"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press - 28 December 2002


The D-I-V-O-R-C-E Myth

Have you ever wondered whatever happened to great-aunt Sallie who was married to great-uncle Harry in 1874? She was his first wife and many folks seem to assume that "she just died" and no one remembers when or where she was buried or she just never had a gravemarker.

Well, guess what, they got a divorce in 1876! Yep, all that time searching for her grave was a "rabbit hole" without an end because they were divorced; she left the county and remarried under her maiden name.

According to Webster's Dictionary, divorce is the "legal dissolution of the marriage bond between one's spouse." Keeping this in mind, I began a search of the early Milam County Divorce records. The official "Index to Divorces" for the Milam County begins in 1893 and everyone at the District Clerk's Office told me there weren't any early divorce records and they didn't have divorces until the 1893 index.

The divorce myth is: No one ever got divorced "back then" and certainly no woman ever took back her maiden name; those are modern developments with the high divorce rates.

So, I began reading the "Milam County District Court Civil Minutes, 1874-1883." And guess what I found, divorces; approximately 10 to 15 couples per year were granted a divorce and many of the women took back their maiden names!

Accordingly, while I had this microfilm on inter-library loan from the Texas State Library & Archives, I abstracted all of the Milam County divorces granted from 1874-1883 and they are on-line at: http://www.geocities.com/milamco. Currently, I am waiting for the reel for the years 1884 through 1893 to arrive via inter-library loan and those divorces will be abstracted and added in early 2003.

A quick review of Williamson County Divorce Records indicates the official index for divorces begins in 1909 while the District Court Civil Minutes begin in 1848. Accordingly, you need to start your search for early divorces in the civil minutes.

For a list of microfilm available for Texas counties, go to the Texas State Library & Archives website at: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/local/index.html or check with your local library for a copy of the printed inventory.

Searching Databases at Ancestry.com

Sometimes when I am doing research and using databases, I am only interested in data related to a certain state. Ancestry.com has an advanced "search" engine that allows you to specifically target your search for an individual state at: http://www.ancestry.com/search/main.htm. In testing this search engine I found I could omit a considerable amount of extraneous and unrelated hits and it made my research go faster and it was a more efficient utilization of my time and resources. While most of the databases at Ancestry.com are subscriber based, there a several databases that are free access. Go ahead, try your luck and see if it helps with your search for more information on your ancestors.

Virginia's Guide to Civil War Manuscript Collection is On-Line

From "A" to "Z" the Virginia Historical Society now has it's finding aids on-line for its Civil War Manuscript Collection at: http://www.vahistorical.org/cwg/browse.htm. These manuscripts include individual collections, family papers, and organizational collections.

Using the search engine for the collection was quick and easy. I entered the surname CAVE and promptly found a family manuscript collection that I never knew about and now I'm eager to get to Virginia to read the 888 items in six boxes of personal papers!

You never know what you'll find or where you'll find it! Keep searching and have a safe and happy holiday season. I appreciate hearing from my readers and all the lovely Christmas cards are dancing around the doorframe to my office.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 26 Dec 2002 and was last revised on __________

Copyright 1999, 2001, 2002 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604