Divorce records: what the files can tell you

Divorce files can be a detailed source of information for the family historian, providing extra details which may not have been discussed or known within the family. And official records can often give a more impartial account than a family story. Researchers have been known to locate marriage certificates, handwritten letters and occasionally photographs in the files.

Examples in the records

A marriage certificate discovered in the papers

The notorious Matilda (Tilly) Divine nee Twiss - known as the ‘Queen of Woolloomooloo’ met James (Jim) Devine in 1916 and they married in 1917.

After years of physical abuse Tilly filed for divorce from Jim in 1942. Their opposite personalities and hedonistic lifestyle took a toll on their relationship. The divorce case papers for Tilly and Jim Devine [NRS13495, item 2743/1942] include a certified copy of the marriage certificate.

Photos and Letters: an unusual find

Some of the divorce files may include photographs and letters. The divorce case of Jules and Sybil Busch includes a wonderful photograph [NRS 13495, Item 3438/1944].

Please note that not every divorce file contains a photograph.

A silver notebook

This silver notebook was found among the 1926 divorce papers of Annie and Leonard Valentine NRS 13495 case 1310/1926.

It is unclear from the papers what exact significance the notebook had to the divorce case. But, the first page of the notebook does give the name, address and age of a Miss D. Evans, the woman with whom Annie claimed her husband was having an affair.

Such a rare and amazing find in our collection

Page from the Divorce file of William George Dunbar and Marie Dunbar

Divorce records guide

Divorce files contain evidence for each divorce case including Judicial Separations. They can include petitions for the dissolution of marriage, affidavits, petitions for maintenance, marriage certificates, and sometimes the decree nisi and decree absolute.

Photograph from Divorce papers Irene Elizabeth Hoskins - William Hoskins

Divorce records in NSW

This webinar provides tips and techniques for researching divorce case papers in our collection

Intestate: Patrick Birminghman, Grocer

Every now and then rare we find rare examples of collection items which may be described as 'treasures'. One example is the intestate estate file for a Mr Patrick Birmingham who died in 1907