Genealogy Basics: Divorce Records

The last three weeks we’ve talked about birth, marriage and death records.  These three types of vital records are the records most genealogists think about when you say the words “vital records”.  But there’s a fourth type of vital record that isn’t immediately thought of: divorce records.  Obviously divorce records aren’t going to exist for every person and prior to the 1900s they’ll be virtually non-existent since divorce was rare.  In some places it was even illegal.

So what kind of information can you find in divorce records?

  • Husband’s name
  • Wife’s name
  • Marriage date
  • Divorce date
  • Current residence of husband
  • Current residence of wife
  • Property of husband and wife
  • Name(s) of child(ren)
  • Birth date(s) of child(ren)
  • Reasons for divorce

The information provided in the divorce records may vary from location to location and all the information in the above list may not be included in the records you find.

Divorces are handled by the court system so the location to contact to obtain these records will vary by location.  They may not be indexed so some searching may be required.

If you have some family information or situation in your genealogy that just doesn’t add up, consider the possibility that there may have been a divorce in your family.

My family had that situation with my second great-grandma Sarah (McKee) McCabe and second great-grandpa Chester Eaton McCabe.  After some digging my mother stumbled across another branch of the family we had no idea existed!  Initially we suspected Chester had run off and simply re-married.  We eventually discovered Chester and Sarah divorced, Chester met another woman and married her while Sarah came to Kansas City to be with her children in this area.  It was a fun mystery to solve and couldn’t have been solved without the help of some cousins and a Civil War pension file.  We don’t have the divorce documents yet but that’s definitely on my list of things to get.

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Join me on my genealogical journey where I hope my experiences, discoveries, mistakes, and successes will help you on your journey. We'll throw in some bits of history for a little flavor and that is what makes up Talking Box Genealogy.