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Column: Unravelling the marriage certificate mystery

A column about the 100+ years old marriage certificate mystery.
Marriage certificate Robert Shuman Gilbough and Lizzie Fries 1
This marriage certificate was issued on April 9, 1909, in Estevan to testify the union between Robert Shuman Gilbough and Lizzie Fries, both of what was the Town of Estevan at that time.

I love my job.

Ever since being a kid and spending summers at the cabin with my grandparents, when other kids played house, store or cops and robbers, I played newspaper. My girlfriend and I would issue a weekly village-wide paper, just one copy for the village, sharing local news and then going door-to-door so people could read it.

Already back then, I started reporting on the ecological crisis in the village (which had no paved roads) when the number of local vehicles bumped up from two to three. I also covered the potential global threatening pandemic and conspiracy behind it, when one of the kids in our gang got covered with chicken pox marks treated with zelyonka, brilliant green medicine, and all the rest of the parents were rushing to get their kids over for a visit so we all would get herd immunity.

I warned the  community about a potential serial killer or kidnapper operating in the village when some of the kids would suddenly disappear after returning home past the scheduled time.

We had a lot of fun with that paper, and I still have a few copies sitting somewhere.

Since those times, I knew I wanted to work in the media. There were a few other career paths that crossed my three- to 15-year-old mind, such as kindergarten teacher and archeologist, but journalism took over. And last week once again reminded me why I did the right choice and why I love it so much.

The beginning of the last week I spent writing an article about a really old marriage certificate issued in Estevan in 1909. The publisher of The Fortuna Oracle reached out to us after someone dropped it off at their office in hopes to find the family of Robert Sherman Gilbough and Lizzie Fries, named in the document. She did her best to find any connections but didn't have any luck.

As soon as I read her email, I knew we were up to something really cool, a challenging investigation, a historic puzzle ... And my guts were right.

I did a quick search for any connections while writing the story but also came up with nothing. So, the story went in the paper last Wednesday and online at at 11 a.m. the same day.

And within an hour I got a phone call. One of our readers out of Regina with a connection to Estevan saw the story and started digging. For the next 24 hours, we were exchanging emails back and forth. A retired police officer, this gentleman had all the tools to provide a real thorough investigation, which I was fascinated by.

He's hit dead ends a number of times, but then recuperated and got back to researching archives and all kinds of records to find the descendants of two people who celebrated their love in Estevan over 113 years ago.

He soon discovered that the young family was splitting their time between the Estevan area and North Dakota, as records about Robert's employment were coming from both countries. Then the story got more complicated, as both spouses died young and in the same year in the U.S. Then, in American records, their last names would appear to be spelled differently from document to document, he was finding, which made the search trickier.

Nevertheless, in under 24 hours, this wonderful reader got back to me saying that he found Robert and Lizzie's great-granddaughter. And not only does she know about these ancestors, but she is also huge into the family history and is the person who would appreciate any addition to the historic puzzle from the bottom of her heart.

And just like that, the potential of professional networking that made The Fortuna Oracle reach out to us to do some good, the power of the media that allowed for the information to reach out to a broader audience in no time, and the skills and commitment of one great man allowed people to put together a 100-plus-year-old chunk of family history.

As every new puzzle piece was falling into place, I would get more goosebumps. It indeed was a very exciting experience, which quickly came to a happy ending.

I know, this might look like something not that important for others outside the Gilbough-Fries descendants, but in reality, the history of every family also reflects the past of the communities they lived in, the countries they've spent time in and also the era that story covers. So I feel that the value of this reconstruction is really high.

Now, that the family was found and their relatives' marriage certificate is being shipped to them, we at the Mercury and the Oracle, are working on bringing bits and pieces of this amazing story together to share with our readers.

So, make sure you check the coming editions of the Mercury for all the details about this miraculous reunification.

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