Marriage Return and Affidavit Indexing

Now that the 1886 Soldiers, Widows, and Orphans Registry indexing project is complete, we have moved on to indexing our county’s oldest marriage returns and affidavits.  These records begin along with our county’s founding in 1818.

These marriage returns are important because they confirm that a marriage actually took place after a marriage license was issued.  The officiant, often a justice of the peace, notes that he married the couple and the date when that marriage occurred.

Along with marriage returns, a couple’s affidavit is often also included.  These records confirm who witnessed the marriage, vouching that the couple are residents of the county and often vouching for the age of the bride.  A variation of the witness affidavit is the marriage consent.  These records take the form of handwritten notes on scrap paper, written by the father or other relative of the bride, confirming that they give consent for the marriage to happen.

Given that these marriage records date back to before an official marriage application existed, they are vital for those looking for information on family relationships.

The handwriting of records this old makes them somewhat challenging but the indexing has begun!

1818 Marriage License

This record  was the third marriage to take place in our county (and also one of the most legible returns.)  Justice of the Peace Ezekiel Saunders married Lewis Sirkel and Sarah Saunders on 8/11/1818.

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Index Complete for 1886 Military Enrollment Book

The Clerk’s Archives has completed an index of 502 forms registering veterans, their widows, and orphans  of the armies of the United States residing in Vanderburgh County in 1886. Among the information collection, each enrollment lists alphabetically the name of the veteran, unit he served in, war he fought in, number of children under 16, wounds and illness contracted in service, address, and number of children under 16.  The registry was compiled to aid in pension disbursement.  The Clerk’s Office may be contacted regarding requests for these records.

Most of these men served in the armies of the Civil War. One served in conflicts with “Indian Tribes.”  Twelve served in the Mexican War.  One served in the War of 1812.

Forty soldiers were African American while five among them served in the regiments of the famed U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). Two white soldiers served as officers with the USCT.

Vanderburgh County veterans served in regiments belonging to many different states spanning the length of the country and were wounded in battles both well known and obscure.  Veterans were wounded at well known battles such as Gettysburg, Shiloh Hill, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Antietam.

They represent every type of service of the time including volunteers, veteran volunteers, regulars, militias, and 100 days service.  They served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. They fought as part of ground forces and in gunboats on the nation’s rivers and seas.

Some received catastrophic injuries as a result of their service and others lost their lives.  Many were indigent or dependent on others for support at the time of their enrollment.

The enrollment information was compiled by Assessor’s Office deputies at the time for taking lists of property for taxation and filed with the Clerk’s Office.

The enrollment was directed by legislation enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana.

The text of that legislation is as follows:

Enrollment of Persons Who Served in Armies of the United States, Their Widows, and Orphans

An Act to enroll the late soldiers, their widows and orphans, of the armies of the United States, residing in the State of Indiana.

[Approved April 13, 1885]

Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, That each Township Assessor , as Assessor of his township, at the time for taking lists of property for taxation, shall enroll every person employed in the late armies of the United States, of the War of 1812, of the War of the United States with Mexico, of the War of 1861, and of all wars of the United States with Indian tribes, and other persons specified in the several classes below, residing is his township.

First. Any officers of the army, including regulars, volunteers and militia, or any officer in the navy or marine corps, or any enlisted man, however employed, in the military or naval services, or the marine corps, whether regularly mustered or not.

Second. Any master serving on a gunboat, or any pilot, engineer, sailor, or other person, not regularly mustered, serving upon any gunboat or war vessel of the United States.

Third. Any person not an enlisted soldier in the army, serving for the time being as a member of the militia of any State, or who volunteered for the time being to serve with any regular organized military or naval force of the United States, or who otherwise volunteered and rendered service in any engagement with the British, rebels, or Indians.

Fourth. Any acting assistant surgeon, or surgeon, or contract surgeon, or any other physician or person who temporarily volunteered to assist in taking care of the sick or wounded, and any chaplain of the army or navy.

Fifth. Every widow, whether remarried or not, and any child under sixteen years of age of all persons mentioned above in classes one, two, and three, and the children of like ages and widows of every army or navy surgeon and army or navy chaplain, who have died or shall hereafter die, and the name of the deceased father or husband of said children and widows.

Sec. 2. Said Assessor shall write the first and surname of every person listed by him, an note whether of African descent, the rank, letter of the company, number of the regiment, and the State to which the regiment belonged of which the listed man was a member, the arm of service in which employed, whether injured, wounded, or contracted disease while in service, and his present postoffice address, and the postoffice address of all other persons listed, and n case of deceased fathers and husbands of said children and widows, the date of their death and place of residence at the date of death; and shall ascertain and report whether any widow, no remarried, or other person listed, is in indigent circumstances, or in the almshouse, or dependent upon others for support.

Sec. 3. The first enrollment under this act shall be made at the time of listing property for taxation for the year of 1886, and once in four years thereafter, and the rolls shall be returned, at the time the Assessor makes his assessment returns to the Count auditor, of the County Clerks of the proper counties.

Sec. 4. The County Clerk of each county shall furnish the Assessors of this county such blanks as may be necessary for taking the aforesaid statements, which said blanks shall be furnished by the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana to the County Clerk; and the County Clerk shall, within thirty days after the aforesaid rolls are returned to him, prepare duplicate tabular statements thereof, by townships and cities, with names arranged in alphabetical order, one of which he shall forward to the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, and the other shall be filed and retained in his office, and shall furnish a true and certified transcript of such records to any regular organization of the ex-soldiers’ reunions when requested through their officers, free of charge, and shall furnish all necessary information contained in said tabular statement to pension claimants and other claimants for pay and bounty, or for other purposes, as they or their agents or attorneys may demand., for which he may charge said claimant a reasonable fee, not larger than is allowed by law for a like amount of service in other cases.

Sec. 5. It shall be the duty of the Adjutant General, when he shall have received the said tabular statement from the County Clerks, to put the same on permanent file in his office, and to make therefrom a general list, arranging the surnames in alphabetical order, by regiments and companies, which general list shall be retained in his office; and he shall transmit a true copy thereof to the Commissioner of Pensions at Washington, D. C., and shall furnish information to pension claimants and others, as provided in the next preceding section, under the restrictions and limitations imposed upon the County Clerk.

Sec. 6. Any officer intrusted with the custody of the records above provided for, who shall refuse or neglect to furnish within a reasonable length of time, information or transcripts as hereinbefore provided, to the proper applicant or applicants, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and be fined, on conviction thereof, in a sum not less than twenty-five dollars and not more than one hundred dollars.

Archives Awarded VCHS Grant

The Vanderburgh County Clerk’s Archives is pleased to announce that we have received a $500 grant from the Vanderburgh County Historical Society to process and rehouse a collection of the our county’s earliest court documents.  Over 600 documents dating back to the county’s earliest days in 1818 were recently uncovered as part of an ongoing inventory project.  Tucked away in small metal tins inside of a cardboard box labeled miscellaneous the yellowed pages document the development of county infrastructure and government.  Documents of note include bonds for lots dated May 1818, estate records for early settlers, oaths of office for the first county commissioners, appointment of aptly named prosecuting attorneys (John Law), elections for sheriff and justices of the peace, authorization for roads, and summons for the county’s first grand jury.  The Clerk’s Archives hope to digitize and microfilm these documents as part of a future project and looks forward to future discoveries brought to light.

The Vanderburgh County Historical Society is a membership organization that promotes the study and appreciate of our local history.  It sponsors regular programs on our area’s history and underwrites projects that are important to the story of Vanderburgh County.  The Society supports the publication of history through its web-site and with its program of occasional publications.  The Society was excited to help underwrite the expenses involved with proper archival storage of the early documents of Vanderburgh County–with an eye towards having these available for the county’s bicentennial in 2018.

Learn more about the Vanderburgh County Historical Society.

Archives Welcomes WEHT

Staff at the Archives had the pleasure of welcoming television station WEHT reporter Jordan Vandenberge to our humble work-space on Thursday.

We were able to share our recent discovery of historical records dating back to the county’s 1818 founding with Jordan and WEHT viewers.  We shared some of the documents that we uncovered and their significance to county history.

Thanks for visiting, Jordan!

You can view Jordan’s story about his visit here:

Timeless Treasures: County Records from Early 1800s Found