The hunt is over: 150-year-old hidden marriage license to be given to family member

BRUNSWICK COUNTY (WWAY) — A 150-year-old marriage certificate found in a thrift shop miles from home now has an owner.

While cleaning a picture frame, a Hope Chest Thrift Store employee found a nearly 150-year-old marriage license nailed inside. It was so old, only the year, city, and couple’s first names, William and Katey, were legible.

“This couple was married in New Jersey, and somehow the certificate found its way to a thrift store on Old Ocean Highway in Bolivia, North Carolina,” said Hope Harbor Executive Director, Karmen Smith.

It was a unique find, so WWAY aired a story on the discovery.

Not long after, while home in upstate New York, William and Katherine DeWorth’s great-granddaughter, Irene Cornish decided to log into on a whim.

“I haven’t been on Ancestry in quite a few months,” Cornish remembered. “I actually went on to research a family member on the other side. And I happened to notice I had these messages.”

WWAY viewers who saw the piece were able to track Cornish down and message her.

Though Cornish doesn’t know how this love story began, she knows her great-grandmother Katherine Havey moved to America toward to end of the Irish Potato Famine. She worked as a servant in a Bordentown, New Jersey hotel until she earned her citizenship.

Her great-grandfather, William DeWorth built his own Ferris wheel and rented it out to carnivals. He even had his own ventriloquist and fire eating acts.

Though we have new information, some questions remain.

How did the frame end up in North Carolina?

“Sadly the Old Homestead, the person that inherited that in the family basically sold everything that was in it to a local thrift shop,” Cornish explained, “and ultimately lost the home.”

Though the mystery isn’t completely solved, Cornish says she feels more connected than ever to family she’s only heard stories about.

“My mother passed away five years ago,” said Cornish. “I don’t have any family… immediate family in the area where I live. So I feel a little isolated at times. So it just felt comforting that, oh these people are reaching out somehow. I am connected.”

Cornish is still working out exactly how and when she plans to pick up the marriage license. She hopes to frame it at home and one day donate it to a museum for safe keeping.

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