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           May, 2007

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Advisor

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  Divorce Records
— by Charles Hansen

        Recently I was asked to see if I could find divorce records for a young couple who had been married in 1924 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. After going to the courthouse archives, the helper there checked the index and quickly found the case number, and went to the microfilm cabinet and found the divorce. I had not asked if the person who sent the query wanted the whole file or just the divorce decree, so I just copied the divorce decree. That was a bad mistake as the file was only about 16 pages long and at 50 cents a page not really very expensive for the complete copy.

        While the divorce decree gave proof they were divorced, and the date of the divorce, it left out a many of interesting facts. I had missed a clue before I even went to our courthouse that made this an interesting search. Why had they gotten married in Coeur d'Alene? Idaho is only about 20 miles from Spokane, and Coeur d'Alene about another ten miles. During the 1920s, there was an electric railroad between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, so getting there was easy, and inexpensive. Idaho has always had cheaper marriage licenses. The courthouse stayed open on Saturdays so you could get a license quickly, go across the street to a marriage chapel, and get married.

        The groom had sued for the divorce as his bride had left after a few months and had gone back home, according to his account of the marriage. Her account started out by saying she had been raped by him on her way home from school one day. He had forced her in his car, taken her out in the country and raped her. So with the help of the sheriff and her parents they went to Coeur d'Alene to get married and she had lied about her age. She was 14 but said she was 15 so they could get married. They had lived together for about three months before she left. Her reason was that he had been cruel to her, but that was not explained further.

        Divorce files are not always as interesting as this one, but the whole file should be checked, because it may have more information that could not be found elsewhere. How do you find a divorce? It should be in the archives of the local courthouse, or possibly a close by courthouse. The Lincoln county courthouse in Davenport, Washington is the divorce Mecca for people in our area so it may have been there if not in our courthouse. I was asked the other day why Spokane County does not put the divorces on-line. The main reason is it would be a lot of work to sort through all the microfilmed civil cases just to find the divorces, as they had filmed all the civil cases together from when the county was formed until quite a while after this divorce.

        Did your ancestors divorce? Have you found the divorce records? Be sure to get a complete copy of the divorce file.

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