I love genealogy research because I am always learning something. Three years ago we volunteered to digitize Fredericksburg, VA marriages so the wealth of information on those documents would be available for genealogists tracing their ancestors in this part of the country.
We learned as we went along that marriages taking place in this town were not just local folks, but for couples coming from the northern states and states to the west. This made sense since Quantico Military base is close by, but then we ran into the anomaly in 1939-1940 when we learned the northern states started to impose wait periods and required blood tests.
Last week when we got to the 1916 and 1917 Fredericksburg marriages we ran into another anomaly. Working back, we did 1917 first. In that year there were no marriages performed during the month of May. Since the names were filed alphabetically, and we were refilling them by month, it wasn’t like we missed a folder or that one had been misfiled.
We went to the archivist and explained the “empty” month. He jumped on the Internet and brought us information that explained the U.S. Selective Service Act was enacted 17 May 1917. Those married and providing sole income and with dependents under the age of 16 were classified as “exempted, but available for military service.”
We didn’t go back through the first months of that year to see how many men married divorced or widowed women with children, but that might have been an interesting statistic to find. Being married before the month of May 1917 was definitely an advantage when it came to draft eligibility.
Then in 1916 we ran into the same thing, this time there were no marriages in the month of June. In a cursory search I learned the National Defense Act was enacted 3 June 1916, getting Americans prepared for entry into WW I. Why this affected marriages during that month, I can’t say, but it did make for an interesting day!