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Marriage License Mystery

Marriage license mystery on my hands . . .

Looking at the Chicago Tribune for June 17, 1890, p. 2 at I find that a marriage license was issued to Samuel Prince and Rachel Provolsky, but I don’t see their names in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index and I need the license number to be able to find the license on microfilm.

Fortunately, the lists that appeared in the newspapers were arranged in license number order and so it’s not hard to deduce the license number based on index entries for the surrounding names. The following chart shows what I found using the online index.

Jan Jetonicky (153867)
Charles Foster (153868)
Samuel Prince
Wenzl Plefka (153870)
Omund Lindberg (153871)

Based on this, the license number for Samuel should be #153869 and I find an entry in the hand-written marriage index books (on microfilm) which confirm this.

However, when I look at the marriage license film, #153869 is not a license for Samuel and Rachel. It’s for James Gething and Bertha Bonk and their names appear in the online index. But, based on a quick quick check of the hand-written marriage index books James Gething’s name doesn’t seem to be there.

GETHING, JAMES BONK, BERTHA 1890-06-21 / 00153869 COOK

The marriage license numbers weren’t reused during this time period and so there should be only one record for any particular number.

I’m thinking I could scroll through the license film to see if the record for Samuel is misnumbered but I think there’s more to this search than that. Something out of the ordinary is up, but what? I wish I had quick access to the marriage license applications to see if James Gething’s name appeared there, but I don’t.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for how to proceed. Maybe the mystery will solve itself when these records go online at FamilySearch's Record Search pilot.

UPDATE: Quick update: License 153386 is for Frank Herle and Eva Greiner with a date of June 4.

One possibility is that the license number was written wrong on the license and thus "misfiled" according to that incorrect number but I didn't see the Prince license scrolling through the 153800s and because I think my chances of find the license are getting smaller and smaller I have to stop somewhere. I think it's time to wait and see if the license appears on FamilySearch's Record Search pilot . . .


Julie said…

First, thanks for the tip about the list in the Trib being in # order...that hadn't even occurred to me.

Second, my initial thought was reuse, but then of course I kept reading. I can't even construct a logical explanation other than to suggest that perhaps they didn't marry and somehow the number did get reused or misrecorded.

Third, let me know if you'd be willing to look up a few things the next time you're at IRAD...I have a few marriage and death records that I need to collect for Chicago. Happy to reimburse and/or do some lookups when in Springfield. Email:

If you need record lookups in Chicago, just send me a request through my website!

Julie said…
Thanks, I did submit a request.

Got to thinking more about the marriage mystery. I am not sure how the information is arranged in terms of locating the films (it's quite confusing for d/c at the ISA) and I've accidentally pulled the wrong film simply because I looked in the wrong year. You've probably thought of this already, but thought I'd throw it out there just in case.
The Cook County marriage licenses before 1916 are unique in that the numbers don't repeat like they do on the birth and death records. They just keep getting bigger. So, theoretically, each number is only used once. (I think I discovered an exception to this once--always an exception!--but I seem to remember that it had to do with a very early record, perhaps a surviving pre-fire one.)

I'm thinking this glitch might be a combination of two or more unexpected things which makes thinking outside the box to find it a real challenge. I scrolled through all the certificates in the 800 range yesterday with no luck and I double-checked the license number that appeared in the Inter-Ocean (in the 300 range).

My thought now is that if it's somewhere on a film, it will show up indexed and online when the early licenses are added to FamilySearch's Record Search pilot . . .
Unknown said…
License for marriage!!!
good to know that list has published in news paper also!!!
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