Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Marriage: An Interesting Consideration

Just the other night I was reading a general history book when an interesting idea was presented. It occurred to me the ramifications of this idea might have a huge impact on Genealogists and (especially) Family Historians. Consider this historical detail: companionate marriage, or marriage for love and companionship, was not the norm until late in the 1920s or early 1930s.

If you think about that, that is an interesting concept. Before the 1920s most marriages were the result of political alliances, business or family arrangements; or some other more pragmatic reason than love. Maybe the recent Valentine’s Day celebration is having an effect on my brain, but just two generations back our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents were entering into the “bonds of matrimony” for very logical and practical reasons! Investigating the reasons for marriage can put a whole new spin on interpreting family history.

As I think about my own grandparents, I know that Grandpa lived on an isolated ranch in Nebraska. The area was so desolate that the family built their own schoolhouse and hired a teacher. Grandma was one of those teachers. Consider the “why” of marriage. Maybe Grandpa married Grandma because she was the only, non-related woman living in the county! Maybe Grandpa was the only eligible bachelor in the area!

Is it possible that they both settled for marriage? They were expected to get married sometime, to someone, and they found the nearest available prospect.

None of this is intended to besmirch the relationship of my Grandparents. I have no doubt they loved each other. But, if love is taken out of the equation of marriage; the question of “why” does one enter into a marriage becomes an interesting and important consideration in writing our family history.

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