Marriage and Divorce Statute Digests, Courtesy of the Bureau of the Census

What was the most popular cause given for a divorce filed by a husband from 1867 to 1906? Was the same cause predominant in divorces when the wife was the plaintiff? Where did religion, number of children, and the occupation of the husband fit in the world of divorce? U.S. divorce statistics may strike you as dry tidbits, but they are far from useless. Use them to add historical context to the story of your ancestor’s divorce during that time frame. If statistics don’t do it for you, can I interest you in a compilation of divorce statutes for U.S. states and territories, ca 1867 to 1906?


How about a comprehensive digest of U.S. and territorial marriage statutes during the same time frame? Remember when you wished you knew what age great-grandma had to be in order to get married, or why your great-great-grandfather needed parental permission to marry? Do you wonder who could solemnize a marriage in Ohio in 1900?

Maybe your family wasn’t in the U.S. by 1906. Care to learn the method of betrothal in Bulgaria, or the age of consent for marriage in Queensland, Australia, ca 1906? I can help with that.

There is a publication with digests of marriage and divorce statutes from 1 January 1867 to 31 December 1906 for the U.S. states and territories. It also contains marriage and divorce data for some European countries. I go to this publication when someone asks a relevant marriage age question, or when I have one of my own. It was not created for a law library. In fact, this handy 1909 compilation of marriage and divorce laws comes to us courtesy of the Bureau of the Census. The book was digitized and is free for all to download and use. That’s right, free. Are you interested yet?

The Bureau of the Census’s director got his name on the book, but authorship certainly came from many hands. Marriage and Divorce, 1867—1906, Part I, Summary, Laws, Foreign Statistics, was published in 1909, and is available on Google Books. It also appears on my Law: Special Topics page as part of my virtual law library. Look under the Resources tab on the Advancing Genealogist website to see if any other publications there will help guide you on a (historic) legal topic.

And download that wonderful book, compiled so long ago. I guarantee that you will use it.

S. N. D. North, Bureau of the Census. Marriage and Divorce, 1867—1906. Part I. Summary, Laws, Foreign Statistics. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909.

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3 Responses to Marriage and Divorce Statute Digests, Courtesy of the Bureau of the Census

  1. Pingback: Recommended Reads | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  2. Marina Dececo says:

    A very big “Thank you” for that one!

    • debbiemieszala says:

      You are welcome! After a genealogy colleague asked me for the link more than once, I knew it was time to put it in a permanent place. Enjoy.

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