Thursday, February 14, 2013

NOT Your Average Love Story ...

This is a story about love and marriage.  And love and marriage.  And ...  It also has a moral.  NEVER be surprised by what you learn about someone.  That's NEVER in capital letters, written with a purple felt-tip pen, underlined five times on that note you passed to your best friend in the hallway back in seventh grade.

It has been that time of year when I tackle indoor projects because the weather is just plain yukky.  During one project, I decided to use my breaks to sit at my computer and do some bits of research trying to learn the name of a relative's first wife

Manchester Public Library's collection of City Directories
My primary source of family information turned out to be's collection of U.S. City Directories.  From a family letter I knew that the first wife's name was Frances, but that was the extent of my knowledge about her.  Neither the 1930 nor the 1940 U.S. Federal Census showed a wife in the household of my relative, but the city directory collection showed Frances as my relative's wife for two consecutive years in the mid-1930s.  At long last, I had an approximate wedding and a possible separation date for this short term marriage.

Because I wanted each genealogy break to last as long as possible, I took the time to read all the information about this relative and his wife in the entries I found.  I learned details about his role in the family business, its location, even checked for an ad for the business.  In addition to the two years where I found the couple listed in the city directories, I also looked in several years before and after the two "marriage" years to see if they contained additional information about the wife.  This wasn't as successful because she apparently did not reside in that city prior to or following their brief marriage.

One important detail in the city directory was their home address for those two years, so I used Google Earth to get a more recent street view of their house.  On a later break, using that street address, I was able to find an index of realty transfers for the county where they had lived.  Apparently, the house had always  been in the wife's name, and the documents for both the purchase and the later resale of the house provided the first, maiden, and married name of the wife.  Finally, a complete name.

A day later, I continued working on my project, this time using my breaks to look at every city directory available for the town.  I was amazed to find another wife listed for several years in the early 1950s.  The relative's name, address, and business affiliation established that I had the right relative's name.  Before the day was over, I found still another wife in the late 1950s, again with the address and family business information to confirm her existence.  I had always heard how this relative had been married "several times", and a collection of city directories seemed to provide some support for that family story.

My family history is growing one detail at a time as I search for, evaluate, and reconsider information.  If I hadn't yearned so for breaks from my project, I might not have searched quite so diligently for facts about these mystery wives.  Without the city directory address, I might still be searching for the maiden name of that first wife.  Now, I'll start looking for marriage and divorce records, lots of them!  Details, details, and more details, along with quite a few surprises.

As for the love story, this relative married again in the mid 1960s, this time for good.  Theirs was a long and happy thirty-year marriage, ending only with the death of this final wife.  At last, this relative had finally met his soul mate.  Finally, written in capital letters, purple ink, and underlined.

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