Through 23andMe (a DNA testing site), you can find people you may be related to based on your DNA. There is a woman I’ve been in touch with as she was identified as a possible 2nd through 4th cousin, and when we connected, we discovered that we both had family from the same–quite small–town (perhaps shtetl would be a more appropriate word) in Poland. We went through the list of people on our trees and haven’t found the DNA connection yet.

We thought for a moment we may have through a woman named Golda Szperling, who was married to my great-great-great grandfather Berek Brongolc. This woman is connected to Golda, however, Golda and Berek had no children, so the DNA connection is missing. After Golda passed away, Berek married Chana Chaia, my great-great-great grandmother and began producing my family line.

Or at least that’s what I assumed, because I found records dating the marriage of Berek and Golda in 1827, and I have a record of Berek and Chana Chaia having their first daughter in 1845, so of course I put down that Golda passed away before 1845.

But apparently that’s not the case. Because this woman who comes from Golda’s side of the family notes that Golda had quite a few children with her husband Wolf… beginning in 1839. Meaning Golda was quite alive. And not married to Berek. A family scandal! A divorce!

Divorce feels quite modern, but there was a decent amount of it in the days of yore. One set of records that I have access to for Latvia lists Birth, Death, Marriages, and Divorces. The reasons for divorce are generally given and they are varied: “Mutual consent,” “Decision of the Mitava Rabbi” (Mitava being a location), “Swearing” (I would not be alive if this were still a valid reason for divorce; no one can drop an F-bomb like my mom), “Lack of commitment to the marriage,” “No child and poorness [sic],” “Disease,” “Lack of communication between spouses” (and this in 1867!), “Lack of love,” and my favorite, “Lascivious life of the wife.”

I’ll need to see if I can suss out Golda and Berek’s divorce record (and I believe there must be one as they both legally married their next spouses according to the records). Very curious about the reason given! As with all family research, when one mystery is solved, another generally opens up.