Saturday, March 6, 2021

Soldiers-Sailors Genealogy: Divorces & Court Records

Records: Soldiers & Sailors "Civil" Relief Act of 1940
We want to know our ancestors’ stories. Yes, even those who were divorced while serving the country during WWII had more than just the dates of enlistments, discharge, and engagements. They had families at home, they were stressed, and lonely. Marriages were weakened due to separation, financial burden, and due to the “war bride” rush of WWI and WWII, nicely put, divorces were on the rise. We know our soldiers and sailors were more than dates, so what more can we learn? 

The Soldiers & Sailors Relief Act of 1940

Alliance Times Herald, Alliance, NE, 25 Sep 1942, pg 5.

Military service brought on court cases: financial, landlord and rent due, default on mortgages and leases and divorces. Researchers can peruse these court cases to find out more about the family dynamics and the character of their ancestors. We have uncovered unknown children, bigamy, and proof of desertion through the answers / depositions generated through the Soldiers & Sailors Relief Act requests of court stays, or rights waived.  By the way, there was a 1918 statute also.

Divorce records and Civil Court Proceedings
This Act of 1940 was created to protect the military persons of unfair disadvantages in their personal and family life due to military service obligations. The Soldiers & Sailors Relief Act of 1940 was designed to lift the burden of civil lawsuits, to include divorces.

The Balance Everyday

We often turn to divorce records which were plentiful in wartime. 

Divorce records tell us who they were divorced from; what assets or dependents were named, when they were divorced, where they were divorced, and how the terms of the divorce decree were determined.  But, that hardly tells us about the social events; the struggles at home. 

Be sure to request not only 1) the divorce decree, but 2) the court transcription, or full court records, and don't forget 3) the docket. It is here that researchers will find out if the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act was used. 
Correction: This sailor did not "default" as that is the protection of the SSRA.
But this case reveals more about our sailor and his service. 

Oh… you may have to order the transcription and documents of the court case from the county court. So, expect to spend a few dollars depending on the court. And, don’t expect the court cases to just fall in your lap. Will blog about this later.  

Be Historically Correct
Kathleen Brandt
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