A relative is married in 1843 in St. Louis, Missouri. He is married again in Illinois in 1848. The most likely scenario is that she died. It is possible that the couple actually divorced or separated and never bothered to divorce. The divorce would have generated a court record. A separation that never resulted in divorce may not have generated any records at all.

But I should not assume the first wife died unless there is some additional evidence other than simply the subsequent marriage.



7 Responses

  1. In Maryland for some period of time, divorces were granted by an act of the state legislative. I am researching a young woman named Eliza Jane Franciscus who was supposedly from Maryland and born sometime between 1810 and 1820. I stumbled across a divorce record for Eliza J. Franciscus from Albert G. Franciscus, granted by an act of the Maryland State Legislature on March 18, 1833. This turned out to not be the Eliza I was seeking, as Franciscus was her birth name, not her married name. It was interesting to me, though, in that I was not aware the the legislature, and not the courts, handled divorces at that time.

    These records show up not in court records, but the works documenting the work of the legislature, many of which can be found in Google books. There is also a book titled Divorces and Names Changed in Maryland by Act of the Legislative 1634-1867, by Mary K. Meyer, published by Heritage Books in 2007, though with a copyright date of 1991. This book is simply a listing of the parties involved, along with the date that the divorce was final. Going into the Laws of Maryland, the multi-volume set of books that documents the record of legislative activity provides more details on the cases. At least some of the volumes of Laws of Maryland are available in Google Books. The record for the divorce of Eliza and Albert turned up very quickly in a google search on her name.

  2. Another (rare) possibility: I worked for some time tracing the family of my 2 great grandfather, William, his wife & children from Rensselaer County, New York to Berkshire County Massachusetts and farther east. I also traced his father’s (Ananias), wife, Margaret & family living close by until 2ggf, William, moved east to Franklin County & then Worcester County, Massachusetts. I wondered what happened to my 3 great grandparents,, thinking they had probably died. I was surprised to find a record of a second marriage for 3ggf Ananias, back in Columbia County, New York, just south of Rensselaer County. And I was even more shocked to find him listed in the 1850 census living in Sing Sing prison for bigamy. Eventually I found 3 ggm, Margaret, back in Rensselaer County, New York in the 1850 census, living with her other children.

  3. I learned of my ggrandmother’s well kept secret of her remarriage and divorce, through her son’s WW I military death insurance claim. Record of her marriage was found in Moline, IL but she was always listed in the city directory under her first married name. Her second husband immediately moved back to Kansas. She never followed, so he filed for divorce, which was filed in Kansas. For the next 20 years she remained in Moline, using her original married name except for her elusive will and probate, which was found under her second married name (but only after learning of her second marriage).

  4. About 20 years ago I taught a simple “what do you need to know” class on divorce in Illinois a long time ago.
    I was quite surprised to find that my sources told me that Illinois was the “Reno” of divorce at one time. The biggest reason was that one of a couple could write to the state from wherever in the US they lived and ask to be divorced. And it went through. If (big if) I remember correctly, I don’t think the other spouse had to be notified particularly. That would be a bad surprise! Or maybe a good one depending on how the spouse felt about the instigator. At any rate, if Grandpa was living in Alaska…and Grandma was in Florida, his letter to Illinois could have given him his freedom. I’m sorry I don’t have sources any more…I’ve moved three times and it is probably either in one of those homes…or tossed by one of my helpers. But if something seems odd about a divorce and how/where it could have happened, you may want to check early Illinois records. (My assumption is that they had to send a fee and that worked for them. (Maybe Rauner needs to know about this source of funds 🙂

  5. After reading the above…I wonder if my great-grandmother Rose ever remarried. She was married to my great-grandfather Lucious Austin. They had to daughters Mattie Mae the oldest and Carrie Lee Austin born July 1913 in Georgia. Rose left the home while Lucious was out working. I don’t believe Rose could read or write. However, she had a letter sent to her sister. The letter came from Cincinnati, Ohio. I never knew great-grandmother maiden name.

  6. Also don’t believe the status of “widowed” in the census. Don’t assume the other party is deceased. I found that out when I discovered my gr-grandfather was still living.

  7. Since I have always collected genealogy records for the family, I was given lots of records from family members who thought their children weren’t interested and “many wanted to get the record straight.” One of my uncles I knew had several wives, and when I asked him to give me dates, etc. He showed me marriage certificates and gave me the data for 3 marriages. I asked him for the divorce dates, etc. He said, “Oh, I never divorced any of them. With the first one, we decided to separate and agreed to never mention it again. The 2nd one, was married to my brother-in-law (whom she never divorced) and we married, because people didn’t just live together in those days, and after several years, we were on a train moving from one town to another and decided the marriage was over, so we just got off at different stops and sure enough the marriage was over. ” And neither my uncle or my 3rd aunt ever married their 4th partners.

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