Thursday, May 27, 2010

Separated or Divorced?

Words may have a variety of meanings, depending on the location and time period plus who is doing the speaking. Let me give you an example. As a child, I sometimes heard that a man and wife had separated. Divorce was never mentioned and the phrase "legal separation" was not used - just "separated." I grew up believing that no one in my family had ever divorced their spouse. It wasn't until I became interested in genealogy that I asked an uncle when his brother and first wife had divorced. I knew they had divorced as the marriage record to his second wife listed him as divorced. With a raised eyebrow, my uncle quietly told me his brother had "separated" after only a few years of marriage and then had remarried. Apparently, the word "divorce" simply was not used in my family as they preferred to use a kinder, but less accurate, word to describe a permanent separation. Somewhere along the way, my family did incorporate the word "divorce" into its vocabulary and it is often heard now.

So what does this have to do with genealogy? The wise genealogist watches for inconsistencies and takes nothing for granted when doing research.

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