Can’t find an ancestor’s marriage record? Check for local “Gretna Greens”

040316 ROSWELL, GA: Names and dates line the voluminous records at the Church of Latter Day Saints Family History Center, where people come to research their family's genealogy. Family History Center at 500 Norcross Street in Roswell. For Helen Cauley feature on Geneaology - Family Trees. (Parker C. Smith/Special)

Credit: Special

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040316 ROSWELL, GA: Names and dates line the voluminous records at the Church of Latter Day Saints Family History Center, where people come to research their family's genealogy. Family History Center at 500 Norcross Street in Roswell. For Helen Cauley feature on Geneaology - Family Trees. (Parker C. Smith/Special)

Credit: Special

Over the past several centuries, there have always been places that couples could, for various reasons, run away to and get married.

In more recent times, it was because perhaps no blood test was required, or no waiting period, no age limit, or parental consent. These runaway spots are often referred to as Gretna Greens, so called because of the famous place on the Scottish border where English couples eloped after the English Clandestine Marriage Act was passed in the 18th century.

If you are looking for a record of your ancestors’ marriage, and can’t find it in the home county, you might think a bit broader, depending on where they lived. There are many cases of people marrying in unexpected places. One couple from North Carolina slipped into Clayton in North Georgia’s Rabun County to wed. A Tennessee couple married in Rossville, Georgia, in Walker County, adjacent to Catoosa County, so a researcher would need to check both courthouses for the actual record. Savannah couples might run off to Ridgeland, South Carolina. Alabama couples found a haven in Dade County, in northwest Georgia. Tennessee couples who did not run off to Georgia might go to Franklin, Kentucky, or Corinth, Mississippi. I know that, in my hometown of Columbus, Georgia, many couples married across the river in Phenix City, Alabama, and some even in Panama City, Florida.

The message here is that there have always been runaway spots, and it’s best to have an open mind when looking for a record. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have combined marriage record databases, which should help find a record, if one was actually made. South Carolina did not record marriages at the courthouse until 1911.

Centurial program review

Diane Richard — a North Carolina professional genealogist, editor and lecturer — has reviewed new software at centurial.net in the latest issue of Internet Genealogy. It’s worth taking a look at, since it is “evidence-based.” Check out the site, see its trial version and the FAQ section. The magazine is at internet-genealogy.com.

West Point records on Ancestry

If you are researching someone who attended West Point Military Academy, established in 1802, see Ancestry.com under U.S., Military and Naval Academies, Cadet Records and Applications, 1800-1908 for records of the person’s appointment and other information.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P. O. Box 901, Decatur, Ga., 30031 or www.kenthomasongenealogy.com.