John and Sarah (Smith) Elwell Among the First Marriage Licenses in Snohomish County, Washington

Digging through historical records for information on the Elwell, Knapp, and other families in Snohomish County, Washington, I ran across a fascinating article uncovered by noted Snohomish County historian and genealogist, Karyn Zielasko-Westre, from the Everett Daily Herald dated January 7, 1916, regarding the oldest documents found in the Snohomish County records.

The records and legal papers in all the cases which have been tried before the higher courts of Snohomish county from 1875 to the present time and thousands of other legal papers are carefully filed away in the vault of the county clerk. Thousands of interesting documents of all kinds, some yellowed with age, and in the quaintest handwriting imaginable; all the judgments and cases which have come before the superior court up to the present time, and also the district court, when Washington was a territory, are filed there.

There are 19,670 cases on file in the Snohomish county clerk’s vault, besides hundreds of miscellaneous documents…

…The first suit in Snohomish county was filed February 12,1876, with County Clerk H. A. Gregory, the case being a suit for damages for assault, George Plumb versus John Richards. The assault was said to have been committed December 13, 1875…

…The first case filed after Washington became a state, and the court became a county superior court instead of a district court was filed on November 19, 1889, four days after statehood had been granted to Washington.
Everett Daily Herald Article
Oldest Documents in Snohomish County Records
January 7, 1916

What I found delightful is that the oldest record on file is from May 14, 1867:

On May 14, 1867, a party of three young couples were married at the home of James Hayes, different members of the party acting as witnesses for each other. James Hayes was wedded to Caroline Lily; John Elwell became the husband of Sarah Smith, and Charles Harriman married Elizabeth Pero.

Well, what do you know. One of my ancestors by marriage was one of the first to create a paper trail in the future Snohomish County records.

The article also explains that the act to regulate marriages passed in 1866 in the territory of Washington, which meant that getting married had more paperwork and money involved. Marriages had to be registered and “licensed”, bringing government control over marriage and income to the county and state.

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Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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