Saturday, May 15, 2010
RESEARCH TIP: Divorce Records
Divorce may have been more common than we realize. This headline from the November 18, 1909 issue of The Republican, a Danville newspaper, decried the prevalence of divorce. The article was about the results of a 5-year study done by the Census Bureau (at the behest of Congress) to report on the country's marriage rate.
Hendricks County was not immune to the divorce danger. Each year the county clerk issued a report of how many marriage licenses had been issued vs. how many divorce cases had been filed, and from that compiled a divorce rate. According to the January 4, 1912 issue of The Republican, 134 marriage licenses had been issued the previous year, and 27 divorce suits filed, for a divorce rate of over 20%. The newspaper called the figure "appalling" and blamed the law for allowing a boy to marry at 18 and a girl at 16 if they had their parents' consent--ages when they should just be finishing high school.
At some point, Hendricks County court records from the 1800's (including divorce records) were sent to the Indiana State Archives in Indianapolis. The Archives reportedly did not keep all of these records.
The Hendricks County Clerk's office has a Microfilm Department, located on the ground floor of the Hendricks County courthouse in Danville (next door to the Self-Service Legal Center--take the west entrance to the courthouse). It has Hendricks County court records (including divorce records) from the 1900's.
Hendricks County GenWeb site has in its Data section a searchable index to these divorce cases from The Republican--as of this writing, it covers the years 1891 through 1961. The area newspapers also sometimes included items on divorce cases, particularly when they were first filed. The GenWeb site has transcriptions of a few of these newspaper items.