Family History Detective

Divorce records

Not all divorcees were wealthy. Jonathan Warr, a journeyman slater from Bolton, saved up for 13 years in order to take his case to Parliament in 1840. Most people, however, were put off by both the cost and the need to expose their lives to intimate State scrutiny. In 1845, Justice Maule told Thomas Hall 'You say you are a poor working man... [divorce] would have cost you perhaps five or six hundred pounds. But it is the boast of the law that it is impartial, and makes no difference between rich and poor'.

These words were uttered because Thomas Hall was on trial for bigamy, and had protested that he simply could not afford a divorce case. Bigamy was, in fact, a popular option, and in view of the complications and costs of divorce, it's easy to see why. Sometimes, couples went part of the way, by obtaining their divorce a mensa et thoro, or an annulment, but no more. The Court of Arches, indexed by Houston (see 'Contacts') contains 1,400 cases of marital squabbling that may include your ancestor.

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