Monday, 14 September 2015

English and Welsh divorce database updated on Ancestry

Ancestry ( has updated its U.K., Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1914 collection at, although there is no detail on how it has done so.

Please be aware though that Ancestry is again showing its ignorance of what actually constitutes the United Kingdom, because this contains divorce files from England and Wales only. In England and Wales, divorce prior to 1858 was only possible via an Act of Parliament. After 1858, a civil based procedure became possible through a division of the High Court of Justice.

In Scotland, however, the law of divorce has always been entirely different, having been carried out via the civil courts since the 1560s. The courts initially handling such matters were the Commissary Courts, then the Court of Session from the 1820s, and since 1984, the Sheriff Court. For cases prior to 1984, check the National Records of Scotland catalogue at For cases after 1984, a dedicated register has been kept by the GROS, which is accessible and searchable at the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh (

In Northern Ireland, divorce was not possible, other than by means of an Act of Parliament, until 1939, with the laws revised again in 1978. I'm actually a little unclear on where to source Northern Irish divorce records - I believe that they may still be held at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast or at a relevant county court.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

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