Using Ancestry, I found that my cousin L.F. (a female) is listed in the Massachusetts Marriage Index as having married in 1947. The index provides a Volume and Page Number for that marriage.

Is there any way to utilize that information to find the name of her spouse?

Presumably, her spouse (name unknown to me) would also be listed in the index of marriages with the same Volume and page number.

What would I expect to see at that volume and page number? Many marriages or only one?

  • Have you tried searching Ancestry for just the volume and page number (leaving all other fields - except, perhaps the year - blank)? – sempaiscuba Apr 15 at 21:10
  • tried that without success here what I did- From the view of the original document, clicked on the header " Massachusetts Marrigae index 1901-1955" that brought up a search dialog box. I entered just the volume number and the page number, that brings up a list of 13,631 records (is not in alpha or year order). Randomly choosing one of those records, brings me back to the same type of image ( a page with 50+ names ) that is the same as the image I started with originally. – BobE Apr 16 at 0:10
  • And if you search using the volume and page number together with the year set to 1947? I just tried that with random numbers for the volume and page, and 'match all terms exactly' selected, and got only one name returned . Trying with variations including marriage place might get you a match with the spouse. – sempaiscuba Apr 16 at 0:22
  • I'll try that (adding the year) - let you know – BobE Apr 16 at 0:59
  • Tried that, and with the marriage place along with volume 47 page 51 and got 140,00o hits ! So let's back up and see if my expectation is warranted. What I'm hoping to find in Volume 47 page 51 is my cousin's name and her spouse's name ---- what I'm questioning now is: Is that the information that will be on page 51 ? – BobE Apr 16 at 2:25

It appears to be similar to the system for marriages in the UK, where there are generally 3 or 4 names, from 2 couples, on each page in the volume.

I found an image of a page from the Index to Marriages in Massachusetts 1916-1920. This gives the year, together with the volume and page numbers for a series of individuals. I tried searching for several of these individuals on Ancestry, with the exact date, exact volume number, and exact page number:

Ancestry search

After a dozen tries, every search resulted in three or four names:

Search results

So, as I say, it looks like each page in the original registers probably has 3 or 4 names on it.

It's worth noting that I also did an earlier search with the year set to 1947, and random numbers for the volume and page numbers. On that occasion, I only got one name, but it is quite possible that that was the last page in the volume!

  • Still working on it ! Your examples very helpful. – BobE Apr 16 at 2:51

I do not know the format for the records from 1947. Earlier marriages are recorded in register books. Marriages up to 1920 are online (you can view 1916-1920 at AmericanAncestors.org).

As a test case, I chose a marriage that was early enough that I could look at the image at FamilySearch. The register snippet below is taken from Film 2315512, DGS 004329363 image 204:

Blanche Turcotte marriage

As my test case, I used the 2nd marriage on the page, for Blanche Turcotte. There is a glitch at FamilySearch which caused her name to be repeated in the spouse's name line on the 'index card' page, but his name appears in the search results:

spouse: J Alberic Mcclure

FamilySearch's information about this record says:

Record Collection:

 Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915 
 Document Information: Line Number    344 
 Reference ID p 122 no 344 
 GS Film Number   002315512 
 Digital Folder Number    004329363 
 Image Number 00204

To get the volume number, we have to retrieve it from the film note. Holyoke is in Hampden county, so this is Volume 595:

[1910]: vol. 595 - Franklin to Middlesex counties

This 1910 Register page has 18 entries on the page (entries 343 through 360, the stamped numbers in the left-most column).

Ancestry's image of the 5-year index book looks like this:

Turcotte marriages 1910-1915

Her entry reads (supplying the surname from the first entry -- I generally put information taken from elsewhere on the page in brackets):

  Name Town Year Volume Page
  [Turcotte] Blanche Holyoke 1910 595 122

On Ancestry's 'Record page' they show:

 Index Volume Number:     65 
 Reference Number:    F63.M36 v.65

By looking at the register and comparing the information, it becomes clear that:

  1. The Volume number in the index matches the Volume numbers in the FamilySearch Film Notes.
  2. The Page number in the index is the stamped number in the top left corner of the page, not the handwritten page number in the center where it says "Page [blank]"

  3. The entry number in the left column is not indexed in these printed volumes.

  4. The Ancestry Index Number and Volume Reference number is for the printed 5-year index book, not the original register.

Ancestry offers to let us search. Can we find J Alberic Mcclure?

  1. Search for Marriages in 1910, in Holyoke (exact search): 1,474 results
  2. Narrow search to Volume 595 (exact): 97 results
  3. Narrow search to Page 122 (exact): three (!) results:

Results 1–3 of 3

 Name     Marriage Date   Name Marriage City   
 J McClure Vlberic    1910    Holyoke     
 Annie    1910    Holyoke     
 'alter Cox   1910    Holyoke      

1–3 of 3

I would expect 36 results (18 couples x 2) but here we only see three people, none of whom are the person whose entry we used to start the search!

So -- while this may work in principle, my experience with this database is that you can't depend on it in practice. As we can see from our test case, the OCR from this collection is horrible.

My experience is that the names are often disassociated from their index information, so that Ancestry has the name pointing to the Volume and Page of the person above or below them on the page. You can't even depend on there being one entry in the database for one line in the 5-year index book.

Re-running the search again with 1910 (exact) and leaving Volume 595 and page 122 as exact, but taking out the town name, resulted in the same three names.

What you can do is:

  • Find the name of a groom by browsing
  • Find the name of a bride by browsing
  • Compare the two entries to see if they are on the same Volume and Page.

Having done so, you still need to confirm the information the old-fashioned way, by ordering a 'certificate' (but what you really want is an image copy -- otherwise you'll just get a clerk's transcription of what's in the register book) and/or finding out information about the marriage by using other sources.

Very important reminder: In Massachusetts, there may be registrations for the same marriage in up to three different towns -- one for the town in which the marriage took place, and one each for the bride and groom's town of residence. That is, if the wedding was a destination wedding and the bride and groom lived in two different towns, you may find the same wedding in THREE different registers.

Be very careful, especially when using digital images where the header "Marriages Registered in the [town name]" has been cut off. Not all registers list the place of marriage. Use the name of the person by whom married as a clue to further records.

It is not uncommon in my experience to find marriages registered in both Massachusetts and Vermont or New York if the couple crossed the border to get married. Similarly, you may find deaths and births in the Vermont Vital Records indexes also registered in Massachusetts when the subject is a Massachusetts resident.

Given the state of Ancestry's computer index, it's entirely possible that you might find two references from these index volumes that don't match which actually refer to the same marriage -- if by mischance, you only find the groom's index reference from his town of residence and the bride's index reference from hers.

For these index books, it's especially important to keep in mind J. Mark Lowe's advice to "slap your hand" and browse the books instead of doing a search.

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