March 22, 2013

When is "Official" not "Official?"

Caution:  Mostly opinion and perhaps some slight exaggeration follows.  But, I'm angered and a bit put off by the following:

Indiana Marriage Record from FamilySearch.Org
Back in early January, 2013 I was searching the FamilySearch.Org site for Indiana marriages.  There are two marriage database files at that site; one an index for 1780-1992 marriages and, one for marriage license images from 1811-1959.

I was puzzled to find that all of the images were watermarked in very large letters "Unofficial Record."  So, I wrote to FamilySearch support with the simple question, "why?"  Rather than give a direct answer, they sent me a link to one of the hundreds (thousands?) of "help" files they have created, which in my opinion, rarely address a given problem.

So, I wrote again and they responded with the suggestion I contact the Indiana Genealogical Society.  I remain puzzled why they wouldn't just answer my simple question.  The Indiana Genealogical Society was a bit more forthcoming.  They wrote back to advise me that Indiana officials did not want the marriage "images to be able to be used as substitutes for notarized legal documents necessary for proving one's identity, etc."

Guess who sells the notarized marriage records?  They are not available from the state but must be ordered from the county in which the marriage occurred.  I believe a certified copy costs at least $8 and, perhaps more because each county can set their own price.

Blame it on the skeptic in me, but I doubt that anyone needing to prove their identity would find a marriage license very helpful.  Further, I doubt there are many people still alive who were married anytime between 1811 and say 1950 and, who still need to prove their identity.

I think it was a typical money grab by Indiana officials to protect any income their counties might gain from selling one or two of these files every 25 years or so.

For genealogical purposes, the watermark does not invalidate the information contained in the license.  It's just unnecessary and, messes with the overall presentation of the document in family history reports.

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