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Ancestry.com has added two sets of records this month, the UK Civil Divorce Records 1858–1911 and UK, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1911and UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. The details are as follows:

Historical Background

Divorce in the UK changed in 1858 when the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act took effect. Among other things, this law removed divorce from the jurisdiction of the church and made it a civil matter. Though divorce still remained primarily a privilege of the wealthy, it no longer required the intervention of Parliament as it had in days past. Women were also given more access to divorce if they could prove both adultery and an accompanying cause such as cruelty, desertion, or bigamy. Later reforms would give women more control over property they brought into a marriage and more custody rights.

Records in this database were generated by civil divorce proceedings that followed the Matrimonial Causes Act. The National Archives describes them as follows:

Files of papers arising from petitions for divorce, judicial separation, declarations of legitimacy, applications for protection of a wife’s earnings, etc, in the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes and Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice. Some later files also relate to appeals from decisions of magistrates’ courts in matrimonial causes….

In most cases the files have been weeded and contain only minutes, pleadings and decrees, but in certain selected suits, illustrating particular kinds of proceedings, papers have been preserved in their entirety.

The end date for records in this database is determined by privacy laws. These records also include petitions for separation or to have a marriage nullified.

What You Can Find in the Records

As noted above, records contained in each file will vary, but they may provide the following details:

  • name
  • gender
  • spouse
  • spouse’s gender
  • type of record
  • petition year
  • date and place of marriage
  • names and birth details of children
  • copy of marriage certificate

Records will indicate who filed the petition and who the respondent was. They may also provide a short history of the marriage (including addresses), the grounds for the divorce petition with some details (such as names, times, and places associated with adultery or desertion), terms of judgment, and other details. These details can make these records both informative and very personal.

When you find a person you are looking for, use the arrow keys to move backward and forward to make sure you see all the documents in the file.

UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960

This database contains passenger lists recording the names of people leaving from UK ports for destinations outside of Europe. While outbound passenger lists before 1890 have not survived, this collection still covers decades of peak emigration. It includes not only British citizens but also others who traveled through the UK on their way to other destinations.

What You May Find in the Records

There is not a standard form among the lists, so details included will vary. But you may find the following information:

  • name
  • age at departure
  • gender
  • profession
  • last address in the UK
  • last country of permanent residence
  • country of intended permanent residence
  • port of departure
  • country of departure
  • date of departure
  • port of destination
  • country of destination
  • ship name
  • shipping line
  • ship master’s name

The National Archives website provides these interesting details:

Between 1890 and 1920, among the highest tonnage of ships were leaving British ports bound for North America. Many passengers were emigrants from Britain, Ireland and Europe. European emigrants bound for America entered the United Kingdom because travelling steerage was less expensive from a British port than from a port in Europe. The shipping companies imposed restrictions on passengers registering; passengers had to have British residency of six weeks to qualify. Many passengers too impatient to qualify for residency changed their names to avoid detection.

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