My college reunion is coming up. It's hard to believe it's been two DECADES since I did the "college thing." It's also hard to believe it's been decades that I have been researching my family tree. Today a lot of genealogy is online. Sometimes a quick internet search can uncover generations of one's family, but there's nothing that can substitute for digging through the myriad of records yourself.
Last night I spent a few hours at the Minnesota Historical Society pouring over death records. For those who have no interest in genealogy, you would probably rather have your finger nails torn off than to sit at a microfilm reader and peruse death records. For me, it is interesting. There's something about uncovering a mystery, solving a puzzle or making connections that is fascinating. I also learn a great deal about my family and the lives they lived, history, geography, politics, etc.
I have also learned about the effects of divorce from a genealogical perspective.
Once I find a couple that has divorced, I know that searching for descendants in their tree has now become more difficult. Once the parents divorce, it seems to echo down through the subsequent generations. Often times there are multiple marriages and each of these marriages has children. Those with multiple marriages also have spouses with multiple marriages. The family tree doesn't just grow vertically through the generations, but horizontally as more and more spouses are added.
An example that is closer to home is my own uncle. He and my aunt divorced years ago. Both are remarried outside the Church. Their spouses had also been married previously and have other children. My aunt and uncle had four children. Their eldest son is divorced and now living with a girlfriend. My aunt and uncle's eldest daughter is divorced, had another relationship that produced a child, and is now married to a man with other prior marriages and children. The youngest daughter of this aunt and uncle just ended her marriage of nearly 20 years. Only the youngest son is still married.
In other families in my tree, once a divorce happens, even if it is was generations ago, the odds are that I have my work cut out for me finding all the marriages, spouses and children. I don't know all the psychology behind this. I don't know if divorce is brought about by a combination of things, like socio-economic status, religion or lack of it, alcohol abuse, education rates, mental illness, etc. Is divorce a result of these things or a contributing factor to these things? All I know, as someone gathering data, is that divorce shatters families and has long term ramifications on the future marital stability of their progeny's marriages.
Some data reportedly indicates that Catholics divorce at the same rate of the general population. I both agree and disagree. My family is Catholic through and through. I can't find many divorces at all in my family except recently. And, it seems, once it happens it's like a run-away train. Like the example of my uncle. There was no divorce in the family for centuries and then within two generations my aunt and uncle divorced and three of their four children divorced. That's a huge increase, from zero to 75%.
I have also found from digging through the death records of families where divorce is rampant, that many times an elderly parent dies alone. For some reason, instead of dying at one of their children's homes and having the child be the informant on the death certificate, the person dies in their own home and an unknown informant provides the coroner the person's information. Often times, the information is far from correct.
Further, taking the research to the next step is to visit the cemetery where the majority of those in this particular family are buried. In this case, there isn't a large family plot, like in some branches of my family, where generations are buried together. Instead, even though they are buried in a small cemetery, only two members of this rather large family are buried together. The rest are scattered throughout the cemetery. Two, despite leaving grown children behind, do not even have headstones. Only the sextant records record their being interred there.
Even as a person just gathering genealogical data, one can see the effects of divorce on the family.
The worst reconciliation is better than the best divorce.
I need some serious mid-week input from you...
4 hours ago