Re: Finding a Long Lost Cousin - Unraveling a Clue #general

Stephen Weinstein

1. That a woman married someone in 1940 does not mean that a child born before 1940 would have been born out of wedlock.  She could have been married to someone else when the child was born, who could have died or divorced her before the 1940 marriage.  It's also common, especially in Jewish families, for the same couple to marry more than once, with separate civil and religious ceremonies.  This can occur in either sequence.  In my family, a couple got married as far as the state was concerned, and then told their parents, who persuaded them to redo it with a Rabbi.  I've also heard of the reverse: if a Rabbi failed to file the paperwork correctly or on time, the marriage might not be legal and would have to be redone for the state.  For whatever reason, many marriages show up in indexes with two different dates, which means that they definitely married before the date of the last record in the index; since not every marriage shows up in the indexes, it's also possible that the record you found also refers to a "redo" and not to the original marriage.

2. Seeing someone listed with a different name doesn't mean that she was married, then or before that time, or ever.  Names changed all the time, not just when a woman got married.  A single woman might have professional reasons to change her name and would not have to get married, except possibly in the case of the actress Nancy Davis, later First Lady Nancy Reagan.  (In his autobiography, U.S. President Ronald Reagan wrote that when she was single and he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, he tried to convince her to change her name from Nancy Davis for professional reasons, but she refused.  When Nancy Reagan died, their daughter Patti wrote a short item published in Time in which she mentioned that her mother had already been pregnant with her when they got married.  So while it's arguably correct to say that Ronald Reagan's efforts to get Nancy Davis to change her name may have led to the romantic relationship that ultimately resulted in her needing to get married, it's far too indirect to negate my point that a woman, generally, did not need to get married to change her name.  In fact, Patti herself changed her surname from her father's surname Reagan to her mother's maiden name Davis, without marrying anyone with that surname.  I normally wouldn't share information like this online, but since Ronald and Nancy Reagan are both dead and Patti Davis has chosen to be public about it, no living person's privacy is being violated without their consent.)

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