Is it reasonable to conclude that a first wife died before her husband's second marriage?

+6 votes
136 views
For Quakers in New Jersey around 1713, would it be reasonable to conclude that a wife has died if her husband marries a second wife? In the case of Mary Willets Ridgeway, I have been unable to find a record of her death (or anything else that suggests that she was still living), but there is a record of her husband marrying someone else in 1714.  Given the very limited use of divorce in those times, it seems likely that she had died. Would you draw that conclusion as well?
WikiTree profile: Mary Ridgeway
in Genealogy Help by John Hodson G2G6 (9.4k points)

3 Answers

+6 votes
I would, as you say, depending on the times.  Most divorces I've come across were after 1900, but lately I've been running across some earlier.  In the time of Ms. Ridgeway, it would have been a scandal, so you can search for a scandal if you like.
by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (452k points)
+4 votes
Yes, pre-20th century, in the absence of additional evidence to the contrary, it is pretty standard to use the fact that a person remarried to make the assumption that his/her prior spouse died. The most common source of error is making sure that the person in the second marriage was actually the same person as the person in the first marriage and not just someone with the same name,
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (193k points)
edited by Chase Ashley
+4 votes
A Quaker couple planning to marry had to go through a "Cearness Committee" or gain some approval from the Meeting before they wed. I thoroughly doubt any Quaker body would have approved the union if the first wife hadn't died. Even though it feels risky to proceed without documentation, I'd feel justified in this and similar cases to assume the 1st wife had already passed on. Quakers until fairly recent times were quick to disown members who married 'irregularly' - in fact, we sometimes mourn the many good people we lost because of this.
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