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Overheard on the Message Boards: Looking for Marriage Records of Michael Harty to Leda Brosseau
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

December 5, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I was wondering if anyone could find out when my great-great-uncle was married. He is the brother to my great-grandmother. Michael Joseph HARTY married Leda BROSSEAU. Their first child was born in February of 1913. They would have been married in Holyoke, Massachusetts. -- Erin

A: The good news about your research is that you are researching in a state that has a plethora of vital records. Generally in Massachusetts, a town began recording births, marriages, and deaths when it was founded.

While vital records are kept on the town level, there are indexes available, especially after 1850 that cover the entire state and will supply you with valuable information needed in locating the vital record in question, in your case the marriage record.

Massachusetts vital records abound.

Index to Marriages

There is an index to births, marriages and deaths that begins in 1841. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has this index for marriages up to 1905 available on microfilm. The New England Historic Genealogical Library, in Boston, Massachusetts has the marriage index up to 1920. To access this index you would need to either visit the library in person or you would need to hire a genealogist in the Boston area to access the index for you.

There are some things you can do, though, to help you further narrow the search. Right now you know that the marriage took place some time before February 1913, probably in Holyoke, Massachusetts. This is based on the birth of the oldest child. A quick check of the Family History Library Catalog revealed that the vital records for Holyoke cut off in 1906, which does not help you with your present search.

So, armed with the knowledge of when the eldest child was born and that the vital records for Holyoke that are available on microfilm do not cover the years you need, you need to see if there is some other record that can give you some immediate information while you wait for the index or get enough information to contact the town hall. The question comes up, what record might be able to help you in narrowing down the time of the marriage?

A Look at Census

Because the eldest child was born in 1913, this means you should be able to pick up the family in the 1920 census. This census has been soundexed for each family, unlike some of the other census years, making it easy to find your family

As was found, Michael and his family were living in Holyoke, Hampden County, Massachusetts. They can be found in Enumeration District 42, Supervisor's District 2, Sheet 10B, Dwelling No.37, Family No. 215, living at 11 Sargeant Street.

Harty, Michael Head M W 37 Married Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Ireland (English)
-----, Leda Wife F W 36 Married Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Canada (French)
-----, Elmieda Daughter F W 6 Single Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Massachusetts
-----, William Son M W 5 Single Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Massachusetts

While this was interesting, showing the two children, it did not help us to further narrow down the date of marriage of Michael and Leda. However, the 1930 census added a number of columns, one of which is of particular interest to genealogists. Among other things there was asked the age of the individual at the time of his or her first marriage. A look for Michael Harty in Holyoke in 1930, which was narrowed down using the NARA 1930 Census Microfilm Locator, from 7 microfilms to 11 enumeration districts on 2 rolls of microfilm, much easier to search.

The good news is that Michael and his family are still living at 11 Sargeant Street in 1930. I found them in Holyoke City, Hampden County, Massachusetts, in Enumeration District 7-137, Supervisor's District 3, Sheet 1A, Dwelling No. 1, Family No. 4.

Harty, Michael Head M W 47 Married age 29 at first marriage Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Massachusetts
-----, Leda Wife F W 47 Married age 29 at first marriage Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Canada (French)
-----, Elmida Daughter F W 17 Single NA Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Massachusetts
-----, William Son M W 15 Single NA Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Massachusetts
-----, Bernard Son M W 8 Single NA Born: Massachusetts Parents born in Massachusetts

By the way, you may want to take a look at the family living next to Michael in both the 1920 and the 1930 census. There is a Mathilda Bruseau who is widowed. She was born in Canada, and is listed as French. It is likely that this is Leda's mother. Mathilda immigrated to the United States in 1875, so you should be able to pick her up in the 1880 and 1900 census.

In Conclusion

While the 1930 census didn't give an exact date you at least know that they were about 29 years old when they were married, which puts the marriage about 1912. This should be enough to contact the town of Holyoke to request a copy of the marriage record.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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