Unexpected Surname Spelling

December 18th, 2010

Daniel R. Woodward, a stonecutter, residing in and about Franklin, New Hampshire, served with Company E of the 16th New Hampshire Regiment during the Civil War. When he had received a pension from the federal government for his service and when he died, his widow applied. [1] In order to prove her marriage she sent the pension department a marriage record from the state of New Hampshire. The document states that Sereno Howe, Clergyman, married the couple in Lowell, Massachusetts. Upon close inspection of this document located within the pension file it is noted that the record was provided by the city clerk of Franklin, New Hampshire, Frank H. Daniell, and is dated 19 October 1910. The pension department accepted the record as proof of the marriage of Daniel S. Woodward and Laura Davis.

Family tradition indicated that Laura was a “Mill Girl” in Lowell when the couple was married. Since the delayed marriage record from NH supported the place of the marriage, I needed to get as close to the original marriage record as possible. For years I looked for the marriage of Daniel and Laura in Lowell. Because the surname of Davis is so much more common than Woodward, my searches always concentrated on Woodward (including a wide variety of spelling variations)-I ignored the Davis surname. My searches were conducted in microfilm of marriages records at the Family History Library, and indexes to marriages at the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records in Boston. When the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) began making many of their databases searchable online about 2003, I conducted online searches, again concentrating on the Woodward surname.

There comes a time when we need to revisit our research plan. After numerous unsuccessful searches over a considerably long period time, I needed to revise the plan. In order to “save” time I had concentrated on a search for Woodward – Boy, was I wrong! The research plan was obviously flawed. I had not saved time and I had not found my answers.

Time to search for the marriage of a Laura Davis in Lowell. Members of NEHGS have the privilege of searching a vast number of online databases from the comfort of their homes. Searching for Laura Davis under vital records produced 273 results. And at long last, success! Images in the “Massachusetts vital Records, 1841-1910,” Marriages registered in the City of Lowell for the year 1854 (page 88)[2] provides the following: Reference #36; 30 January 1854; Groom: Daniel R. Woodbury, age 21, born in Northfield, NH, son of  Danl S. & Dorcas Woodbury; Bride: Laura Davis, age 18, born in Franklin, N.H., daughter of Lewis and Nancy Davis;  both of Lowell; occupation: Operative listed for Daniel and nothing listed for Laura; and 1st marriage for each. Every thing matches perfectly except for the surname Woodbury which should be Woodward. It is no wonder that all my searches for the marriage under the surname Woodward were futile. The clerk recording the information was in error (Woodbury is not a spelling variation of Woodward).

[1] Civil War Pension file of Daniel R. Woodward, file #WC-711-973; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[2] Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910. (From original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004.)

(c) 2010 Linda Woodward Geiger, All Rights Reserved.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 18th, 2010 at 1:34 pm and is filed under General, Military, Vital Records. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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