Category: Family Secrets

October 9th, 2013

Divorce Meccas That Might Reveal Your Ancestor

Divorce records are held by a number of different courts and associated archives. It depends on the country, state, province or county, and as such they can be difficult to locate. In the United States however, certain areas are known to have been Divorce Meccas; places that granted divorce with little or no hassle. Beginning your search in such areas may greatly reduce the amount of research and time you need to invest in finding divorce records, especially if searching ancestors from the 19th century.

Certain states, counties and colonies had reputations as easy palaces to get a divorce. Strict laws in one state led to people migrating to areas where they could easily obtain a divorce. One such area was Ashtabula County in Ohio. Its close proximity to New York, Pennsylvania, and Ontario in Canada led to it becoming a popular place to get a divorce. As such, it granted many divorces to people who weren’t residents of the state. Chicago was also popular, granting over 400 divorces in 1868 alone.

An early divorce Mecca surprisingly was the state of Utah, where lax laws, inexpensive court costs, and no residency requirement led to many travelling there for the proceedings. The state finally tightened its divorce laws when too many out-of-state applicants began to swamp the Utah legal infrastructure. Another area that rose to prominence in granting divorces was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In 1890 the city was a major railroad hub, and the easy access, a residency requirement that allowed anyone resident in the state for more than 30 days to get a divorce, and an abundance of lawyers led many divorce seekers to flock there. An additional perk was that a defendant need not respond in order for a divorce to be granted.

Western states were particularly notorious for granting easy divorce. The divorce rate in such areas actually rose faster than in previously mentioned areas, even disregarding divorces granted to people who had migrated to them for the sole purpose of a divorce. The most common ground for divorce at that time was desertion, and many of those granted divorces were women who had left their husbands behind to migrate westwards. The majority of divorces though were filed by males, especially those whose wives did not join them on their journey west.

The extreme number of divorces granted in the late nineteenth century was very much responsible for the move to regulate and control divorce in later years. The good part for genealogists is that many records were created and the majority of been preserved. Below are the repositories for divorce records in each of the states and areas we’ve mentioned. They are a good source of genealogical data, especially for female ancestors who might otherwise be difficult to locate.

Ohio – Marriages were first recorded by Ohio county probate judges in 1797. A state-wide index of divorces was begun in 1949 and is maintained by the Department of Health in Columbus. Records can also be found in the original county courthouses, and many have been microfilmed.

Utah – Divorce records granted by the LDS Church between 1847 and 1852 are available only to descendants of the parties involved, and on a limited basis. Federal District Court divorces for cases between 1852 and 1896 have been put on microfilm and can be viewed at the Utah State Archives, or the US National Archives in Washington D.C.

South Dakota – Divorces in South Dakota have been under the jurisdiction of the county courts and must be obtained from the county for any divorce predating 1905. Divorce records from 1905 till present are kept at the South Dakota Department of Health in Pierre.

Nevada – County clerks un Nevada began recording marriages in 1860, and divorce cases were heard in the probate courts. The records may be found at the Nevada State Library and Archives in Carson City.

New Mexico – The Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe at the University of Mexico in Albuquerque have many records of marriage investigations spanning the years 1693-1846. They can be accessed at the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives

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January 25th, 2011

Oprah Winfrey Has a Sister! Here’s How Family Tree Research Helped Them Find Each Other

A woman conducting a family ancestry search has discovered that she is the half-sister to television talk show host Oprah Winfrey. The woman, whose surname has been kept secret to protect her privacy, had been searching for her birth mother who had given her up for adoption in 1963. The trail began in Mississippi and ended up in Chicago, where she finally met with her long lost sibling on Thanksgiving Day last year. Recently she appeared on Oprah’s show, where the two held hands throughout and demonstrated the true rewards of conducting a family ancestry search.


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June 22nd, 2010

Uncovering Family Secrets

Many of us begin our genealogical quest after either:

• hearing something exciting about one of our ancestors, or
• if we have the same surname as someone famous – just to see if we might be related.

As we begin our search for our infidel ancestor or our wealthy relative, it is possible to come across some information that we rather wouldn’t have. This could be an ancestor being involved in criminal behaviour; murder, theft, fraud, etc, or something like illegitimacy, adoption or infidelity.


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June 7th, 2010

The Myths and Mysteries of Tiger WOODS’ Ancestry Part II

In Part I, I examined the claim that Tiger’s father, Earl WOODS, is one-quarter Native American, one-quarter Chinese and half black.

The black is fairly easy to establish because as far back as I can go on Earl’s father’s ancestry, the family is listed as black (I am using black as this was the terminology on the records of the time). I realize there is the “one drop rule” that means any black in your ancestry no matter how far back means you are black. That can skew the results, but there is no evidence of any other ethnicity to in the WOODS line back from Earl’s father than black (or Negro as was used on the 1930 United States Federal Census).

Perhaps, if we could go further back in the WOODS line, we might find different ancestry, but it is doubtful there would be enough to establish the claim of one-quarter Native American and one quarter Chinese on the basis of Earl WOODS’ paternal line. It is said that Miles, Earl’s father, “was black, clearly of African ancestry” (, 05 May 2006) and that is where I have to leave this line for now.

Perhaps we will do better with Earl’s maternal line. His mother was Maud(e) Ellen CARTER, who married his father Miles WOODS (July 1919 according to William Addams Reitwiesner who does not give a primary source for this information). Miles was a widowed prior to the 1910 census. His first wife was Viola and they had at least four children together (sources: 1905 Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925 and 1910 United States Federal Census).

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January 20th, 2010

The Myths and Mysteries of Tiger WOODS’ Ancestry: Part I

Tiger WOODS claims to be Cablinasian: Ca for Caucasian, Bl for Black, In for (American) Indian and the rest for Asian. His father is said to be one-quarter Native American, one-quarter Chinese and half black. Claims are that Tiger’s mother is half Thai, a quarter Chinese and a quarter Dutch. This [if true] makes WOODS himself half Asian (one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Thai), one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American and one-eighth Dutch. (“Earning his stripes.” AsianWeek. 1996-10-11. Retrieved 2010-01-15.)

These claims might be intriguing and even give him an air of mystery, but are they true? One would hate to doubt what a person claims as ethnic make-up, but I have not found any proof to substantiate some of these claims and, in fact, evidence seems to refute some.

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November 21st, 2009

Bush Family Secret: Nazi Traitors to America

When researching your ancestors, go further than just the facts of marriages, births, deaths, and really dig deep, until you find out just who these people were. You might unearth some shocking stories and it’s those stories that make genealogy thrilling. Like this story about the Bush family.

This story has been circulating for a few years now, ever since UK newspaper the Guardian published the shocking report, “How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power” The report revealed rumors of links between the Bush family and Nazi war criminals. The article is long and detailed and gives proof of George W. Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush and his maternal great grandfather George Herbert Walker were aiding and abetting Nazis.


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