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When researching your ancestors, there are several signals that can indicate a potential missing marriage in your family tree:

• Look for evidence of any of the types of records listed above.

• Look for evidence a female ancestor received a war pension or some other type of government pension. Pensions to women were usually only granted to widows.

• If you know the date when your ancestor was married, consider looking backward in time through local death records. You may come across evidence of a prior spouse.

• Look at the distribution of the ages of the children of your ancestor. This can be done from census records and other historical sources. Most families tend to have children clustered fairly close to one another. If there is a noticeable gap in the ages of the children (perhaps a couple of children close in age, a gap of a couple of years and then a few more children close in age), then this can be an indication of a blended family where one of the parents has remarried. [Just be aware that some early censuses (such as in England) rounded the age of children. See A Date Guide to English Genealogy.]

• Carefully read obituaries of related family members for mention of previously unknown spouses (see Look for Hidden Family Trees).

• Check census records and electoral rolls (between censuses) to see who else lived at the same address as your ancestor. Be aware that some census records do not clearly state the relationships of household members.

• Check the gravesites on both sides of your ancestor. The neighbouring graves could be a spouse that died years earlier. A potential spouse would typically be someone of the opposite gender born around the same time as your ancestor (see Marriage and Age Differences for a graph of the typical age difference between married couples).

• Research your ancestor in local newspapers for mention of unknown companions (see Searching Historic Small-town Newspapers).

• Check land records and court documents. Deaths can often trigger the transfer of land and other property through wills and related documents. Wills typically list the names of spouses and other family members.

• Take the time to read family diaries and historic letters. They can provide good leads to previously unknown family members.

• Look for indications that your ancestor moved for no obvious reason. People often moved when they remarried.

In summary, always consider the possibility that your ancestor may have been married more than once. Genealogists constructing family trees often overlook this possibility. However, it could be the cause and potential solution to many problems. The clues discussed in this article will help point you in the right direction.

Further Reading

Marriage and Age Differences

How Many People Live to 100?

Look for Hidden Family Trees

Searching Historic Small-town Newspapers

A Date Guide to English Genealogy

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