If you’ve watched “Friends,” then you’ll remember Ross’s famous line; “We were on a break.” This was because Ross and Rachael had some issues in their relationship, so Rachael suggested they give their relationship a break. Later it’s a running gag because things happened during that break.
So far in my genealogy and DNA, I haven’t found an outcome to one of my ancestor couples’ “breaks,” but I have found their possible breaks. These are those records you find, and you wonder…. hmmm, what was going on there?
Divorce is more commonplace these days, but that’s primarily because divorces are easier to get. I believe the current statistic is that about 50% of marriages end in divorce, but divorces were difficult to obtain and expensive until this century.
It wasn’t until the Divorce Act of 1968 that there was uniform divorce law across Canada. Before that, only some of the provinces had their own laws in place. In Alberta and the other prairie provinces, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 was in place. The Act allowed legal separation by either husband or wife on the grounds of adultery, cruelty, or desertion. In 1930 the Parliament of Canada extended the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 to the province of Ontario.
My first example of the family going on “a break” is my great grandparents, William and Mary Beaton. In the 1901 census, we see my great grandfather living on his own and his wife, my great grandmother, Mary is living in another location with the children.
There are someone names McKelvie that is living with the family, and he’s single. At this point, I’m not sure if he actually lives there or next door because there seems to be some correcting going on with the document on the part of the enumerator. I’ve never seen anything more about anyone with that name. Does this mean that William and Mary were on a break, or does it mean that William was working in a camp? In 1911 they were living in Red Deer, and they are one big happy family.
Another record I’ve found that makes me go, hmm, is a record for my 2x great grandparents. John Henry and Annie Middlebrough. In 1891 Annie and my great grandfather are living with Annie’s mom, and I never gave it a lot of thought because Annie had been the informant on both of her parent’s death records, so I got the feeling that she was the person who looked out for them. On the 1891 census, Annie’s mom, Hannah, is shown to be blind, so perhaps she was staying with her mom and helping her out. In the same 1891 census, John Henry was living with his grandparents, whom he’d always lived with while growing up. What is interesting is that Annie is listed as married, and John Henry is listed as single. Is this a mistake? Or were they on a break? John Henry and Annie were listed as a family again in 1901 and, in fact, had another child in 1895 that lived for only a short time.
My last example is my great-grandmother, Lily Shannon, and my step-great-grandfather, John Robert Thompson. I have never been able to find a marriage for Lily and John Robert. Neither have I been able to find a divorce record for John Robert and his first wife, Elizabeth Ralph.
If you check the documents for Elizabeth, she always listed herself as married until John Robert died in 1941, then she identifies as a widow. I always assumed that because divorces were expensive and that there had to be “cause” for the divorce and with that came embarrassment, it was just easier for Lily and John Robert to say they were married. When Lily died, it was stated in her obituary that Lily and John had met in Thornton, Ontario. I again always thought that was a made-up story and that they had, in fact, met in Edmonton.
I was wrong. When I was a guest on the WikiTree Challenge, I had Wikitreers from around the world working on my tree. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been looking at all the information they gathered. Some I had on my tree already, but many things are new to me.
One of those things was a death registry for Roy Thompson, who had been born and died 20 hours later in York, Ontario, Canada, in 1909. His parents were listed as John Robert Thompson, and the mother is simply listed as Shannon. This made me realize that Lily and John Robert may have met in Thornton, Ontario, just as John Robert had said in the obituary. So perhaps they did marry, and John’s wife had always listed herself as married. Or were John and Elizabeth on a break?
The key takeaway from this is to look at each detail in the records you are searching and see if they make sense to the other information you might already have. In the case of Roy Thompson’s death record, the takeaway is to look for things even if you might not find anything and don’t assume that you know because in this case, I’d thought that John Robert and Lily had met in Alberta but in fact had met in Ontario.