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week I promised to tell you how I got my third-great-grandparents’ divorce record.
It went on my genealogy to-do list after a random search of historical newspaper website GenealogyBank resulted
in newspaper notices when my third-great-grandmother filed for divorce in 1879 (below),
and again when the divorce was granted two years later.
You know when you think something is going to be a big ordeal so you procrastinate,
then when you finally get the ball rolling it turns out to be a piece of cake and
you wish you did it ages ago?
I had checked FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com and USGenWeb to
see if I could get digital or microfilmed copies. Nope. So I thought I’d have to figure
out which of the two county courthouses to go to, find time to make the trip, get
a babysitter, search out the records, and so on.
When I started planning a visit and called the courthouse (after first checking online
for info on old records), the nice lady there said, “Oh, we don’t keep records that
far back,” at which point I may have made strange choking sounds. Then she continued,
“You’ll have to call the state archives in Frankfort.”
I checked the Kentucky State Archives’
website and learned it does have divorce records from the time and place I needed,
and you can print
a request form to fill out and send with a $15 fee. Easy peasy.
A few days later, I had an email from a state archivist. The file was 103 pages(!)
and I’d need to send an additional fee for copies of the whole thing.
When I called to pay over the phone, I asked the archivist what’s typically in a historical
divorce file, just to make sure I wouldn’t be ordering a bunch of blank pages. She
flipped through and said it looked pretty meaty, with lots of depositions. “We’ll
get this copied today and sent out tomorrow,” she said.
After a few days impatient days, The Big Envelope was in my mailbox. The first
page had this on it:
I spread out the pages on the counter, squinting at the handwriting and trying to
glean all the clues I could—such as my third-great-grandmother’s maiden name—while
protecting them from my 2-year-old’s applesauce splatters.
“Meaty” is an accurate description. So far I’ve found all the makings of a tabloid-worthy
divorce: accusations of cruelty and mental instability (along with a physician’s testimony
about my ancestor’s “cycles”—I guess doctor-patient confidentiality was still in the
future), custody fights, and insinuations of an improper relationship between my third-great-grandmother
and a younger man.
I’m still going over the papers and I’ll blog more later about genealogical clues
I discover (that way I can call it work).
Thinking about researching your ancestors’ court records? Click
here for FamilyTreeMagazine.com tips on finding the right courthouse.
Then check out our courthouse
research guide digital download, available in ShopFamilyTree.com.
Depending on the type of court records you’re looking for, you’ll also find in-depth
help in our
Using Guardianship Records in Genealogical Research video class with Marian Pierre-Louis and our
Using Criminal Court Records on-demand webinar with Judy G. Russell.