Gesher Galicia SIG #Galicia NYC (Bronx) Court Records - Divorce Complaint - further research #galicia

Pamela Weisberger

Richard Stower writes about an interesting divorce and desertion case
in NYC (family originally >from Galicia):

"My grandmother, Rose KANNER (b. Dabrowa Tarnowska) married Jacob
(Jack) GROSS (b. Chortkov) in NYC. Soon after my mother was born my
grandfather abandoned the family. In the early 1950s it was found that my
grandfather had married Katie ROSENBERG in the late 1940s without having
divorced my grandmother. The family memory is that my grandfather was
arrested for bigamy and spent time in Rikers Island. In 1953 my grandmother
sued for divorce, which was granted. I have the Final Judgement in the case
but I would like to get access to the original complaint. Does anyone have a
suggestion as to how to get the complaint?

Also, any ideas to get access to the court and/or prison records regarding
the bigamy charge against my grandfather?

Finally, in the divorce decree there is a provision that "it shall not be lawful
for the defendant [my grandfather] to marry any person other than the
plaintiff [my grandmother] during the lifetime of the plaintiff, except by
express permission of the Court." Is this common in a divorce?"


"Following a suggestion, I emailed Mark Nusebaum, Records Manager of the
Office of the Bronx County Clerk with my request for the divorce complaint
regarding my grandparents. Fortunately I had in my possession the final
judgement of the divorce which nullified the restriction of records of a
divorce within a hundred years. Had not Mr. Nusebaum taken yesterday off,
I would have had the complaint emailed to me within 24 hours of my
request rather than the 45 hours it took! Amazing."

Congratulations on getting a copy of the court records. Divorce cases can
be among the most fascinating and insightful documents for genealogists
because of what is discussed within the case records.

Two more thoughts on continued research since your grandfather deserted
the family. You might want to check out the records of the "National
Desertion Bureau" (NDB) at the Yivo Institute:

This agency was organized in 1905 and gave assistance to Jewish immigrant
women who had been deserted by their husbands. The name was later
changed to Family Location Service. They have about 20,000 case files with
index cards arranged alphabetically. It was through this service that
husbands who left their families and traveled to other states, marrying other
women and having other children, were eventually tracked down. Without
their services most of these men would not be found.

I think the records are kept off-site, and you may have to prove your
relationship to the person in question, but contacting Yivo should offer more
information. Yivo's home page:

As for "absolute divorce" which meant the party to blame in the divorce
(adultery, desertion, etc.) was not allowed to marry during the lifetime of the
wronged party. This rather archaic law was in force until the 1960s I believe.
Remember all those Reno, Nevada and Mexican divorces people used to get?
That's why. Couples who mutually wanted to get divorced either went out of
state or used setups where the husband agreed to be photographed with a
woman to justify the adultery claim, even when it didn't exist. (I have at least
one first-hand account of this happening in the 1940s. I'm sure there were
lawyers who arranged these "staged" events so couples in agreement could
move on quickly with their lives.) More on NYC divorces here:

To bring more human interest to your story, try searching in historical
newspapers for stories about your grandfather. You never know what might
pop up.

Also, the Jewish Daily Forward (in cooperation with the NDB) carried a regular
item called "The Gallery of the Missing Husband" (with photos!) to assist the
great number of abandoned wives writing to the paper. This column began in
1911. Because The Forward is in Yiddish, the research is more challenging,
but if you know the date of an event (perhaps memorialized in the divorce
papers) you might have success.

I found a relative married in NYC 1892 who accused his wife of adultery and
was divorced, then remarried a widow, then divorce #1 was overturned by a
NY judge the following year (making him a bigamist by default) followed by
an altercation with wife #2 in Chicago over money, followed by another
divorce on the grounds of cruelty in Denver, before returning to wife #1 and
moving to Little Rock. Without the newspaper article I never would have
known about the Chicago altercation and the Denver divorce.

Pamela Weisberger
Santa Monica, CA

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