On Marriage

"Love is many things...none of them logical" - William Goldman, The Princess Bride.

Marriage has been on my mind lately.  As I write this, I'm taking a quick break from penciling-in names on a beautiful fan tree print that I ordered from Etsy a few months back.  Actually putting names and dates on paper is somewhat intimidating!  After months of research and fact-checking, I'm still nervous writing the information on a print that most certainly will go in a frame on my wall.  Years from now, I hope it will be passed from our meager estate to our sons to share and treasure.  May the facts be correct, so help me gosh.

Just double-checking a few marriage dates for my great-grandparents Willis Lester Parrish and Maude Ella (Mercer) Parrish, I noticed that they were 18 and 16 years of age, respectively, on their marriage day.  They lived with Maude's father, George Mercer, until at least 1930...along with their daughter (my paternal grandmother) Margie Lanell, daughter Christine, and son Beauchamp (Beachum) Parrish.

Maude and Willis Parrish - 1959.  Photo from family collection.

Married at 16?  Were sixteen-year old girls really that much different in the 1920s...more mature, responsible, ready to handle the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual challenges of marriage?  Quite the question.  Of course, it's impossible for me to imagine my own 16-year-old self in 1923 as a newly married woman.  Naturally, I'm not even close to the same person I was in the mid-1990s.  Even at 20, not even close.  The same at 25 (newly married!).  The same at 30 (a new mom!)...and now at 34 (mom of two!).  I see the absolute beauty in the design of marriage God created wherein we are bound as one with our spouse through those immense changes of self, as we are redefined as parents, as we mature through the ages.  My great-grandparents' marriage outlasted the Great Depression, the death of a daughter, relocation from their birthplace in Houston County, AL to Polk County, Florida.  That's the kind of marriage commitment that is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit!

Out of curiosity's sake, I did a little searching to see if I could find any info on the average marriage age of Americans in the 1920s.  What I found instead was a helpful chart with median ages of first marriage divided by male / female.  Click HERE to view.  According to US Census data, the median age of first-time marriage in the 1920s was 24.6 for men and 21.2 for women.  In 2003, the figures are 27.1 for men and 25.3 for women.

My recent interest in marriage - historically speaking - has prompted me to start reading a book by Hendrik Hartog entitled, "Man and Wife In America: A History".

I'm thoroughly enjoying this piece of family law history.  LOTS of background information that has helped me make heads and tails of otherwise confusing familial situations I've discovered in my own family tree.  Will make sure to write a mini review once I've finished!

Marriage...love...the paper trail.  One of the most inspiring aspects of genealogical research for me so far.


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