25 June 2009

Jon and Kate + 8 and Genealogy

I've already had enough of Jon and Kate+8. Or is it Kate+8-Jon? Or Jon+8-Kate? I'm not certain where the "-" sign goes, but I don't think it really matters anymore. Regardless of where you put the minus sign, there's more than enough negativity.

But the "he said," "she said" and their upcoming divorce does have some relevance for genealogists.

One must always take divorce records with a grain of salt, sometimes with a shaker. This from a descendant of a woman who was divorced twice from the same man. Barbara Haase divorced Conrad Haase in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1872. They married again and he divorced her in 1884. In the 1872 divorce, her petition complained of his behavior. In the 1884 divorce, his petition complained of her her behavior. There was no response from the other party in either divorce.

Where was the truth? Somewhere in between--which is where it usually is.

In the 1884 divorce, a son testified. He indicated that mother and father both were sometimes difficult to get along with. Frankly, I'm glad the "whole" story is not in their divorce record. Some things are better left unknown.

The good news is that when your ancestor gets divorced it generated a record. Just keep in mind that the records left behind may not tell the whole story and that every statement is always told from someone's perspective.

It is worth noting too that divorce was not as uncommon as people think in the 19th century. A lot of things were not as uncommon as people think. Court records are full of these kinds of stories--search them. The real difference was that most of these "scandals" were not talked about like they are today.

I'm not certain "Conrad+Barbara+6" would have made a good reality show, but it might make for an interesting genealogy lecture.

Oh, and I do have a set of multiple births in my family. My great-aunt had triplets in the 1950s, the old-fashioned way. Identical ones and no one knew about the multiple births until the day of their arrival. Now that's a surprise--with no reality show residuals and no disposable diapers.