Previously Married

Senior couple on cycle ride

Parents don’t necessarily discuss with their children every aspect of their life, figuring the youngsters might not comprehend some adult issues. However, once those children are adults, leading their own lives would seem to be the perfect time to discuss earlier events covering the parent’s life. When that is not done, the parent’s early years can take on a family mystique all its own. The parent might relate just minuscule personal items leaving out whole sections from their life.

This was the situation with Samuel, a U.S. military career man, having served during World War Two and the Korean War. He married and raised a family of four children. For decades the children only knew that their father served in the military, worked at other occupations after retiring from the service while he and their mother raised the family. Samuel was a loyal dependable husband and father over the years. There was never a hint that the children’s mother and father hadn’t been married to anyone else, but each other.

Not until 2002 when a family member was conducting some family history research did a public record from 1940 come to light. It involved Samuel and an earlier marriage previous unknown to anyone else in the family. Samuel had since passed away in 1969 and the children’s mother, Harriet in 1985. This newly located official marriage record from New Hampshire was proof that Samuel had married a divorced woman named, Margaret, in November 1940. This was while he was in the U.S. Army stationed in Nassau County in New York and listing that both Samuel and Margaret were from Lynn, Massachusetts.

On the license, Samuel even stated he was two years older than he actually was because Margaret was already several years older in age than Samuel. Everything was accurate (other than a couple of years added to his age) on the license; his parents’ names, residence and occupation, so there was no doubt this was the correct individual.

Learning of this new aspect in their father’s early life, a time before they were born, was a bit unnerving for Samuel’s adult offspring. Even after their father’s death, there were many years that their mother, Harriet, could have spoken of this first marriage, but she never disclosed any information. There is the distinct possibly Harriet may not have known of Samuel’s first marriage herself.

As the children thought back over the years they couldn’t even remember when their parents celebrated a wedding anniversary, they had no idea when Samuel and Harriet married. With some further investigation the date and place was eventually located. By checking with the surrounding counties of the U.S. Army Air Corps base, Mitchel Field, a marriage record was located. Samuel had married a second time in Suffolk County, New York on February 15, 1941 to Harriet and together they had four children over the next twelve years.

That brought into question, what became of Margaret, the first wife? Examining divorce records of the 1940s in New York and Massachusetts finally produced the final divorce degree for Margaret and Samuel. In Margaret’s hometown of Essex County, Massachusetts was found the Probate and Family Court, Case # 17674 for the divorce of Margaret and Samuel. Based on those records, it appears this first marriage for Samuel only lasted 52 days, possibly explaining why Samuel never bothered to inform anyone in the family or place this on his military papers. With Samuel’s passing in 1969 and the inability to locate Margaret in later years, the reason for their very short marriage may never be known. At least the children now have a more accurate picture of their father’s personal life.

The lesson learned is to never be afraid to seek out all aspects of an ancestor’s life. This is especially acceptable once the people involved are deceased.

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