View Full Version : Was Great-grandma a bigamist ?

17-10-08, 07:19
In 1914, my great-grandfather James Eccles (b1874 Manchester) brought four of his five children to Australia. He followed his sister Rebecca (Cissy) and her husband George E BULLUS who came a couple of years earler.

However, his wife, Edith Hannah (nee Beaver) and eldest son Christopher, stayed in Manchester. A descendent of Christopher told me that Edith remarried, but I cannot find out if she actually divorced James Eccles first. I would have thought that at that time it would be difficult to obtain a divorce.

The only marriage for Edith Eccles which seems to fit is one to Arthur Crowther in 1918. There is a death for Edith Crowther in 1923.

James Eccles waited until late 1923 to remarry and was named as a widower.

I know I could get the marriage certificate of Edith and Arthur, but will it tell me if it is my great grandmother ? Would her death certificate give me her maiden name, or any other identifying information ? Are there divorce records available somewhere ?

Christopher's side of the family seem reluctant to freely share this information, there are some bad feelings still about this family split.


Harrys mum
17-10-08, 07:38
Do you have Edith and George's marriage cert?

That should give you Edith's father. Then if you get the "other" Edith's marriage cert maybe you can match them. If the second one was the same person it might have "divorced" on it.

17-10-08, 07:53
Hi LIbby,

No I don't have their certificate, but I know Edith's father was George Beever. I guess I will just have to get the Edith and Arthur certificate and see what it says !!


17-10-08, 08:02
Well Diane.....I can`t find your marriage for Edith to Arthur Crowther in 1918...but I did find on Lancs BMD
William Sharples ( in Rochdale)
Thomas Williams (in Preston)
1918....John Cornthwaite (Lancaster)
1920 Harry Cooper (Darwen)
duncan Mccallum (Liverpool)
1921 James Shaw (preston)
Albert Parker (Darwen)
these are all marriages to Edith Eccles...NONE for Edith Beaver
all within 35 miles of Manchester....would Edith have used her married name and married locally if she was a bigamist??....I would imagine she would have travelled a few miles away to marry again if she knew she was commiting Bigamy...regards...allan...ps ,where did you find the marriage to Arthur Crowther in 1918....allan:)

17-10-08, 08:11
good news Diane....go to Lancashire BMD and in 1895 you have Edith Beever to James Eccles..REF 90/4/122.....it also has her 2nd marriage to John Cornthwaite in 1918..REF CE10/2/459.....so I would think she would have to show a death cert or divorce papers to the registrar as they wouldn`t put both marriages for Edith 23 years apart on the same page if she was a bigamist...regards...allan:)

Merry Monty Montgomery
17-10-08, 08:21
Erm Allan, I'm not sure what you mean by the same page in this instance, but I'm sure she wouldn't have had to prove anything if she remarried. Doesn't mean she didn't divorce, of course, but if people had had to prove their status there wouldb't have been so many bigamous marriages!!

17-10-08, 08:30
morning Merry...can you edlumicate me ??...if you go to Lancashire BMD and look for Edith H Beever marriage to James Eccles ...it comes up in 1895 and underneath it is Edith Eccles to John Cornthwaite marriage in 1918...as they are both on the same page I presumed this is 2 marriages for Edith...am I wrong in presuming this ??...if I`m wrong ,why would they have 2 marriages 23 years apart together 1 underneath the other ???...allan ???:confused:

17-10-08, 08:30

Sorry its CROWDER, in freebmd Edith H Eccles to Arthur CROWDER Jun Q 1918, I keep spelling it wrongly.

I found the Cornthwaite entry in freebmd, but there's not a death for Edith Cornthwaite before 1924, but I know freebmd might be complete yet.

Death - Edith H CROWDER, 48 years, Manchester Dec Q 1923. Not showing in Lancsbmd.


17-10-08, 08:35
The 1918 marriage isn't the John Cornthwaite one, Allan - it's Edith H Eccles / Arthur Crowder in Chorlton district. But it's not on Lancashire BMD yet, which is a shame because they usually show whether the bride had a previous surname on there.

17-10-08, 08:39
I don't understand how you get the other marriage to come up on Lancs BMD when you search for the Edith H Beever / James Eccles marriage, Allan, but certainly the way that the Lancashire BMD index has been compiled, each marriage is indexed separately and they would not check whether the same person's previous or subsequent marriage was listed or not, so it must just be some quirk of the search items that you used.

17-10-08, 08:52
I am totally confused here...if you go to Lancashire BMD and index marriages....type Beever Edith....she comes up in 1895 marrying James Eccles and underneath is another marriage...Edith Eccles to John Cornthwaite in 1918... could someone explain please...??...allan:confused::confused:

17-10-08, 09:31
Hi Allan
How did you do that ?

When I put Beever and Edith in the search terms, I get Edith Beever and James Eccles 1895 and Edith Beever and William Brown 1901.

If you can get the Cornthwaite marriage to show up, then its definitely worth investigating. Perhaps I can ask the GRO to match Edith Hannah as christian Names and George as thefather.

17-10-08, 10:42
now I`m REALLY PUZZLED...i`VE JUST DONE exactly THE SAME THING AS WHAT i DONE BEFORE...and only the 1 marriage came up....how ????...allan:confused:...ADDED...see post where I have both ref no`s....I double checked it and got TWO marriages...now I`m only getting One...

Harrys mum
17-10-08, 10:46
That's all I get as well, Dicole.

If I put in Edith Eccles I gat a fair few. There's even a Holden there. I'd steer clear of that one lol......

Maybe OC knows about that one, could be a goodie. 1905 though.

17-10-08, 11:12
Well Whatever Allan did certainly raises some interesting prospects. None of us can replicate it, but I would be interested enough to send an order to Lancsbmd or GRO, with the checking point of father George Beever. May the Cornthwaite or the Crowder marriage is the one.

Finding a divorce, if there was one, unless its noted on the second marriage looks more difficult, theres no mention in The Times on-line, which has lots of divorce cases.

And yes, I wil certainly stay away from any Holdens


Olde Crone Holden
17-10-08, 12:50

1895 Manchester St Jude
Edith H Beever to
James Eccles

1918 Lancaster St Anne
Edith Eccles to
John Cornthwaite

Note no middle initial H for the second marriage, so could very well be a different Edith, especially as there were at least two Edith Beevers and probably umpteen Edith Eccles!


Mary from Italy
17-10-08, 12:51
There are some divorces listed on the National Archives site, but the only Edith Eccles clearly isn't yours (1928).

You search for divorces here, entering J77 in the Department or Series Code box:

Catalogue search (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/search.asp)

Not sure how complete the archive is.

17-10-08, 13:45
The Edith Eccles / John Cornthwaite marriage on Lancashire BMD doesn't give any alternative surname for Edith so I honestly don't think it is the same Edith.

And as I said before, Lancashire BMD don't have any system of linking different marriages for the same person, so that search result that Allan got must just have been some quirk of his search criteria and doesn't mean the two marriages he found are connected.

Merry Monty Montgomery
17-10-08, 13:45
In theory!!!.......after 1912 if a woman married and she had been married previously, then the man's entry on the GRO index would say something like:

Smith Joe ........Jones or Evans....Manchester 8d 1234

So, both previous bride surnames were indexed. The bride would then have two entries, one under each of her prev surnames.

I have to say this system didn't seem to work well and for all the brides I have on a second marriage only about half (very rough estimate) have this double entry, but it's still worth knowing about!

17-10-08, 14:03
Lancashire BMD seems to be pretty good at giving alternative surnames right through the date range.

18-10-08, 11:20
I have ordered both certificates with checking references to George Beever, father of the bride. I will let you know what I find out.


29-10-08, 05:39
Today I received the marriage certificate for Arthur Crowder and Edith Hannah Eccles.

Married on 12 Jun 1918, in the Register Office at Chorlton.

Arthur Crowder, 35y, Bachelor, of 19 Stockton St, Moss Side, father Joseph, deceased Plasterer.

Edith Hannah Eccles, 38 years, WIDOW, munitions worker, 19 Stockton St Moss Side, father Geroge Beever, Insurance Collector.

So great grandma did marry again without a divorce, while her first husband was still alive - did she deliberately lie to the Registrar, or did she think the hubby no 1 might have died in Australia or during the war ? I guess we will never know, unless one of her descendents in the UK is willing to tell.

Someone in England did know he was still alive, as they notified HIM of her 1923 death, so that HE could remarry.

Thanks to all who helped with checking this out, I thought you would be interested in the final result.


Mary from Italy
29-10-08, 08:30
Tsk, naughty great-granny. Just like mine...

Harrys mum
29-10-08, 08:45
And mine.............lol

Uncle John
29-10-08, 09:26
Just shows that even as late as 1918 Australia was regarded as virtually on another planet (no slur intended on present company). Even with steamships the transit time was still six weeks or more, compared with three months or more by sail.

29-10-08, 13:02
I know in the early days, one could marry again if your spouse was transported beyond the seas, or was left behind when you were transported, with no prospect of reunion, but I did not think it was still applicable in the 20th century.

Such a pity she died only 5 years into her second marriage, I think I will have to get her death cert to see the Cause of Death.


Mary from Italy
29-10-08, 13:12
My great-grandparents both remarried bigamously, twice each. She was living in Sydney, and he was in the New England area. This was in the early 20th century,when divorce was still hard to get for ordinary people.

Olde Crone Holden
29-10-08, 17:47
I think some Bishops took a more lenient view of a remarriage than did the Civil authorities.

Christian Marriage has certain duties attached to it and if the two parties were thousands of miles from each other, the Bishop might be more inclined to allow a remarriage on the grounds of desertion.

However, she shouldn't have said she was a widow!