Genealogy Tips: Using Marriage Records to Correctly Document Families

Searching marriage records can be useful for many reasons: you might find a marriage date you were missing, or discover a second marriage you hadn’t known about. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a marriage record that helps you fill in informational gaps for entire families.

I was researching the Sanborn family from Gilmanton, New Hampshire, recently when I discovered one of these golden marriage records. I started using a wide search by looking in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives for the last name “Sanborn” – my relatives – and the keyword “Gilmanton.” And, because I was looking for individuals born before 1800, I restricted the search range to records before 1830.

A screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page showing a search for "Sanborn" and "Gilmanton"
Source: GenealogyBank

This search returned over 200 results, so next, I restricted my search to just marriage records. This time I got 11 results – much more manageable.

So, I looked at the first result.

Marriage notices, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics newspaper article 5 August 1826
Source: GenealogyBank, Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 5 August 1826, page 3

I noticed that both Dyer H. Sanborn and Julia B. Sanborn were from Gilmanton. Could they be relatives?

To find out, I searched for Dyer’s records in FamilySearch. Sure enough, Dyer H. Sanborn (1790-1871) and Julia B. Sanborn (1803-1885) were siblings, both children of Lieutenant David Edwin Sanborn and Hannah (Hook) Sanborn.

According to this newspaper account, Dyer and Julia were married the same summer in the nearby communities of Gilmanton and Deerfield, New Hampshire.

Next, I checked Julia and Dyer’s respective marriage records to ensure that they matched the information I had gathered from the newspaper article published on 5 August 1826. Julia’s seemed consistent with the article: she was married 29 June 1826 in Gilmanton, Belknap County, New Hampshire.

Marriage record for Oliver Carpenter and Julia Sanborn, from FamilySearch
Source: FamilySearch

But, Dyer’s record in the family tree seemed less accurate. Dyer and Harriet’s marriage in FamilySearch was listed as having been solemnized on 31 May 1827, but their marriage was announced at the same time as Julia’s in that 5 August 1826 newspaper article.

Marriage record for Syer Sanborn and Harriet Tucker, from FamilySearch
Source: FamilySearch

Why did that newspaper article report that they were married a year earlier than their marriage record in the family tree?

Maybe the date in the family tree was wrong.

Looking again in GenealogyBank, I found another marriage notice that gave more details.

Marriage notices, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette newspaper article 31 July 1826
Source: GenealogyBank, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, New Hampshire), 31 July 1826, page 3

OK. It was also reported in the nearby Concord, New Hampshire, newspaper that Dyer H. Sanborn and Harriett W. Tucker were married in 1826 in Deerfield, New Hampshire, and his sister Julia B. Sanborn was married a few weeks later to Oliver B. Carpenter in Gilmanton.

With both of these 1826 newspaper marriage announcements, I now know that they were married in 1826 and not in 1827, and I can fill in the exact place Dyer and Harriet were married: Deerfield, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. I also know now that Oliver’s middle initial was “B.” So I can update my family tree with this additional information.

I double-checked FamilySearch’s online New Hampshire marriage records and confirmed that Dyer H. Sanborn and Harriett W. Tucker were married on 31 May 1826 – not 1827. See their marriage record here.

Digging deeper, I searched for additional articles about Dyer H. Sanborn in GenealogyBank. I quickly found his obituary.

An obituary for Dyer H. Sanborn, Boston Daily Advertiser newspaper article 16 January 1871
Source: GenealogyBank, Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 January 1871, page 2

Yes, that’s him. The family tree already has his date of death – and now I know he died in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. His obituary gave me more information: he was a professor, “the author of Sanborn’s grammar and a geographic manual… and was formerly principal of the Pittsfield, Washington and Hopkinton academies.” I also learned that: “At the time of his death he was postmaster at Hopkinton.”

Excellent – more of his story.

Knowing now that he was a published author, I quickly found multiple digital copies of his various books online, such as this one.

Photo: cover of a grammar book by Dyer H. Sanborn
Source: Hathi Trust Digital Library

The Hathi Trust Digital Library contains digital copies of millions of books that it makes available for free to all researchers. A great source for genealogists.

Be sure to follow the clues, and carefully search old newspapers. GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives are essential for documenting your family tree.

Genealogy Tip: Check every clue you find in GenealogyBank’s marriage records against the records you already have for your ancestors – even known ancestors – because you might find additional information that can help you link family members together and correct past errors in your family tree.

Find the stories of your ancestors in GenealogyBank.

2 thoughts on “Genealogy Tips: Using Marriage Records to Correctly Document Families

  1. The Sanborns in our family married into the Grow and Davis families of Connecticut in early 19th century. I wonder if they are connected to yours.
    Israel Sanborn was born in New Hampshire and died in Hardwick, Vermont, the next two generations being born also in Vermont but migrated to Colorado.

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