A divorce by any other name would smell sweeter…

Genealogy is such an interesting topic.  For most of the people in my tree, I’m happy to have a birth, marriage, death, and census record.  For most of the women, it is much less.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on my maternal grandfathers line.  I’m sure that he has lineage going back to the Revolutionary War, and I’ve got one or two records to go and I’ve got it all documented.  The 1910’s and 1920’s were bad for documenting I guess, as that is where I’m hitting brick walls.

Anyway, there have been family stories floating around about my grandfather having a first wife, and that there was a child born from that union. Proving such a marriage occurred was not easy, and proving that it was terminated was just as difficult.

Luckily, I have found a friend of a first cousin once removed that loves genealogy as much as I do.   She lives in New Jersey, and regularly goes to Trenton to get records.  She has been so helpful, that I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been.  She has found birth and death records for many of the people in my family tree.  And given me copies of the documents freely.

But, it’s not just great-great grandparents we are talking about.  She has been instrumental in telling me about my maternal grandfathers life, through legal documents.

First she found a marriage certificate from his first marriage, confirming the rumors.  Then she, at my asking, requested a divorce certificate from that union.  Now, I will say that this friend is not so much interested in my grandfather.  She is interested in his ex-wife.  Cyr Walsh. Dorothy Walsh.  Cyr Romaine.  Dorthy Romaine.  Cyr Sessions.  Dorthy Sessions.  She is all over the census records, but mostly at homes for unwed mothers.

Around the time I got home from the hospital, I received the divorce decree from my grandfathers first marriage.  At first, I was just happy to get confirmation that there was a child born of the union.  That he was a boy.  His name was Clifford Romaine.  It even had a birth date.  August 30, 1937.  I even learned that there was a family that wanted to adopt him at one time, Hans Grosse and Gertrude Grosse.  They called him Walter Clifford Romaine.  I’m hoping that in the end, that is were he went…

But the divorce decree…  It is awful.  It is a horrible document.  It shows how hard it was for my grandfather.  He was deserted with a year old infant.  His wife just disappeared.  For upwards of 4 years, this woman evaded summons after summons.  She went to jail for neglect.  Not of Clifford…  For the neglect of the two children that she had BEFORE Clifford.  There are statements from parole officers.  There are statements from the the Salvation Army Home for Women who claimed that she was yet again pregnant.  There are statements from my grandfathers lawyer saying that my grandfathers then wife would never give up rights for her child.

The worst part of the whole thing is the timeline.  When you put together the written record of my grandfathers life, it makes me sick to my stomach.  Granted, I wasn’t there.  This woman was CRAZY.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have wanted to be connected to her either.  My grandfather gave up his rights to Clifford a mere month before one of my aunts was born.  Two YEARS later, Clifford is still in limbo.  Mr. and Mrs. Grosse were happy to adopt him, but Cyr/Dorthy never answered the subpena.  Four months before my mother was born, they withdrew their petition for adoption.  I can only imagine what this poor child thought.

I would love to find Clifford.  I would love to find out what happened to him.  What happened with his mother.  Did he know his siblings?  I have found Mr. Sessions family, the man Cyr/Dorthy married after my grandfather.  Lovely people who tell stories of this city girl that their daddy married before he went to war.  They knew this woman was crazy too.

I was tempted to post the divorce decree.  I’ve decided not too.  Not because it’s not an interesting read.  I just want to find Clifford.  I don’t see how that helps in finding him.  I’ve got decent google rankings.  Maybe putting these names out there will help me find him.  And if he doesn’t want to be found, he knows where not to visit.  If you are reading this and you know Clifford, please contact me.  I’d love to talk genealogy with you.


  1. Gwen,

    I was doing some research for someone in a genealogy group, and I looked up Clifford Romaine after reading this. He did end up with the Grosse family, at least as of 1940.The only thing is that he is listed as being twelve, but it also says he never attended school, so I think it may have been a transcription error. It also makes sense that he was never officially adopted, but remained with them nonetheless.

    It doesn’t completely answer your question, but it’s a hint.


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