Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved: The Family Historian's Guide to Marital Breakdown, Separation, Widowhood, and Remarriage from 1600 to the 1970s

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 210 pages
Author: M. Probert
Year: 2015
ISBN: 9780993189609
Other: tables, bibliog, index
Publisher: Takeaway Publishing

Most of our ancestors were wed only once, and after the death of a spouse did not remarry. Yet every family tree has individuals whose lives did not fit that pattern: a minority of the bereaved chose to take a second or even third spouse, and with some marriages breaking down and divorce increasingly an option there were always bigamists and divorcees ready to find a new partner.

In this follow up to the best selling "Marriage Law for Genealogists", Rebecca Probert explains divorce, bigamy, bereavement and remarriage from the 1600s through to the late twentieth century. How long did marriages last? Was the loss of a spouse in middle ages as common as we might assume? And for those who did lose a spouse, what factors influenced their choice to remarry or remain single? What signs hint that a marriage might have been bigamous, or that a divorce has been hushed up? How were marital breakdown, bigamy and cohabitation linked at a time when relationships outside marriage were rare and unacceptable?

From the evidential requirements of the divorce courts through to the testimonies of convicted bigamists, and from men who married their late wife's sister through to couples who went through more than one wedding ceremony together, this book examines law and social custom from every angle.


1. Divorced
The law and process of divorce
 - From the 1660s to December 31st, 1857
 - January 1st, 1858 through to the First World War
 - What were the chances of successfully obtaining a divorce?
 - From the First World War through to December 31st, 1937
 - January 1st, 1938 through to December 31st, 1970
 - January 1st, 1971 through to the present day
Remarriage after divorce
Who did divorcees remarry?
How did divorcees describe themselves?
Did people 'want' to remarry after a divorce?

2. Separated
Separation orders
 - Divorces a mensa et thoro, 1660 to December 31st, 1857
 - Judicial separation
 Separation in the Magistrates' Courts
 - Property protection
 - Domestic violence
Separation agreements
 - Formal written agreements
 - Informal written agreements
 - Separation with permission from the first spouse 
 - 'Wife-Sale'
Separation for seven year

3. Bigamist
Defining bigamy: The elements of the crime
 - 1603 through to June 30th, 1828
 - July 1st, 1828 through to the present day
Proving that the second 'marriage' was bigamous
 - What evidence was required to prove that two ceremonies had taken place?
 - What constituted a valid marriage for these purposes?
 - Was it possible to escape a conviction for bigamy on the basis that the second marriage would have been void?
Why did people commit bigamy
 - Those who believed that they were entitled to remarry
 - Those who believed that they were justified in remarrying
 - Those guilty of exploitation
 - Those leading double lives
 - Those who remarried in a 'moment of madness'
Second courtships and ceremonies
 - What did bigamists tell their second spouse?
 - How was the second marriage celebrated?
 - Who attended the second marriage?
 - Did bigamists marry in false names?
Who committed bigamy?
 - Gender
 - Age
 - Occupation
 - Previous criminal convictions
What risks were bigamists running?
 - What were the chances of being caught?
 - What were the chances of being prosecuted if discovered?
 - What were the chances of being convicted?
 - What was the likely sentence if found guilty?
 - What factors were taken into account when sentencing?
 - What happened after the trial?

4. Bereaved
Establishing the death of a spouse
 - Actually dead
 - Thought or likely to be dead
 - Turned out to be alive
The expected duration of marriages
The chances of remarrying
 - Age
 - Gender
 - Status and wealth
 - The role of emotion
The nature of second marriages
 - When did people remarry?
 - Whom did the bereaved remarry?
Case studies of remarriage patterns
 - Cardington in 1782
 - Kilsby in 1851
Constraints of remarriage
 - Financial
 - Legal

5. Remarriage to the same person
Planned remarriage
 - Legal recognition and religious conscience
Remedial remarriage
 - After discovery of s technical defect
 - After death or divorce
Tactical remarriage
 - 'Enforced' Anglican ceremonies
 - Elopements and family weddings
 - Marrying 'on the strength'
Personal motivation
What was the status of the second ceremony?

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Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved: The Family Historian's Guide to Marital Breakdown, Separation, Widowhood, and Remarriage from 1600 to the 1970s


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