion of much confusion and fun. The two brothers and the two sisters are so much alike, inter se, that everybody but their parents long since gave up distinguishing between them.
Doesn’t this make you curious if their children looked alike?
Birthday Brides & Birthday Grooms
Another twinship anomaly occurred when Guy Omer Crabbe and his brother Roy Homer Crabbe married Adrien E. Dotson and Edna A. Dotson on 17 April 1900. They were all twins and, amazingly, all were born on the same day.
Where were they going to live? Would you believe: on opposite sides of a custom-built double home, each side decorated identically to the other!
War Brides and Grooms
It would be remiss to overlook the many multiple weddings that occurred in the haste of soldiers going off to war. In 1917 there was a quadruple ceremony at the Church of the Assumption of Waco, Texas, followed by a mass. In this newspaper article we learn their out-of-town residences, and the fact that the bridegrooms were soldiers stationed at Camp MacArthur, and to which companies they were attached. These are very exciting finds for a family historian!
- Harold P. Keegan and May Maguire, Delavan, Wisconsin
- Lyle V. Keegan and Helen Maguire, Delavan, Wisconsin
- Francis W. Harroun and Mary E. Douville, Mosinee, Wisconsin
- William T. Gitre and Louise Sullivan, Detroit, Michigan
Were there any double weddings in your family? Did their stories or anniversaries make the papers? Please let us know about them in the comments section below.
Related Wedding Articles:
- Wedding Records: Everyone Loves a Rainbow
- Love & Marriage: Newspaper Engagement & Wedding Announcements
- Wedding Belles! How to Find Your Ancestors’ Marriage Records
- Was Your Ancestor’s Marriage Certificate Filed Late?