Bourbon County

Marriage records go missing

Marriage certificates are missing from the offices of several county clerks in Central Kentucky, including those in Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties.

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. would not say whether marriage records were missing from his office, but he cited "a continuing investigation" as his reason for declining to comment.

Bourbon County Clerk Richard Stipp Eads said Kentucky State Police were informed by the Bourbon sheriff about the disappearance of records there. But Eads said he has not been contacted by state police.

The Kentucky County Clerks Association notified all 120 county clerks about the matter, but Eads said it appears that only a few clerks' offices in Central Kentucky have noticed missing certificates. Eads said he also mentioned the disappearance at an association meeting Thursday in Lexington.

Property records, mortgages, liens, fiscal court orders and other documents are all available for the public to see in the offices of county clerks. But only marriage certificates seem to be the target of the Central Kentucky disappearances.

Eads said the Bourbon records were discovered missing on Aug. 13 when a woman asked to have a copy of her marriage license. He estimated that 150 of the most recently filed marriage certificates are missing.

"I can't imagine why they'd want them," Eads said.

Marriage licenses are issued in the county clerk's office of each county. The bride and groom must appear together, and the license is valid for 30 days from the date it is issued. The license must be used in Kentucky.

The license does not have Social Security numbers, but it includes the name and address of the bride and groom; their date of birth and age; their place of birth; father's name; mother's first and maiden name; whether they are single, divorced, had a marriage annulled or widowed; the number of previous marriages of bride and groom; the occupations of the bride and groom; and the race of the bride and groom.

Whoever is taking the records might be trying to return them. Eads said one marriage record from Fayette County was found in his Bourbon County files. And two Bourbon County marriage records were found in the Fayette clerk's office, he said.

Blevins would not discuss that, nor would he say anything about the "continuing investigation."

Meanwhile, about 200 pages of marriage documents are missing from the Scott County Clerk's office, said deputy clerk Barbara Eldridge. They include pages 190 through 251 from 2007 and 2008 and pages 1 through 162 from 2006, she said.

The pages were discovered missing about a week and a half ago when a man came by wanting a copy of a marriage license, Eldridge said.

Woodford County Clerk Judie Woolums said about 200 pages are missing from two books from 2005 and 2006 in her Versailles office.

She said it's not uncommon for someone to collect information from marriage records in order to send newlyweds information about mortgages, but records had not previously been stolen.

The Office of Vital Statistics in Frankfort keeps copies of all marriage licenses from 1958 to the present, and Woolums said she is attempting to get copies from Frankfort to replace those that were taken from her office.

Eads, the Bourbon clerk, said he intends to notify people that their records are missing. In the meantime, he said people wanting public records must now sign a register and indicate what records they seek.

Eads said genealogists researching family trees have looked at marriage records for years without any problem, and have been good about putting books back in their place.

"We've always had an open vault," Eads said.