No Imbeciles, Please


A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Association of County Officers unveiled its database of Minnesota marriages.  For genealogists, this sort of thing is a lot like Christmas morning.

I’m supposed to be cleaning up my old research, but I couldn’t resist the urge to plug in a few names.  A half hour later, I’d ordered 15 marriage certificates.  They’re $9 each.  Some women binge on shoes or purses…I binge on vital records.  Yep, I’m a weirdo.

A bunch of the marriage certificates came yesterday, including one for Mabel Ruden and Mark Seliger, who were married in Albert Lea, Minnesota in April 1918.  Mabel was one of the witnesses at the wedding of my great-grandparents, Severina Nelson and Arthur Scheiber (that’s them above; Mabel is the one on the right).  I’m researching her because I suspect she may be related to Severina.

Mark and Mabel’s marriage certificate was the only one that also came with a copy of the marriage license, as well as the application Mark filled out to get the license.  Check out the things he had to swear to, under oath, when completing the application

  • That I have no living wife.
  • That I have not been divorced within the six months last past.
  • That I am not epileptic, imbecile, feeble minded, nor inflicted with insanity.
  • That we are not nearer kin than second cousins.

The bride had to meet the same criteria, although there’s a footnote at the bottom.  It states that it’s okay for her to be “epileptic, imbecile, feeble minded or afflicted with insanity” as long as she’s over 45 years old.  I’m guessing the idea was that she wouldn’t get pregnant and pass her “afflictions” on if she were that old…whereas the groom could do so at any age.

Of course, it’s important for researchers to keep in mind the context of the time in which records are created…but it’s a little jarring to see some of this stuff.

Photo:  Wedding of Severina Elizabeth Nelson and Arthur Walter Scheiber, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 18 June 1913.

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