Posts Tagged ‘researching divorce records’

One of the most surprising things to me so far in my genealogical research was discovered in the trove of family papers I was given this summer (see a recent post for more information on the trove).  There was a clipping of my grandparents’ wedding announcement, which firstly, showed why I’d never been able to find their wedding record; they had been married in a different state than the one they lived in.  But the big shock was that my grandmother was referred to by a married name.  Only upon my discovery of this did my father say, Oh, yes, she was married before and divorced her first husband; she left him because he was an alcoholic.  This kind of thing is why, when it comes to my father’s side of the family, when I find out something major that I was never told, I’m always unsure at first whether I wasn’t told because they simply never told me, or because they themselves were never told about it.

So I ordered the divorce record from the court that heard divorce hearings then (as they still do today).  They asked me to send them a postal letter with the information I knew.  The wedding announcement didn’t mention the first husband’s name, so I just called him “Mr. XYZ” in my letter.  I included the fact that my grandmother has been dead a long time (she was my first grandparent to die; they’ve all been dead for a while now, as has my step-grandmother), in case they cared, since some repositories do.  I also included my phone number and email address, as I do with all my postal letters to repositories.  They got the letter very fast – after just a couple postal days, though it’s a good distance away – and called me when they received it.  They said they found one record that might be the correct people and asked me if Mr. XYZ (they couldn’t find a first name on the record either) had moved to North Carolina.  I told them that I had no idea, but that the name and address of the woman matched my grandmother’s.  The case was only two pages long, so they told me they’d waive the 20 cent fee if I would just send a SASE with a note with the case number, which they read to me over the phone.

I received it quite quickly and read over the entire thing twice this week.  According to the case, the man had regularly left my grandmother and had been “continuously” living away from her for several months by the time she filed for divorce, so she filed on grounds of abandonment.  (Note that this neither supports nor disputes the family story that he was an alcoholic.)  His address was indeed listed as being in North Carolina at the time the case was filed.  After several months passed without him so much as responding to the case, the divorce was by default granted to her.   The case had an abbreviated first name for Mr. XYZ (I don’t blame the court researchers for not realizing it; it was difficult to see) and I have used his full name to try to do a search for him, but have yet to find anything that clearly seems to be him in either North Carolina or the city where he and my grandmother had lived.  For now, he remains a puzzle.

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