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,

1 comment:

Vickie Thompson said...

Cool thanks for this very informative info about divorces in Kentucky. I have never really looked for any myself, because like you said they aren't easy to find sometimes. Might just give it a try again. Thanks