Blanks, Missing Records, and other Defects

Despite our best efforts as family history researches there will be times when the archives turns up a blank result, our searches return a ‘nil’ finding.  Apart from the frustration, blank responses can become something of negative feedback loop, you just are not trying hard enough. The experience can be demoralising.

But there may be a very good reason why the record is blank.

My great, great-grandfather, Samuel Ford, married Margaret Wright on the Isle of Cumbrae in Scotland, and together raise ten children.  However, despite my searching, I can find no marriage record of Samuel and Margaret.

The children born to Samuel and Margaret are spread across two pages of the archives in the ‘collective’ form.  I have commented on this form of record in a my previous article which you can find here.

A survey of the birth records confirms that the children where baptised which indicates, given the times and the rules and regulations of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, that their parents were duly ‘married’.  Further, if the Old Parochial Record is correct and Janet Ford was born 1816 then it would probably be the case that Samuel and Margaret married some time before that date. However, I can find no record of such marriage.

After some time spent fruitlessly searching I thought it was time to contact ScotlandsPeople directly and sent off an email requesting assistance.  I received a very friendly and informative return email with the following instructions,

In answer to your question, there is a comprehensive list of records and coverage of the old parish records that you may wish consult. There are various routes to open this but bear with me as I set out the following way to reach the pages that will be of value to you :-

Click on the header ‘help and guidance’

Then click on ‘see guides’ in the first box ‘guidance about records and research’

Under ‘record guides’ click on ‘record guides a-z’

Then click on ‘church records’

Scroll down the paragraphs to find the heading ‘which parishes and congregations have registers in the index’ and below that you will see a link ‘list of old parish registers’ – click on this link please

You will see a further link on this page ‘detailed list of old parish registers’ and once you click on this if you scroll down to pages 80 & 81 there is mention of Cambraes, Bute

In the remarks it is noted that M ( marriages) are blank 1814 – Aug 1817.

You can also scroll down to the bottom of this page for a further index of the OPR’s by counties. However, the ‘detailed list of OPR’s’ is the one that I think will be most useful to you.

I hope this information is helpful.

Well, Yes, more than helpful as there was no way I could have untangled that little hurdle on my own.  For those with Scottish heritage it may be a good idea to bookmark the page.

So the problem is solved, the time period 1814 to August 1917 neatly covers the time when Samuel and Margaret would have married.  For whatever reason there is no marriage record for Cumbrae over this period.  However, without my emailing the Scottish archives I would never have guessed how to find the necessary information.