Author Topic: Marrying your dead wife’s sister  (Read 2717 times)

Offline DianaCanada

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #9 on: Monday 19 February 24 01:06 GMT (UK) »
I have an ancestor who married her dead husband’s brother …. and another who married her dead husband’s son (her step son).


One of my relatives married his stepmother, but his father was still alive - he had never married her after divorcing his first wife, and marrying another (no idea what happened to her but she was the mother of this son), and then taking up with #3, by whom he had 5 children (he had a total of 12). Heaven knows what the various children thought of all this.  I have traced all of them, except for that elusive second wife. (As his father and #3 had never married, I guess technically she was not his stepmother, and there was no impediment to their marriage.)

Offline Ruskie

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #10 on: Monday 19 February 24 01:20 GMT (UK) »
…. What a tangled web Diana. In my example I’ve found several mentions of these family members in newspapers relating to children’s marriages and other events, obituaries etc, and they appear to have been fairly upstanding members of the community. It makes me wonder if people weren’t aware of the relationships, or if they just didn’t care, or maybe there was gossip behind the scenes. I would expect it to be frowned upon if known.

Offline DianaCanada

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #11 on: Monday 19 February 24 01:56 GMT (UK) »
…. What a tangled web Diana. In my example I’ve found several mentions of these family members in newspapers relating to children’s marriages and other events, obituaries etc, and they appear to have been fairly upstanding members of the community. It makes me wonder if people weren’t aware of the relationships, or if they just didn’t care, or maybe there was gossip behind the scenes. I would expect it to be frowned upon if known.

Yes, it makes for interesting research doesn’t it?
Oddly, when his third “wife” died, her daughter, the informant, listed her as the widow of John Metcalfe Pollard Sr. (the informant’s father) but she was actually the widow of John Leslie Pollard (the informant’s half-brother).  Just to add to the confusion, John Sr. had a son named John Metcalfe Pollard Jr. From his first marriage).
For my research purposes it was rather fortunate that the 12 children left behind few descendants or I would be still untangling later generations!

Online Drosybont

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #12 on: Monday 19 February 24 12:28 GMT (UK) »
The length of the campaign to change the law on this was highlighted by this line in the 1882 Gilbert and Sullivan opera 'Iolanthe':

"He shall prick that annual blister, marriage with deceased wife's sister."

For details of the legal situation etc, see this article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deceased_Wife%27s_Sister%27s_Marriage_Act_1907

In instances I have come across, although the second marriages took place at some distance, the couples returned home afterwards.  Their families and communities must have been well aware that the two wives were sisters.  I don't think everyone disapproved, or even felt strongly about it.

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Offline ansteynomad

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #13 on: Monday 19 February 24 12:39 GMT (UK) »
I've got a situation where one woman married two brothers, but tidily the first one had actually died. This was fudged on the 1911, where the second husband recorded that they had been married somewhat longer than they actually had to ensure that the children of the first marriage (who were of course legitimate) looked legitimate on paper!

My late mother also said that there was someone in the family who married his deceased wife's sister before it was legal and had to go to Australia as a result, but I haven't found him yet.

I suspect it was very common and no-one really cared.
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Offline DianaCanada

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #14 on: Monday 19 February 24 14:15 GMT (UK) »
I agree that it was probably a non-event for most people, doesn't it have roots in a biblical ban?

Just remembered that I have three brothers who married three sisters in the early 20th century, and it was difficult sorting out which children belonged to which couple.  Need to check the 1921 census to update this.

Offline Josephine

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #15 on: Monday 19 February 24 15:15 GMT (UK) »
I've seen this happen a few times in my and my husband's extended trees. Based on census records, it looks like the deceased woman's unmarried sister moved in to help the widower with his children, and at some point they got married. (This was in Canada or the US.)

I've also got a case where a woman's daughter died in 1921 (aged 35) and then the woman (aged 62) married her daughter's widower (aged 44) in 1930. The man's youngest children (her grandchildren) were about 9 and 10 years old in 1930. That woman died in 1949 and the man married two more times after that (the third wife died and the fourth survived him). (This was in the US.)

That was a really confusing situation to sort out, LOL. Picture me looking at the computer screen, eyes bugging out of my head, thinking, "What? That can't be... What? Who? Nooooooo..."
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Offline Pheno

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #16 on: Monday 19 February 24 16:39 GMT (UK) »
I have a similar situation but without marriages involved.

Wife's unmarried sister came to stay with the sister and her husband presumably to look after the children during her confirment with her 3rd child in 1908.

In 1909 and again in 1910 the unmarried sister gave birth to 2 children openly acknowledged to be fathered by the brother in law.  The married sister then gave birth to a further child in 1911.

No deaths or marriages - only births.

The married sister and her husband and their children were banished to Australia by the family who managed to find the fare. Other daughter was left here to bring up her two children on her own.

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Offline bevj

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Re: Marrying your dead wife’s sister
« Reply #17 on: Monday 19 February 24 20:04 GMT (UK) »
I have a rather unusual situation in my tree, in Western Australia.  My g-g-aunt married (for the first time) in 1926 at the advanced age of 52.  She lived for 13 more years, and ten years after her death her  husband married her lifetime companion and rumoured half-sister, he being 82 years old and she 84.
Needless to say, neither marriage produced offspring.
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