I’m not sure if it was meant as a joke, or if newlyweds Gerald and Fern (Thoma) Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa were genuinely confused. When asked to state their nationalities at the time of their marriage, their answers should have been simple; they were the American-born children of American-born parents, after all, so there was really no question that they were American themselves. Jerry, however, stated that he was of French nationality, while Fern declared that she was German-English.1
From a genealogical perspective, I love it. How often does one have the chance to learn what their forebears knew of their own ancestry? However, if I didn’t already know so much about this couple and their heritage, I might have been thrown off. Jerry’s ancestry was indeed French – and French Canadian, and Polish. Fern’s ancestors, many of whom were likely early arrivals on American soil, can thus far be traced to Germany and the British Isles.
I don’t know when exactly the couple met while on their way downtown to the movie theater, but Jerry and Fern married in their hometown on 8 June 1929 – eighty-five years ago this week.2 Fern was twenty-one, and although Jerry would not celebrate his twenty-first birthday for eleven more days,3 he claimed to be the same age as Fern.4 Their wedding attendants were close friends Merle Montgomery and Dorothy Thompson,5 and, following their ceremony, led by Reverend R. M. LeCair of St. Jean Baptiste Church, the couple took a “motor trip” to the Black Hills of South Dakota.6
If your ancestors married in Iowa between 1923 and 1937, be sure to visit Ancestry.com’s digital image collection, “Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” new this year. This database has plenty of detail to offer, as marriage records included such information as age, place of residence, occupation, place of birth, father’s name, mother’s maiden name, number of marriages, and the names of the officiant and witnesses. It’s also an opportunity to see the signatures of the couple – likely the last time the bride would sign her maiden name. Have you found any surprises in this record set?
1 “Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 June 2014), Gerald Adam and Fern Thoma, 8 June 1929, Sioux City; citing “Iowa Marriage Records, 1923–37,” microfilm, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines.
2 “Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” digital images, Ancestry.com, Gerald Adam and Fern Thoma, 8 June 1929, Sioux City.
3 “Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 June 2014), entry for Herald [Gerald] Joseph Adam, 19 June 1908, Sioux City.
4 “Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” digital images, Ancestry.com, Gerald Adam and Fern Thoma, 8 June 1929, Sioux City.
5 “Iowa, Marriage Records, 1923-1937,” digital images, Ancestry.com, Gerald Adam and Fern Thoma, 8 June 1929, Sioux City.
6 “Mr. and Mrs. George Thoma […],” undated clipping, ca. June 1929, from unidentified newspaper.
Wonderful story Melanie. Keep up the good work. I especially enjoy your Iowa focus!
Thank you, Kevin! I’m glad you enjoyed this!
Thanks from David’s mom. You just solved a mystery for me and created a couple of others. My parents’ information just showed up on ancestry.com and I wondered why I hadn’t seen that particular document before. After reading your notes today, I searched for some other relatives in the database and found some months, days, or years that don’t agree with information from their obituaries. Now I have to decide which ones to really use. I enjoy reading the entries on your blog.
Thanks, Judy! I’m glad I was able to bring this record set to your attention so that you could track down some more relatives. No one else in my family struggled with the nationality question – but I have found before that obituaries don’t always have the correct marriage dates. Whether it’s typically the fault of the person submitting the obituary or a typo on the newspaper’s end, I’m not sure!
Melanie, I chuckled when I read your opening paragraph. My first thought was that they were just young and in love. It’s great Iowa asked for so much information. Ohio and Pennsylvania seemed to go through stages of asking for less, then more, then less information. I never know what I’ll learn from a marriage record from either of those states.
Nancy, you make a good point! :) I know what you mean about those states that waffled between asking for more and less information on marriage records. It’s so nice to see more coming online, in any case.
I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/06/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-june-13-2014.html
Have a wonderful weekend!
Thank you, Jana!
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