Keith’s Parents: Ronald and Grace’s Marriage!

Ronald and Grace McDonald

Finding my father’s parent’s marriage was one of my first genealogical challenges.  My Aunt Miriam, their daughter didn’t know the exact date of the marriage.  Miriam had sent me a bunch of her notes on our family and she wrote in these notes that her parents got married sometime before the death of Grace’s father, that was all she knew about her parent’s marriage.

Ronald Marries Grace – Miriam’s Notes

I practically tore up the State of Minnesota searching for records to no avail. I wrote to the St. Paul Episcopal church in Brainerd where her parents had a record of their marriage but nothing was found.  I checked with the Cass County and Crow Wing County Courthouse for a marriage record and was turned down.  I studied newspapers for Pine River where her parents lived, and other cities like Brainerd and Walker to see if an announcement had been made.  Nothing was turning up.  Sometimes the information you are seeking turns up in an unusual place.  I have been to the Minnesota Historical Society in St Paul, Minnesota on three separate occasions.  On this trip I was looking for records on Grace’s father George A. Barclay and pulled the Coroner’s Inquest file about his murder.  George was killed on October 28, 1898.  When someone is killed suspiciously a coroner’s inquest is held.  Fortunately for me, Minnesota was conducting these inquests on a regular basis by 1898.  In the transcripts contained in this Coroner’s Inquest file I found that my grandmother Grace had testified and in her testimony she told of her marriage. Grace gave testimony twice at the inquest.  The second testimony is the better one.

Mrs. Grace Barclay recalled says:

I was married the 8th of September in Hudson, Wis., I was at home immediately prior to the marriage.  Came back Oct. 1.  I stayed in Minneapolis from the 4th to the 14th of October. From there I went to Grand Rapids, Minn.  I stayed there a while and went out to a camp for a week, but kept rooms at the hotel all the time.  My husband is superintendent for Backus in the Willow River country.  We were near Cloquet when we heard of the murder of my Father.  Mr. McDonald told me.  I left Mr. McDonald at Cloquet.  He went to the woods and I came home.  I said he would drive across country and will be here tonight,….

Grace and Ronald’s Marriage Record

My grandmother was 16 years old when she married my grandfather Ronald. Grandfather Ronald was 32 years old at the time. I pondered this 16 year difference in their age when I saw the birth records at the Koochiching County Courthouse in International Falls, Minnesota of their children, my Dad and his siblings. I remember saying out loud and incredulously:   “Grandpa what were you thinking?”

Grace and Ronald did marry on September 8, 1898 in Hudson, St. Croix County, Wisconsin.  Hudson is just across the state line between Minnesota and Wisconsin and not that far from Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The distance is 29 miles by our freeway standards.   If you look close at the marriage record you can see there is no identifying county marks on this record.  I do have the Wisconsin Vital records application and the envelope this Marriage record was returned to me in.  You will have to take my word that the marriage was performed in Wisconsin.

In reviewing this marriage record we find the following information:  Ronald S. McDonald is the husband, his father is Archibald, his mother is Mary.  Ronald’s occupation is lumberman and his residence is given as Duluth. He was born in Canada.  Grace’s name is written “Gray A. Barclay.” Her parents are George A. Barclay and Amarilla Spracklen.  She was born in Pine River, MN.  They married on Sept. 8, 1898 in Hudson, St. Croix Co.  (I wrote in the state).  They are white. The ceremony was Presbyterian.  The witnesses were Mike Dorgan and Grace & Charles Burnley.  The witnesses were from Hudson, St. Croix Co.  The marriage was registered September 26, 1898 and the parties were sworn.

What do I think about this information?  Well there are a few pieces of information that are very interesting.   The first is that Ronald’s place of residence is Duluth.  I have suspected that he did live there.  The other piece of information is the marriage ceremony was Presbyterian.  Ronald was Catholic.  Grace her religion was unknown.  He basically married outside his faith.  The witnesses are also intriguing because their names are unfamiliar to me.  Their residence is given as Hudson?  So are these people friends of Grace and Ronald? Ronald was a lumberman and high up in Backus’ business, so he could have had many contacts and his occupation took him to many locations.

The lesson learned: if you can’t find a marriage within the state you think it happened in, then check the surrounding states.

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