'Very early in my Barbour County research history I came across a book called Barbour County, Alabama Marriages Licenses 1838-1930, by Warrine Hathaway. I had not visited Barbour county, so this was a great find. Eagerly I flipped to the Introduction to ascertain the origin of this information. Great, I thought, it comes from the courthouse as opposed to newspapers. Additionally it appears that Hathaway looked at the marriage license. Wonderful, I thought. Now I can pull the information on my ancestors and look for the licenses when I go to Alabama.
Well the day finally arrived; I was going to take my first trip to Alabama. My research buddy Diane and I were seated on one of the last planes to leave Philadelphia on that March morning. A massive snow storm was beginning to blanket the Delaware Valley. We, however, were heading for the runway. There was a brief delay to de-ice the plane, but soon we were airborne, looking down smiling, because we just made it out.
Our plan was to spend most of the time in Montgomery at the Archives and then visit our respective counties. We also visited Birmingham and a country genealogist, as he calls himself, in Bullock County. Needless to say, we covered plenty of territory in a week, and we never missed a complimentary Embassy Suites breakfast.
When we arrived at the Alabama Archives (ADAH), full of smiles, we were greeted by a wonderful staff. This was the first time that I met Frazine, the head of ready reference. (What great luck to meet such a mega talent as Frazine after being in AL for less than 24 hours.)
After a brief tour by Willie Maryland, we located the lists of county rolls and went to work. Of course, collecting marriage certificates was high on my To Do list. I had pulled the marriage information for four couples from Hathaway’s book. Instead of going directly to the certificates, I took a look at the courthouse’s index first. My cousin Floyd, and every genealogist that I know, always says, GO TO THE SOURCE. So here I was, at the source, Barbour County Marriage records created by the county.
The first thing that I noticed was that there was a strange notation next to some of the marriage records. In the first column there was a C next to some of the couples. What did this mean? My first thought was that the C meant colored. A quick look at the column heading and I realized that I was probably correct, C stood for colored. Thus if the column was blank, that must mean that the couple was white. Right? sounds logical. After glowing in my brilliance, I took digital photos of a few index pages, and proceeded to locate the certificates.
It was not until I arrived home that I noticed a difference in the Barbour County Marriage book and the actual Barbour County records. The book did not include marriages marked with a C. This escaped my detection because my direct ancestors generally did not have a C in the race column, but the marriages of their siblings often did. Wow, what did this mean? Why were the C's excluded from the book. This introduction did not state that the book was an extract of marriages during that time period. Nor did it say that it was a book of non-colored Barbour County marriages. Yes, my skin was a little warm, but I still wanted to reserve judgment.
To gain further understanding of why the C’s were omitted, I needed the entire microfilm. I needed to see if there were any other notations in the race column and if they were also excluded from the Hathaway book. After further inspection I did in fact notice one other notation. Occasionally there was a W in the race column. This was a rare occurrence. The W’s were in the Hathaway book. So, again, I asked myself, what does this mean, why would the C's be omitted? One day I may call Warrine Hathaway and ask.
The moral of this story, of course, is to always go to the source, especially if you fall into the C category. Additionally, if you are doing an act of genealogical kindness, such as Hathaway’s book, be clear about the data. Let your readers know if you are creating a complete index or are you extracting information. I appreciate the Barbour County Marriage book. It is a valued part of my collection. I hope that one day I to will be able to do an act of genealogical kindness for Barbour County.