Way to get marriage and divorce records if not on-line?

My mother was married before she married my dad, and we need to find copies of the records to prove she had a legal divorce for her to receive benefits through my dad.

She thinks it was probably in 1955, either in Indiana or Ohio (they lived in Michigan but Michigan had a waiting period? blood tests? etc), and is pretty sure they divorced in Michigan. She cannot remember the guy’s name. (I KNOW!)

Anyway, I’ve tried a few services on line but have been unsuccessful. My neighbor suggests we hire a private investigator – where to start???

Any ideas?

Any chance she knows what counties in those states the divorce would have taken place in? Because it’s possible the counties in question will accept phone or mail requests to run a name search. That’d be where I’d start.

ETA: sorry, I misread. I see now that she suspects the divorce was in Michigan. So try to find out what county or counties this likely took place in, and then look up the vital records department for said county to see what their policy is for name searches.

I don’t have too much to offer but I wish you the best. She doesn’t remember “the guy’s” name. You mean her husband? That’s going to make a search more difficult.

It seems to me you need to prove she was divorced, not that she was married.

I would focus on proving that by searching for divorce court proceedings. Unfortunately, they will usually be titled based on the parties’ married names. With a marriage in the 1950’s, I doubt your mother officially kept her maiden name. So you are looking for a court case like “Kramer v. Kramer” except you don’t know Kramer’s name.

If you can find the records of the divorce court records, they will usually contain a statement about where and when the marriage was celebrated. That would make it easier to find the marriage records if you really need them.

Someone seems to be asserting that she was married, and presumably they know who she was married to. Can’t you ask that person to whom she was married and use that name for the basis of the search?

What name did your mom use at the time she married your dad? She might have returned to her maiden name after divorcing #1, but perhaps she kept his and her second marriage certificate will list her first husband’s surname, which will make finding the divorce record easier.

If she’s pretty sure it was Michigan, the state should have the records at the Vital Statistics Office.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but do you have other evidence for believing that she was married before? It sounds like your mother’s memory may have lost a step; is it possible that the entire idea of a previous marriage is something that never really happened?

Who is providing the benefits? I assume they have no evidence actually contradicting the legality of her marriage to your father. Would they accept a sworn statement from her affirming that she was legally divorced at the time she married your dad?

Why does the entity providing benefits believe your mother was married before? If your mother needs to prove she was divorced when she married your dad, they must have some reason to think she was married before. See what information they have- it might at least be a starting point. Also, when I got my marriage license, the application asked for details about previous marriages, including where and when the divorce was finalized so the county where your parents got married may have that information.

Yeah, what doreen said. Completely agreed.

It strikes me that if you are looking for legal records, the person you might want to contact would be a lawyer. Look up some lawyers in the area where you suspect your mother might have lived. They may know how to proceed.

For this particular class of record, a genealogical researcher might be as expert, or more expert, than a lawyer, and might cost much less.

The starting point is the state Vital Records office. The may or may not collect marriage and divorce records from all the state counties, but they will tell you if you need to reach down to the county level.

To help with the forgetting issue: I’m assuming there were no formal invitations or cards, because then the issue of the husband’s name could be resolved instantly. Was the wedding announced in the newspaper, or were church banns posted? If it was a church wedding, and the church is still around, they’d have records. Google has many newspapers available for searching online in case of an announcement. Does your mother have any professional photos of the occasion? The name of the studio was often stamped on the back, and from there you can find the exact location. Even an amateur photo could have clues… Are there any wedding souvenirs in your mothers’ things?

I could take a crack at this for you if you would like. Genealogy is a hobby of mine and I’m an expert level researcher. I have access to so much more than the usual Ancestry, etc.

I can’t make you any promises, but I’m willing to put in an hour or so to see if I can come up with anything for you.

This stuff isn’t always online. Does her marriage license for her marriage to your father say she was married previously?

When I was doing something similar for my mom, I found that electronic records don’t generally go back further than the 90s. Hell, DC doesn’t really keep any records from before the 80s.

I only stop by every few months, so going once, going twice …

The genealogy enthusiasts I know swear by the folks at Brigham Young University for this type of search.

Check out www.familysearch.org. There’s a mind-boggling amount of records indexed there, and they are searchable by anyone for free.