Resource – Family Search Pilot Site (Revisited)

For quite a while I’ve been meaning to write a follow-on post to my earlier one on the Family Search Pilot Site. This one is going to focus on using the Philadelphia (PA) Marriage Index. As the name suggests, this collection is images of the Marriage Index Books, not the marriage licenses or applications themselves. There is no search feature, as this collection has not been indexed. The process here is much more like flipping through the book electronically – or possibly going through microfilm a frame at a time. Warning: This process requires downloading the images that correspond to the pages in the index book. I have a high-speed, fiber-optic broadband connection and it can still be a little slow. I really can’t imagine using this collection extensively on dial-up or even the slower variety of DSL connections.

To use this resource, you start by picking a year range, then the letter of the alphabet corresponding with the surname you are researching. Note that you can look-up the surname of either the bride or the groom since both are in the index book you will be viewing.You may notice that some letters are broken in Part I and Part II. In this case you have to take a guess whether the surname you’re interested in would appear in the first section or the second. When you click on the letter, you get a drop-down item showing the number of images in that series. Click on that to open the first image. Once the first image loads, you have the option to go through the series sequentially or enter a number and hit the GO button to advance to a particular page. At this point it is like looking up someone in the phone book – check out the first name on the upper left and the last name on the lower right to see if you need to move forward or backward and guess again at another page number.

The entries themselves show the surname and given name of one of the parties, then, in parentheses, the surname of the spouse, then the year of the marriage, then the sex of the person referred to in the main entry, and finally the marriage license number. Once you find the entry of interest, it is up to you what you do next. If you’d like, you can contact the Philadelphia Orphan’s Court to get a copy of the actual marriage license.

At this point, many researchers are probably done, but in my case, I’m only half-way there. Since I research extended family, it isn’t usually practical for me to order the marriage license. So what I do is go back to the index and look for the main entry for the spouse. So if I’ve first looked up a bride, I then look up her husband in the index. This allows me to confirm information I have previously found in census records (like first names and approximate marriage dates) and can also be a good way to get information on those short (either through death or divorce) marriages where the couple never shows up together on the census.

Well, I hope this post helps to explain how this resource can be used. It’s not quite as straight-forward or as easy to use as the Philadelphia Death Index, but it still can be quite helpful.

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