For the neophyte (me), I'd like to understand the significance of an entry in a marriage register that appears to have been X'ed out.

In the following the fields for date of marriage, ages, and number of marriages is X'ed out. What is the significance of that?

Mass Marriages - Reading MA

The above screenshot is from familysearch.org, Marriages from 1876-1877 registered in the town of Reading, Massachusetts.

"Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6179-3N3?cc=1469062&wc=3PM3-4WL%3A1063285701 : accessed 24 May 2018), 004279600 > image 540 of 1153; State Archives, Boston.

  • 1
    Bob - the question about these 1876 marriages is completely separate from the question about New and Old Style dates. I'd recommend asking that one separately if this does not answer it: How do I write the year with a double date?
    – Harry V.
    Sep 9, 2018 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


This volume appears to be a state copy of information originally held in town registers. If you haven't done so already, place this image in context by browsing the pages around it. The controls on the left-hand side of the viewer allow you to look at thumbnails of all the pages on this film. Click on the dots to browse multiple images.

The first image after the microfilm target (image #384) identifies this book as Volume 281, Marriages 1876. Note how the next pages are from the towns of Amherst, Belchertown, Chesterfield, and so on. Someone has arranged this information alphabetically by town name, which suggests strongly that we aren't looking at an original town book.

In a case like this, I would try to find another register that covered the same time period to see what the other copies said. I might do any or all of the following (these are not listed in any particular order):

  • Contact the town of Reading directly and ask for an image copy of their town records for the entries you are interested in.
  • Cross-check the entries for marriages where the bride and/or groom were residents of towns other than Reading, to see what their registers said. (Vital records in Massachusetts can be recorded in more than one town because they were registered both in the town where the event took place and in the towns where the participants resided.)
  • Look at historical newspapers and other types of records to find information about when & where the events happened and/or whether the marriages actually took place.
  • Research the clergymen who performed the ceremonies and look for the marriages in church records.
  • Look for collections, finding aids, and research guides that refer to Massachusetts amended vital records. E.g. Massachusetts, Delayed and Corrected Vital Records, 1753-1900 at FamilySearch (Wiki article).
  • Look at Massachusetts state statutes that would tell me what the reporting requirements for town clerks, so I could see what procedures were supposed to be followed if records were amended.

The better we understand who created a record, how it was created, and the purpose for which it was created -- as well as when it was created -- the better we can evaluate the quality of the information contained in that record. Copy registers are especially tricky because we don't always get clues about when the copies were made, or who made the copy.

Further reading:

  • Thanks Jan, It would seem that you are implying that this register ought not be considered an authoritative source. Or have I misinterpreted your suggested next steps? But addressing the Xed out columns on some marriages - what do you suppose that means?.
    – BobE
    Sep 9, 2018 at 22:20
  • @BobE I don't suppose anything. I look for other record sources that would either corroborate or contradict those entries. I look for research guides that might explain what is going on. I look for the instructions, if I can find them, so I can see what the clerks were supposed to have done when filling out the registers. As an example, the article jewishgen.org/infofiles/Manifests explains the lined-out entries in passenger lists. Some people shoot themselves in the foot pretty badly by trying to guess what those entries meant. I prefer to research rather than guess.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 10, 2018 at 2:20
  • @BobE All sources need to be analyzed for their quality of information -- even original sources with primary information can have errors. I've added a couple of references to the answer which might help. In general, I can say that the more one knows about the purpose a record was created and how it was created, the better one can evaluate and use the information contained in the record.
    – Jan Murphy
    Sep 10, 2018 at 2:33

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