Tips from the Pros: Get All the Marriages, by Michael John Neill

If your ancestor was married more than once, there is the opportunity to learn even more about your ancestor through the records of those other marriages. Those other spouses may not be your ancestor, but those other records may provide additional information on your direct lineage. Ignoring those records may cause your brick walls to remain standing even longer.

Archibald Kile’s first marriage was in Ohio in the 1840s; all his descendants are from his first marriage. Records of his two subsequent marriages were particularly helpful as they took place when better records were being kept. Archibald entered the bonds of holy matrimony twice well after reaching his sixtieth birthday and records of these marriages provided his place of birth and the names of his parents. This was significant information for a man born in the 1810s whose death certificate in the 1890s is minimally informative.

My own ancestor Barbara Haase was married four times between 1847 and 1884. Records during this time period are typically uninformative. However her 1859 marriage record mentions her age and the name of her previous husband, something I was not expecting to see in the record. Looking at all her marriage records paid off.

If your ancestor stepped up to the marriage plate more than once, take a look. There may be more information there than you think.
 

11 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Get All the Marriages, by Michael John Neill

  1. Yes this is a good tip, I know many people that go straight up to find the earliest date their ancestors were born, but by going sideways and looking at other marriages you find much more, as I have done with my family.
    Good Tip
    Maureen Gardner.

  2. I agree that marriage information can be very helpful but I have hit a road block, other than age of participants and date of marriage, when it comes to parents and other details of the marriages before 1869 in Canada.
    Elaine Dudden

  3. I just have to tell you a story that opened up doors. My great great grandfather Isaac J. Brown of Champaign County, Illinois was married to Margaret Coffin. They had children. Margaret died so he married a widow. In the course of finding more about her I found living descendants of HERS. They had been looking for a living descendant of HIS from his first marriage as they had his old family Bible. To make a long story short I was sent the Bible and it had names of 3 children that Isaac and Margaret had and I never knew of as they had been born and died between the 1850 and 1860 censuses. What a gold mine this was. I learned right then and there that you pursue all marriages of an ancestor…it may lead to letters, pictures, …..and Bibles! Thanks for your tips.
    Deanna Hirz

  4. When I obtained a copy of my grandparents application for marriage license, I found more than one error. Every item completed by the clerk had our surname incorrectly spelled; fortunately, for posterity my grandfather did spell it correctly. However, he apparently didn’t have a clue when it came to providing the birthdate of his intended as it was wrong month, day and year. He had provided his brother’s birthdate instead!

  5. My husband’s g-g-grandmother Cynthia Franklin was reportedly married six times. The first marriage is the one from which he decends. I have pursued the other marriages to see if they existed and if there were other children. After her divorce from Adam Almonrode @ 1867, she went on to marry John S. Garrett in 1872, William Vanslack (Van Slyke) in 1880, Enos Cole in 1889, Lewis Thomas in 1898, and William Secrist in 1902. At least four of the last five husbands left her a widow. I’ve not yet found out what happened to Mr. Vanslack. Following the other marriages helped me to understand how she came to be in Texas in 1880; when I found John Garrett in Bluegrove Cem. in Clay County. When I found her in the Indiana State Soldiers Home in 1900, I was able to get a copy of her file. There were 40 pages including copies of the last letter her youngest daughter wrote to her and other letters exchanged between the Home and relatives. The file had some items in her own handwriting. Instead of being a couple of lines on the family tree, she became a rather remarkable woman who persevered through a difficult life.

  6. I always go sideways and up and down when researching my lines. The name may not be the same, but I have still gleaned information from other spouses and their children about my ancestors. Good tip.

  7. What about when a woman disappears totally after she divorces her husband? That’s what has happened for me. My gr.gr. grandmother, Mary Prindle Lowden, married my gr. gr. grandfather John Augustus Lowden right after the civil war.

    I never knew her name but came upon it when my gr. gr. grandfather’s third wife applied for a widow’s pension. On it, she lists Mary Prindle as his first wife, whom he divorced. In the census, my gr. grandmother Elnora Lowden Carroll is listed as their daughter… but… her birthdate year obviously shows that she is a child of his first wife. Apparently Mary took off to parts unknown.

    I’ve never been able to find anything about her. Fortunately, I’ve found Elnora’s info and her half sibling info. Still wish I could find Mary Prindle.

  8. I had just discovered through my Grandfather Francis Harvey’s attestation records from the Royal Artillery, that when he enlisted in 1881, that he said HIS Father(my GGrandfather), John Harvey; was already in the United States and was residing in Newark, New Jersey! I knew that from his WW1 records Francis had married in July of 1895 in Newark also, so this was a very big surprise for me. When I finally tracked down Francis’s marriage certificate from Newark; lo and behold, who was at the marriage but his Father John! Not only that, but John was the Step-Father of Francis’s new bride as John had married Francis’s Mother-in-Law! Talk about your family puzzles! It just goes to show, you never know what you’ll uncover in research family history!

  9. Hi Daniel, I was just wondering if you are a descendent of Robert Harvey, Thomas Harvey, Thomas Harvey, JR., Thomas Harvey who settled in Randolph New York in 1823, coming from, I believe (my records are at home) Oneida. I am just working to fill in a few gaps my father left before he passed away recently.

    Thanks, Sue Harvey

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  11. I HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER WHO I THOUGHT WAS MARRIED TWICE, BUT IN DOING RESEARCH, I FIND THIS FAMILY MEMBER HAS BEEN MARRIED SEVERAL TIMES IN BETWEEN. I’AM HAVING A DIFFICULT TIME LOCATING THESE OTHER MARRIAGES, BECAUSE HE HAS CHANGED HIS FIRST AND LAST NAME EACH TIME A NEW MARRIAGE CAME INTO PLACE SOME OF MY FINDINGS COME UP THAT HE WAS STILL MARRIED TO ONE SPOUSE, CHANGED HIS NAME AND MARRIED ANOTHER,OR HE WOULD OBTAIN A DIVORCE OR ANULLMENT, WITHOUT SPOUSE KNOWING, THINKING THEY WERE STILL MARRIED, WHEN IN FACT HE IS MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE.BUT UNDER DIFFERENT NAMES.IT IS VERY OVERWELMING, AND EXHAUSTING. I ‘M GOING IN CIRCLES.

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