Discover Your Ancestors in Newspapers 1690-Today!
Last Name

23 June 2014

Widows May Not Be

There was a time when a significant social stigma was attached to being divorced. It is very possible that a relative who is listed as a widow in the 1900 census was not a widow at all, but perhaps either separated or divorced from their spouse.


  1. I have seen that very thing in my ancestry. Great grandpa was alive and well in 1910, but his 2nd wife (divorced or separated by then) lists herself as a widow using her first-marriage surname, but has with her the two young sons of their marriage, they with their father's surname. Both were widowed when they wed in 1898.

  2. I've seen this happen as well - have also seen men listed as widowers when their wives were alive and well and living in adjacent town! It's too bad they felt they had to lie to save face.

  3. My great great great grandmother was a "widow" in 1880. Her very much alive husband was living with their son in another county.

  4. Same here. One pair of great-grandparents married and raised their children in Chicago, but after 20+ years of marriage he showed up in Portland, OR and she showed up in Duluth, MN. They probably never saw one another again and ironically they died within two months of one another, but she is listed in the Duluth city directories as a widow from the time she landed there. I don't actually even know if they ever divorced, but they certainly didn't live together. Their children knew where they were so both of these people had to know neither of then was really widowed.