Friday, January 22, 2016

Darned Divorcee’s Deposition

Lise Embley submitted this darned document to my RootsTech 2016 Darned Record contest.

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about the past. Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, or downright laughable.

A Truer Lie Had Never Been Spoken

by Lise Embley

In an April 1883 affidavit in Holt County, Nebraska, Delia Hooker provided details of her marriage to Ambrose Hooker, Civil War veteran. She was applying for a Civil War Widow's Pension.

Delia, then surnamed Bird, married Ambrose Hooker in August of 1867. In her affidavit, Delia swore that her previous husband, Byron B. Bird, died of a fever in Independence mining camp in December 1866. She attached a newspaper death notice to prove her point, and stated that “she knows no person now living who was present at the death of her said first husband Byron Bird.”

That no person then living was present at his death was absolutely true. That Byron died in 1866 was certainly not true. He was still alive when she had divorced him in July of 1867.

The closing comment of her deposition sums up the situation nicely:

“Deponent farther says that she believes that any farther search or inquiry for farther proof of the death of her first husband the said Byron Bird would be useless.”

So true!

Yes, records say the darnedest things!


Affidavit of Delia A. Hooker, 24 April 1883, p. 1   Affidavit of Delia A. Hooker, 24 April 1883, p. 2  Affidavit of Delia A. Hooker, 24 April 1883, p. 3
Newspaper clipping from affidavit of Delia A. Hooker, 24 April 1883, p. 1

Affidavit of Delia A. Hooker, 24 April 1883, State of Nebraska, Holt County, 3 pages; in Widow’s Application no. 302,112; Soldier’s Certificate No. 201,692, Ambrose E. Hooker, Captain, Unassigned Company, Regiment 9, Cavalry; Pension applications for service in the US Army between 1861 and 1900, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Delia A. Bird vs. Byron B. Bird - cause referred to Court Commissioner.

“Court Proceedings,” Daily Alta California, 30 July 1867, p. 1, col. 5; digital images, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside ( : accessed 29 November 2015).


  1. Oh my goodness! So I'm not the only one with some whoppers. Please advise how to submit one of my own ancestors who lied like a rug -- and he was a lawyer, or what passed for one in the 1850s. Is a post from my own blog the best way to share? (I'm about to set one up for genealogy and this would be an excellent excuse.)

    1. Danine,

      Send them to Expect your submission to be re-written. Lise's was a rare exception. If the documents are not available online where I can get at them, send clear images (if legal) and provide sound source citations.

      Sharing via your own blog sounds like a great thing to do. If you still want me featuring it here, send me an email at the above address, giving the URL, and clear permission to rewrite and republish.

      Also: Be forewarned that I have lots of great past submissions buried under stacks of virtual paper. I may never get around to any one in particular.

      I look forward to hearing from you!

      --- The Ancestry Insider

    2. Thanks so much! I did not spot the email earlier. Now I need to find the original citation. What we were sent was a photocopy from a Texas librarian of a Who's Who type publication from 1870. It is helpful knowing other people have similar problems.

  2. Maybe she didn't find out he was dead until after she filed the divorce action. Does the divorce complaint allege abandonment?


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