Thursday, August 27, 2015

Researching Kentucky Divorce Records

Have you discovered your long-ago Kentucky ancestors divorced and you want to obtain a copy of the proceedings? It's easy to do and the rewards may be great.

At the beginning of statehood, an act of the legislature was required to obtain a divorce. That changed in 1809 when the circuit courts were allowed to grant divorces. Then the Court of Appeals ruled that the circuit courts had no authority in granting divorces. That all changed in 1849, when it was ruled that the legislature could no longer grant divorces and from then until 1972, only circuit courts were allowed to do so. [1]

If you have an approximate date, the names of the parties and the county where filed, you are in business. All you have to do is fill out Record Request Form, enclose $10 for Kentucky residents or $15 for non-Kentucky residents) and mail to the address on the form.  It takes about two weeks for the file to arrive.

Only a handful of  Kentucky counties have retained their circuit court cases. Most counties transferred their records to the Archives. The records for Crittenden and Livingston Counties are at the Archives and the records for Caldwell County are at the Glenn Martin Genealogy Library in Princeton, Kentucky. 

I have had good luck obtaining Crittenden County divorce case files, but so-so luck for Livingston County case files, but only because some Livingston County divorce case files are not where they should be. When any county files leave the county, they are maintained in the same order when they arrive at the archives. If they are out of order when they arrive, they remain out of order at the Archives.  Archives employees make a thorough search, but sometimes the records  cannot be found. 

Divorce files are  missing from the Caldwell County collection from the late 1840s to the 1870s. 

A missing case file doesn't mean you won't find anything on the divorce. When the divorce was filed, it was noted in the circuit court order book  and each time it was continued or when the divorce was granted or dismissed, it was recorded in the order book. You might not find out all of the details, but a little info is better than nothing. A copy of the order book entries is included when you request the entire file from the Archives.

What can you expect to find in a divorce case file? Generally, the maiden name of the wife is given, along with the place and year of marriage. The file may also list the names and ages of children born to this union. The reason for the divorce application will also be given. If you are lucky, it may list former places of residence, names of people giving depositions and their relationship to the divorcing parties.

Divorce records can be a great asset in your research. Don't pass them by because it is too much trouble to obtain them. Next week I will give you an example of what I found in one divorce record.

 [1]  "Divorces Granted by Legislature and Courts in Kentucky, 1792-1849," Blue Grass Roots, quarterly of the Kentucky Genealogical Society, Vol. VII, No. 1, Spring 1980, p. 1.

Published 27 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - N. Caroline Wofford

N. Caroline
May 7, 1861
Nov. 27, 1936
At Rest

Buried Mt. Zion Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 24 October 2012.

According to her Kentucky death certificate (#32199), she was born in Crittenden County as were her parents, George Williams and Elizabeth Heath. Thomas N. Wofford and Miss Carrie Williams married 8 December 1885 in Crittenden County and lived in Fords Ferry District.

Published 25 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Minister's Bond 1836

Before a minister could officiate at a marriage in Kentucky, he had to present the credentials of his ordination to the county court. Accompanying him to the court was his surety or bondsman. In the bond below, Albert A. Willis, a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, presented proof of his ordination so that he could perform the rites of matrimony within Livingston County, Kentucky. The Episcopal Church, called Calvary Church, was located on Lot #77 (Charlotte Street), Smithland. This bond was located in loose county court papers, Livingston County Clerk's Office, Smithland, Kentucky.

"Know all Men by these presents that We Albert A. Willis & Gustavus A. Brown are held and firmly bound unto the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the penal sum of Five hundred pounds current money which payment will & truly to be made We bind ourselves and each of our heirs jointly and severally firmly by these presents. Sealed with our Seals and dated this 4th day of August 1836.

"The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas the said Albert A. Willis hath this day produced credentials to the Livingston County Court of his ordination and also of his being n regular Communion with the Episcopalian Church as a Minister of the gospel and he having been licensed by said Court to celebrate the rites of matrimony between any persons applying to him  therefore legally now if the said Albert A. Willis shall truly and legally perform this said trust then this obligation to be void else to remain in full force and Virtue.  [signed] A.A. Willis, Gusto. A. Brown. Witness  J.L. Dallam, Clk."

Published 20 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - W.W. Rutherford

Rev. W.W.
Nov. 10, 1902
Apr. 12, 1955

Buried Bells Mines Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 20 May 2015.

The 1910 Crittenden County census shows William W. Rutherford as a son of Gus D. and Ida M. Rutherford. They were living in part of Mag. District 7 (Bells Mines area).  The 1940 Crittenden County census shows Wallace Rutherford, age 37, wife Mabel, age 33, and children living at 222 E. Bellville Street in Marion. His occupation is listed as Pastor.

Published 18 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

List of Livingston County Fines 1847

A list of causes of fines in Livingston County provides a brief view into life during the mid-1800s. These fines were the result of charges filed and judgments rendered in Livingston Circuit Court at the November term 1847. Profanity resulted in more fines than all the other charges combined. I am surprised there were only two fines for an affray (fighting in a public place that disturbs the peace) and only one fine for drunkenness. There were three cases of overseers of roads being fined for not performing their duties. The categories for each column are as follows:  Names - Causes of fines - Dollars - Cents - Remarks.  This list was found in Loose Papers, Livingston County Clerk's Office, Box 1, 1840 - 1938. Click on the list for an enlarged view.

Published 13 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - Mary Eva Dean Robertson

Mary Eva Dean
Wife of Alexander M.
Jan. 25, 1857
Apr. 21, 1937

Buried Smithland Cemetery, Livingston County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 15 October 2010.

According to her death certificate #11593, Mary Eva Dean was a child of J. Dean, born Indiana, and Jennie Lillard, born Kentucky. About 1883, Mary Eva Dean married Alexander M. Robertson and had one known child, Pearl, who was born in 1884 and married T.M. Vickers.

Published 11 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday's Facts - Webster County, Kentucky

Webster County, Kentucky was formed 1 July 1860 from Henderson, Union and Hopkins Counties and was named for Daniel Webster, the orator and statesman.

Webster County reached its highest population in 1910 when it had 20,974 people living within its borders. The population was 13,453 in 2013.

The county seat is Dixon, which had a population of 632 in 2000. The largest town in Webster County is Providence, which had a population of 3,193 in 2010.

Published 7 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy,

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - Joseph H. Duncan

Joseph H.
Aug. 29, 1881
Sept. 15, 1927

Buried Duncan Cemetery, Crittenden County, Kentucky. Tombstone photographed 9 April 2012.

According to his death certificate, Joe Duncan was born in Crittenden County and was the son of Rice Duncan and -- Newcom. He registered for the draft on 12 September 1918, was married to Dora Lee Duncan and listed his occupation as a farmer.

The 1920 Crittenden County census shows the Duncan family living in Bells Mines District, Rosebud Precinct (E.D. 63, Sheet No. 5B).

Published 4 August 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,