In January, 1911, the Chicago Daily Tribune began publishing a column called “Legal Friend of the People.” Readers wrote in to ask questions about legal matters and topics ranged from what to do about a neighbor’s bothersome ducks to marriage, probate, and citizenship. For genealogists, this column is a rich source of information about the laws of the times.
Below are some examples of the kinds of things I've learned from the Legal Friend. (I have access to the Chicago Tribune Historical Archives online--the source of the columns mentioned below--using my Chicago Public Library card.)
4 Mar 1912, p. 8: The legal age of a woman is 18; legal age of a man is 21.
11 Mar 1912, p. 8: Illinois law states that a divorced person must wait one year before remarrying; in questionable cases, couple should be remarried
11 Mar 1912, p. 8: Common law wife has same rights as any other wife, but definition of common law wife is strict; best to have legal marriage performed
18 Mar 1912, p. 10: Indiana marriage license is not good in Illinois
28 Mar 1912, p. 10: Nevada laws permit remarriage within months of a divorce; marriage there under those circumstances would be considered legal in all other states.
1 Apr 1912, p. 10: Nieces and nephews would inherit if unmarried uncle dies with no living parents or siblings
8 Apr 1912: Legal name change can be done through Circuit Court for about $15; Slight change in spelling wouldn’t require legal proceedings
12 Apr 1912: Aliens who have served in the United States military can receive citizenship with petition (no previous declaration of intent) and have only to prove a one-year residence
15 Apr 1912, p. 10: Wife desertion punishable by a fine or imprisonment; husband cannot be brought back from another state
29 Apr 1912, p. 10: If a man marries under an assumed name, he should obtain another license in his real name and be married again
6 May 1912, p. 4: Statute prohibiting marriage in Illinois during the first year after divorce went into effect 1 Jul 1905
3 Jun 1912, p. 6: Seventeen year old girl married without parental consent, lived with husband four months then went home; he cannot support her; marriage can be annulled
17 Jun 1912, p. 6: Statue prohibiting common law marriage went into effect July 1 … [year is difficult to read; probably 1900 or 1909]
19 Jun 1912, p. 6: If a spouse leaves for more than two years, it is grounds for divorce
5 Jul 1912, p. 6: If a father gains citizenship before his son turns 21, the son automatically becomes a citizen; if the son reaches 21 before the father gains citizenship, the son can file his own petition
8 Jul 1912, p. 4: Illinois divorce cases usually called within a couple of months of filing
27 Nov 1916, p. 8: Minister visiting from another state can marry an individual who has obtained a Cook County marriage license
22 Oct 1917: Man married in Florida, wife left him in England, and he is back in the United States; he would have to get a divorce before remarrying here
17 Dec 1917: Law making it illegal for divorced persons to marry until a year had passed went into effect 1 Jul 1905
24 Dec 1917: Woman divorces in Illinois, goes to Michigan to marry an Illinois resident and returns; “Evasion Act” might make marriage invalid
31 Dec 1917: A marriage between persons who used assumed names to get license is legal, but the parties are subject to punishment; Crown Point marriages are not announced routinely in Chicago in a public way
30 March 1918: No “statutory limit” on when a marriage license has to be used
20 May 1918, p. 6: A marriage license from Indiana can’t be used in Illinois
3 Jun 1918, p. 8: Marriage license generally issued by County Clerk; offices not open on Sundays
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