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January 16, 2013

Disappointment of a Michigan Marriage Record

Recently I ordered an 1876 Marriage Certificate from Michigan through VitalChek. I desperately wanted the name of parents of the bride (Maggie McGinnis)  and FamilySearch does not have the image online.

Maggie is part of my McGinnis family in early Ontario but I cannot determine if she is the Margaret baptised at Church of Our Lady in Guelph on January 17, 1857 to parents Daniel McGinnis and Margaret Downey *or* if she is the Margaret baptised at Church of Our Lady in Guelph on December 6, 1856 to parents Joseph McGinnis and Fanny Downey.

She married Barney McGinnis who was the son of Daniel's brother Hugh McGinnis. I lose track of both girls after 1871 census so have not been able to eliminate either as the Margaret who married Barney.

The marriage certificate might have the information I need. On the plus side, the certificate arrived very quickly at my door. On the disappointed side, neither bride nor groom's parents' names were recorded. And on the negative side - the cost! The total cost was $70.25 U.S.

Have you picked yourself up from the floor yet? Let me give you the breakdown.

Certificate      36.00
Processing       8.50
Shipping        25.75

Yes I knew the total cost before I ordered so there was no surprise there.  But I think it's exorbitant.  Especially since on  the same day I used VitalChek to order Maggie's death certificate from California. The cost of that order totalled $48.50 That's a big difference! The breakdown was a bit different:

Certificate     16.00
Processing       6.00
Shipping        26.50

So why was a Michigan certificate $20.00 more than a California one? I don't have the answers to this difference by state and in the end it's no use complaining. I wanted the certificate and I paid for it. End of story.

Let's hope that Maggie's death record has her parents' names! Otherwise I've just spent almost $120.00 for two certificates I didn't need. To say I'd be disappointed is putting it mildly.

But that's the price we often pay in this wonderful hobby called genealogy.


Claudia said...

I was appalled by the cost of shipping on both items. It appears just to be a sheet of paper, unless there was more to it.

Why did they not just send it via first class mail?

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Just one sheet of paper, Claudia. In an envelope (not folded so a large envelope.

I do think it was a ripoff but I'd still order more if I thought it would help! Unless hubs sees how much it cost me....

GrannyPam said...

This contains the exact information that is recorded in the index at (but the witnesses names were not indexed). I did notice that there was no image available on FamilySearch.

I am so sorry you had this result. I believe you might obtained the record at a more reasonable price by contacting the clerk yourself. Vital Check is a very expensive way to go.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

That price is outrageous. For that shipping price a limo should drive to your door and the drive hand you the certificate on a silver platter. I hope the next one has the info you need!

Kathy Reed said...

I'm hurting just reading this. I wonder how they justify the $26.50?

Julie Cahill Tarr said...

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the information that's on the certificate is not even correct. First off, the "file date" is wrong, it's actually April 3, 1877. The Aug 1 date is the date that the clerk recorded the state copy for the year 1876. This is a minor mistake.

This second mistake is not so minor. The witnesses were actually Andrew H and Christine Stafford, both of Lapeer (they gave you the one for the marriage below theirs). And there is a church listed for the pastor, which is correct (E. L. Little), I think it says "1st Bap Ch Lapeer." It also notes the Barney was a laborer.

The record can be found here:, line 1719. It's part of the Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925 database (

I was not able to find the record by doing a search on the names from the main database screen ( Either they're unindexed or there is an indexing error. So I put in a marriage location of Lapeer and the year 1876 to 1876, which got me to the place in the register I wanted to be. Oddly enough, the book was filmed backwards, but I did manage to find it.

If I remember correctly, that database and images are the ones that were compiled and sent to the state. The other database, Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935 ( is the actual county records. Again, it was searchable, but I to find it the same was since the index wwas not helping. It's definitely the county recording and it's much easier to read:

My heart nearly fell into my stomach when I saw the price you paid, especially since I was 99.9% sure this record should be online through FamSearch. So I had to get up out of bed and check (it's been awhile since I have used these MI databases, but I was pretty sure I had my dates right). That's a lot of money for a piece of paper that doesn't have the correct information and is missing possible clues, such as the church. I learned this lesson myself after ordering a MI d/c through the State of Michigan. While there were no errors or omissions, I hadn't realized that I could have saved myself $15-20 and access the register from the comfort of my office.

I sure hope seeing the originals helps you out, Lorine. Best of luck in your search!

Disclaimer: I hope this comment made sense. I had just taken my sleeping pills and settled in for a night of catching up on blog posts, so my mind is a little woo-hoo right now, but I just wanted to do some checking for you and point you in the right direction. You've helped me on a few occasions with my Ontario folks, so I hope I have returned a favor. Cheers!

P.S. I promise I'm not crazy ;)

Sharon Clouse said...

Julie, Good job locating the image on FamilySearch. I saw that they had been indexed as Barney M. Grinnis and Maggie M. Gunnid and that's why they are not showing up when searched.

Ellen Jennings said...

This entire exchange reminds me why I love genealogy so much---not the outrageous cost of shipping (still don't quite understand how they justify that), but the helpful and kind people I've met. I have nothing of import to add, just felt warm and fuzzy when I read this exchange.

Rorey Cathcart said...


I've had a similar sticker shock when I was forced to rush order my own long form Birth Certificate and Marriage License using the Vital Check system. I've never used it for historical records though. Just not in the budget.

Very sorry you had to go through this. Every state, county and usually State Archive have some mechanism whereby the public can request the same docs directly for less expense.

Hopefully Julie's generous legwork will prove more helpful to you.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Julie I am stunned. And SO grateful to you!

I went over the transcript and the two images for which you provided links and not only did the transcription err in every spot you mentioned BUT also in their ages!

On the image it is clear that Maggie is 18. The transcript says 16.

There must be somewhere, somehow I can lodge a complaint.

At the bottom of the transcript (my 78.00 transcript) it states

"I hereby certify that this is a TRUE AND CORRECT representation of the vital record facts on file..."

Capitals are mine for emphasis.

I smell a blog post coming up. How can I ever thank you enough for the time you spent on this!


Julie Cahill Tarr said...

You're welcome, Lorine. I know those records like the back of my hand, so it was no bother, just a few minutes to find both the state and county copies. Since you already blogged about this, before I had a chance to respond here, I left my comment on the other post.

Larry Isberg said...

I have not used Vital Records before so I can't say much about the pricing. The lack of parents names on the marriage record in Michigan is because it was the late 1880's before the state required them. The witnesses name were recorded along with the minister or JP performing the service. I would look at the witnesses. Often times it is a sibling whose parentage you can confirm. If she died in Michigan before 1925 images of the d/c are on line. There may be clues there. Also if she remarried later in Michigan then the parents names were requested (but not always supplied).