|Wells and Wells 1863 Ref: J77/61|
Most of the files have been weeded, so you may find more information about a case in the newspapers. Divorce cases were newsworthy, especially in the early years, so it is always worth checking British Newspaper Archive. Unfortunately it doesn't include The Penny Illustrated Paper (1861-1913) which is a particularly good source, but you can find it in the British Library 19th Century Newspaper Collection.
When you do a search, you may find that some of the results do not include the name you were searching for. This is not a fault in the search engine. If you look at the full record or the original document image, you will see that 'your' name appears as a co-respondent where the petitioner was asking for a divorce on the grounds of the spouse's adultery. You may uncover more than you bargained for! I have found a number of interesting cases in these files, including the one illustrated above, the first of three cases concerning Martha Cottam, who became the first wife of department store founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty. I wrote about this last year in a post for The National Archives Blog
While exploring the online records I came across another unusual case, where John Hyde's was refused a divorce from his wife Lavinia (wrongly transcribed as Louisa) in 1866. It is interesting because it highlights the difficulty of dealing with laws of marriage and divorce in different countries. John and Lavinia were from England, but were Mormon converts, married in Salt Lake City in 1854 by Brigham Young. John was sent to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) as a missionary, while Lavinia stayed behind in Utah. During the voyage he had a change of heart and on arrival he publicly renounced the Mormon faith and returned to England. He wanted Lavinia to join him, but she refused to leave Salt Lake City. According to newspaper reports, John was then excommunicated and the marriage thereby dissolved, leaving Lavinia free to marry again, which she duly did in 1858 to Joseph Woodmansee. John Hyde named Woodmansee as co-respondent, and asked for a divorce on the grounds of his wife's adultery with him. After some deliberation, the judge dismissed the petition. This seems a little rough on John Hyde, who could not now re-marry during his wife's lifetime, while Lavinia had already done so. It was a tricky business, though, involving English and American law, further complicated by the fact that Utah was still a territory, and was already in conflict with the Federal Government over plural marriage. I have read the arguments several times, and it makes my brain hurt! If you want to read them for yourself, just search for 'Woodmansee' in the British Newspaper Archive restricting your search to 1866, and you will find plenty to choose from.
|Salt Lake City|
For some useful background on these records The National Archives has a podcast by Liz Hore, a records specialist from the Legal team, and there is also a Research Guide.