Friday, January 18, 2013

Scandal, Scandal: Finding Out a Wedding Date.

This past Monday I received a copy of my maternal grandparents' marriage license which I had ordered from the The Office of the City Clerk of the City of New York. This office maintains the records of all Marriage Licenses issued in New York City from 1930 to the present. Marriage Records older than 50 years from today's date are considered historic records and available to the general public by mail or by visiting the Record Room Division at 141 Worth Street, New York, NY 10013 for a fee of $15 for the first copy. 

No one in the family really knew my maternal grandparents' anniversary which wasn't startling really. My maternal grandmother died at the age of 41 in 1972 leaving 6 children between the ages of 20 and 2. Being so young it made sense to me that her kids did not remember their parents' anniversary.

Some time back though, I received a photocopy of a newspaper clipping from my aunt. The clipping was an engagement announcement that showed a photo of my grandmother; age 19 at the time. It was really the only photo I had ever seen of my grandma.

Recently, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) genealogist I have been working with gave me a copy of the same announcement. She was able to tell me when and which newspaper it appeared in; January 22, 1951 in the Long Island Star. The DAR genealogist also found an earlier announcement from January 5, 1951 in the Long Island Star.

Based on this I assume that my grandparents probably got engaged at Christmas or New Years. However, I still didn't know when they were married. I assumed it had to be in at some church in Queens. For my application to the DAR I need to know this information and so I ordered their marriage record from the Office of the City Clerk.

Well, they were married in Greenwood Lake, NY, a resort community about an hour and a half northwest of Elmhurst, Queens, NY on March 25, 1951.

The end of March? Wait! My mother was born in late November.

Some quick math and I realized that my grandmother was pregnant at the time that they were married.

Scandal, scandal.

Mom was born only 34 weeks after the marriage and to my knowledge she was not pre-mature. Grandma would have been 6 weeks pregnant when they married. She probably knew she was pregnant; although, maybe not. Have you ever seen these stories where the woman goes into labor and she didn't even know she was pregnant?? 

I mean, it's not scandalous now. In fact, it is very common but I can imagine that back in 1951 it would have horrified grandma's good Catholic family. It doesn't matter to me though. There is no doubt in my mind that they were very, very much in love then and until the end. So what does it matter??


  1. Funny, isn't it? My great-grandmother was born in June 1908. Her parents were married in November 1907 - only seven months earlier. Everybody probably has a story like this - every generation (at least in America - Latin American records routinely list children as either "legitimate" - born to a married couple - or "natural" - born out of wedlock) acts scandalized by the antics of the next, meanwhile they were doing the same things when they were young! At 6 weeks, your grandmother may not have known she was pregnant - but she definitely knew she was engaging in activities that could end up in pregnancy! Lol - it all just adds some color to our family stories! :)

  2. Of course they were doing the same things the next generation is doing. What does Baz Luhrmann say in that song, Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)?? "Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders."

    I like the family dirt 'cause once you get into it and play around a bit you find out it's just natural. Airing the family laundry, unearthing the skeletons, its really kind of healthy to see the truth. These people were people, they were no better than me or you.

    And when you think about it, genealogy is really about researching who was getting it on with who. Right?

    1. Exactly! Lol - by the way, your grandmother looks beautiful in that photo!

  3. Thanks. I think she was beautiful too. Although she looks much older than 19 though, right? I think people looked older then; maybe its just the black and white photos. Anyway, I wish I had known her. I think all of my mom's siblings really look like her dad except Aunt Liz...I think my Aunt Liz looks like Grandma.

  4. What a great story, April. I love that you're interested in these things. I am too. You've got me thinking...maybe I should try to get a copy of my parents marriage license?

  5. Thanks, Micheline. Keep in mind that not every record is accessible. I can not get my grandmother's death certificate from NY state because it is not considered a historical record being she died only 40 years ago; a death certificate in NY state has to be 50 years old before it is considered a public record. Now I could get it if I could prove she is my direct ancestor through providing my birth certificate and my mother's birth certificate. Just read the rules before ordering a document because some places will not refund your money.