Divorce records play a lesser role in genealogy research, but can help clear up some confusing situations. Divorce is typically an emotionally charged event, and over the years, the person who left the family also in many cases disappears from memory. Think about how little you know of the ex-spouses of some of your family members who are alive today. Fast forward 100 years, and that can become a major blocker for a future family historian.
Divorce, also know as annulment and dissolution are filed typically by county and local offices. In most states, divorce involves a court and judge (unlike all of the other vital record events).
Other places to look are in family documents as well as in church records. Like marriage, many divorces may involve the church for purpose of a religious annulment.
Again, always be careful with any documents other than the official document. When relying on unofficial documents and information provided by family members without verification, you should always keep the chance of error in the back of your mind.
Guidelines for Requesting Divorce Records
Following the following guidelines with each request will give you the best possible outcome.
Keep your letters short. Don't include lots of requests and do not include details of your family tree. Remember, there's a regular person on the other end of this request, probably working in a one or two person town clerk's office. They're busy, and the last thing they want to open a letter that's overwhelming. And be patient with your request.
Provide complete information on an individual and event for which you need documents. Include all names that may have been used, include nicknames, alternate spellings, etc. List dates and type of events as completely and accurately as possible. If you don't know the exact date, specify the span of several years.
Unless you already know the exact cost of a document, do not send a specific amount of money in cash or check. You may want to send a signed, blank check. If you do this, write under the space for the dollar amount something like
Not to exceed $20.00, or whatever amount is appropriate. If you're not comfortable doing that, give them a call. If they don't accept telephone calls, you can request a quote of cost in the first letter and then when you receive that, you can send a check for the exact amount.
Always provide a self addressed stamped envelope.
When you write for a divorce decree include the following information:
- Date of Request
- Full name of groom
- Full name of bride
- Date of marriage
- Date of divorce
- City/County where the Marriage License was Issued
- Your relationship to these individuals
- The purpose for obtaining this information
Start your search at the state level to discover what divorce information is available and with which government office, city, county, or state. Unlike other vital record information, divorces are typically matters of public record and that information is easier to access. Choose from the states below to begin your search.