Marital Status

I was divorced.  This is not something I am proud of, or something I want to brag about; however, it is not something I am ashamed of to the point of saying my previous husband had died.

In doing my family research, I have learned that I share the divorced status with some of my ancestors.  My mother was divorced.  My maternal grandmother had one marriage annulled and was divorced another time.  My paternal grandmother was divorced once.  My paternal great grandmother was divorced twice.   What I did not expect to see was the widowed status on the US Census for my grandmothers and great grandmother.

There was a social stigma associated with being divorced, to the point that some women would rather claim they were widowed than to admit they were divorced.  Being divorced meant you  were a failure or rejected by your husband and inferior to all those women who were still married.

Being an analyst, another question came to mind.  How accurate is the marital status on a census?  In my personal family, discounting my mother as the census for her divorce is not available, I have 6 total female ancestors reflected on the censuses after 1900.  Of those 6, 3 are reflected on the census to be widowed when in fact they were divorced.  In my house alone, 50% of the marital statuses are incorrect.

So…if you cannot find the death information of a male ancestor when the female is indicating she is a widow…you might see if you can find him alive someplace.  It is possible they divorced.

Frances Lengel Nalle, my divorced mother

Frances Lengel Nalle, my divorced mother


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