I have searched and searched without success for a Tennessee marriage. As I described the problem to Afton, who answers my 800# and who is the Tennessee expert I turn to when a problem like this happens, she responded, “Look for the Gretna Green.”
Couples from Sparta, White County, TN went to Rome, Floyd, GA. Afton interviewed the mother of her client and was told, “Everyone from here went there to be married–everyone went.”
Why does a couple choose a Gretna Green for their marriage?
- Cheaper, and some times no fee at all is charged as long as the couple stayed the night at a local hotel.
- No paperwork. The officiator charged a nominal fee, and did not report the marriage. The only records are often account books.
- No bond was required to cover reasons the marriage should not be performed.
- No waiting period between the time of issuing a license and the performance of the marriage. Spur of the moment decisions could be made.
- The excitement of having the marriage completely under the control of the couple, without interference from family or friends.
Military posts on the frontier, like Crown Point NY, Southwest Point TN, could be gretnas. People from border states along international boundaries for Canada and Mexico often slipped over the boundary to marry. River Towns along the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Connecticut, the Hudson, the Missouri Rivers. Keokuk , Lee County, IA was a gretna green along the Mississippi; it was also a favored place of marriage for Irish ancestors coming both from the Eastern states and up the River.
Checklist of Specific American Gretna Greens:
__Coeur d’Alene ID, especially couples from Great Falls and other towns in Montana
__Evanston WY, especially couples from Northern Utah
__Yuma AZ, for couples in Southern California and New Mexico
__Crown Point IN, for couples from Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio
__Cincinnati OH, some licenses were issued, no returns were submitted to the place of residence. Many persons stopped in Cincinnati to work before moving on to a different place.
__Niagara Falls NY and Ontario–depending upon the activites of the local governments on each side of the river.
__Washington County PA
__West Alexander WV
__Douglas County (Reno) NV
__Reading, Berks, PA
__Pike County KY
__Mt Airy NC
If you have discovered a place where couples come from far and near to be married, will you drop me a line and let me know? I am collecting these places for a major report on where to look for missing marriages. Your favorite genealogy expert, Arlene Eakle