Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Philadelphia, PA 1940 Marriages

One reason for my blog silence the last couple of weeks is we have been working overtime on your volunteer project of digitizing marriage records at Fredericksburg, VA Circuit Court.

After a month’s hiatus while the circuit court employees got settled into their spacious office space in the new courthouse, we were called back to work on September 12.  That day we digitized 285 1941 marriages, coming down from the 335 1942 marriages done at the end of July.

Easy street we thought.  We knew as we went back in time we would have fewer marriages (less population), and could then possibly digitize two years each week.  Wrong.

Our mouths dropped when we asked to see the boxes of 1940 marriages, thinking that might be the year we could start doing multiple years in one morning.

The most archive boxes we had faced previously was three.  For 1939 and 1940, each of those years had TEN archive boxes.

We did not plan on the effect the war in Europe would have on American couples.  That, and the fact that Virginia is a Gretna Green, and Fredericksburg is easily accessible by rail, and the Court only three blocks from the station, created a perfect storm of marriages.

It took us five hours of steady work just to sort the 1,599 marriages for 1940 into piles of 100s.  It took another four mornings of 3-4 hours each to digitize those.  As we plugged along, the Circuit Court Clerk stopped by and said, “Just think how great this information will be for genealogists.”  We agreed. That is why we were there.

Several days were heavy traffic days, the court overrun with people wanting marriage licenses. The clerk at the time cried out for more help; the circuit court was open on Saturdays to accommodate the crowds.  On Saturday, July 27, for example, the circuit court processed 69 marriage licenses. Another reason for the rush was that starting in August 1940 Virginia required blood tests. Consequently, approximately 1450 licenses were processed by the end of July, with only about 150 for the rest of the year.

These are not Virginia people.  What we noticed as we worked our way through 1940 is many, many couples were from Philadelphia, PA.  If your ancestors lived and worked in Philadelphia in the late 1930s, you just might find their marriage license in Fredericksburg, VA.  Of course there are many other states represented as well, but Philly really stood out in this group.  We shall see what information the 1,000+ 1939 licenses bring us. 

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