Last night, while doing research for a collection that I’m processing at work, I saw my great great great great grandmother’s name on a marriage record index page… twice… to the same man… fourteen years apart. I quickly made a note to look them up later. I knew that she had been married once to Leason Gillilland, from whom I am descended, and who died young. I knew that she married John Bridges after Leason died. Today, on my lunch break, I did look up the records. The first one was John T.M. Bridges and Sirelda Gilland on October 15, 1857. The second was John T.M. Bridges and Serrelda Gilliland on February 3, 1871.
This is weird. I consulted a co-worker who has been doing genealogy far longer than I have and has taught me most of what I know about researching. She agreed that it is weird. At first we thought that maybe the first marriage was invalid. The name of the minister is smudged out and we thought that possibly he wasn’t really a minister. A cleaner copy of that marriage record is available on FamilySearch.org and the minister’s name can be read. He is D. G. Stewart. Daniel G. Stewart is listed in the back of the index as being a minister from 1835-1837. In the 1857 New Albany city directory, he’s listed as a homeopathic physician. While I was looking up the minister, my co-worker searched the newspaper index for me. She found that John Bridges wasn’t such a great guy.
My grandfather had always told me that John was a drunk and that he was constantly in trouble. He had heard stories about John from his great grandmother, Serilda’s daughter, who had helped raise him. Today, I discovered that John murdered a man, was convicted, and went to the Indiana State Prison in Jeffersonville, Indiana. I didn’t have a lot of time on my lunch, so I only read the brief descriptions of the over a dozen articles on the trial and his other run-ins with the law. I’ll copy those as soon as I can. The result of the trial is that he was convicted in 1859. The 1860 Census lists him with the family, but in the last column, where it asks for a person’s condition, it says “convict.” In the 1870 Census, he’s listed among other convicts as being in Indiana State Prison. Yet, somehow, he married or re-married Serilda in 1871. Maybe the marriage was annulled or they got a divorce when he went to jail? Maybe the first marriage really wasn’t legal? I’m not sure. What I really want to know is did they get married in the jail, or was he released from prison after only twelve years when he was sentenced for murder? I’m hoping the articles about the trial will shed some light on that.