Several years ago I downloaded David Owens’ Revolutionary War pension application from Heritage Quest. The application was filed by David and Winefred’s surviving children on behalf of their mother’s estate so it contains some good genealogical data – names, birth dates and some death dates for David and Winefred’s children, Winefred’s date of death, the year David died. I was happy – but I didn’t know what I was missing.
Sometime in the past year, I learned that the pension apps on Heritage Quest are just parts of the complete pension file – supposedly selected pages with the most genealogical value. The complete files are available from NARA but are also online in the collections at Footnote.com and Ancestry. When I downloaded David’s file from Footnote, I found quite a surprise.
I haven’t done a complete analysis of the entire file yet but this page certainly caught my attention as I browsed through the 75 page file (only 9 pages were in the HQ version).
This page is a record for two divorces granted on 4 Feb 1820 by the Kentucky Legislature – one is for David and Winney Owens of Rockcastle County. There are tons of online trees containing this couple and I’ve corresponded with a few Owens researchers over the years but I’ve never seen a mention of this divorce.
“Chap. CCCCXCVII 
An act of divorce of David Owens of Rockcastle County and Rebecca Atkins of Franklin County.
Approved February 4, 1820
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. That the marriage of David Owens with Winney Owens shall be and the same as hereby totally dissolved.
Sec. 2 (Divorces Rebecca Atkins from Willis Atkins.
Session acts 1819-1820 page 862.
The foregoing is a true copy of the title and [???] Section of an act of the Legislature of Ky. copied by me from the Session acts printed and published by authority of law.
Dec. 20, 1853
So, it seems that, after 13 children and 40 years of marriage, David divorced Winefred just a couple of years before he died in 1822. From all the affidavits in the pension file from their children and neighbors, it doesn’t appear that others were aware of this divorce – at least it wasn’t mentioned by anyone that I’ve found so far. This pension application was originally approved but later rejected. I haven’t found an explanation for the rejection but I’m guessing the divorce could be it. So far, I haven’t found a single reference anywhere in the file about this divorce, just the transcribed copy of the Legislature’s action.
I’ve never researched the Kentucky Legislature’s records for divorces (although I have another one, from the 1850’s that I need to find) so I have no idea if they have additional information – like the grounds for the divorce – but you can bet I will be checking at the first opportunity.
I wonder who reviewed David’s file and made the determination that this divorce wasn’t of any genealogical value?
[David and Winefred were my 4th great-grandparents.]