I have recently visited Newton, Massachusetts to learn more about my great-grandmother Bessie Blanche (Martin) Baldwin. Bessie was born about 1870 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Her family appears in the Canadian 1871 and 1881 census. I knew that in 1892 she married my great grandfather Miles Baldwin and they had two children in Newton (my grandfather Miles Jr in 1893 and his younger brother Blanchard in 1897). Two days after Blanchard’s birth, she passed away. The cause of death was cancer of the stomach. As you might expect, we knew little or nothing of Bessie and her life when I started genealogy.
Today, I wanted to follow up on something very intriguing I found when the Massachusetts Town Records first appeared on Ancestry.com a few months ago:
I found this marriage license application while searching under her father’s name, Marsden Martin. A slip of paper with Marsden Martin’s signature was covering a marriage license application.
The slip read:
Newton, Aug. 8th 1887 I Marsden Martin parent of Bessie Martin hereby give my consent for her marriage to Aubry James Lyman. In presence of May Martin — Marsden Martin
I had looked around online for details of Aubry James Lyman — he appeared to marry again around 1892, the same as Bessie, and never had any children. He died fairly young. If they had married, they must have divorced. I was intrigued with what a divorce record might tell me.
I was able to get to the Newton city hall today.
The clerk’s office was on the first floor.
I asked the clerk for the original of the page I showed above, so I could look underneath the permission slip. She looked Bessie up in the index book and card file, and was mystified about why she didn’t find the record. The absence of those things implies there was no marriage. When she realized she was looking at an “Intentions” page, she said she would try to find that book, but it might be in storage since there was very little call for Intentions records (just marriages). Fortunately, she was able to find the Intentions book and I turned to page 338.
I was able to see what was underneath:
City Clerk’s office, Tuesday the 9th day of Aug. 1887. Between Aubry James Lyman of Newton aged 21 years, by occupation a Carpenter. He was born in Grand Pre, N.S. and was the son of Abraham D and Jane (Frazer). This will be his first marriage. And Bessie Martin (crossed out; Wolfville N.S.) of Newton aged 17 years. She was born in Wolfville N.S. and was the daughter of Marsden and Marian (Chipley). This will be her first marriage.
[the mother’s name is incorrect here, it was Maria (Shipley).]
I still might have been mystified about this story if it were not for a penciled note on the bottom of the permission slip, which was visible in person, although not on the online copy:
She left for the British Provinces before the ceremony could be performed. Really? Whatever happened to “I’m so sorry, I’ve changed my mind”? Leaving the country? I suspect Bessie may have read too many dime novels or seen too many Julia Roberts movies. So off she went.
I can’t find evidence of her journey so far, but perhaps I will someday.
The City of Newton has done a wonderful job of making original vital records and city directories available online. But those things aren’t helping me at this point.
Some remaining questions
- How did a 17-year old leave the country (and eventually return)? was an adult with her?
- Why was “May” the witness to the permission slip? Sister May was 14 at the time. Could the mother, Maria, possibly have been called May?
- Is this really what it seems to be? Or is there something here that I’m not aware of?
- Grand Pre and Wolfville are adjacent towns in Kings County, Nova Scotia. Did the young couple know each other there?
- Where exactly in Newton were Bessie and her family residing at this time?
- When exactly did the family come to Massachusetts?
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