This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Why legal documents have always had the name of a spouse

If you've spent much time looking at old legal documents of your ancestors, you may have noticed that it always seems to include the spouse's name. For example, when your ancestor Hezikiah Subukowitz bought the family farm in 1888, it included the name of his wife. Even when I bought my house, a few years ago, the document clearly stated that I was a *single man*. So why all this interest in your marital status? What difference does that make? Why are they so nosey?

It has to do with identifying someone. Even back in 1888, there were a lot of Hezikiah Subukowitzes around, even with the same birthdate. So, spouses were used to differentiate. The chances were awfully slim that there would be two Hezikiah Subukowizes who were both married to a woman named Zelda. It may have happened, but it would have been very, very rare.

Just having a name, even with a birth year, doesn't guarantee that you have identified someone correctly. I share the same name and birth year as the man who is married to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Of course, I'm not, so you know which Brad Hall you are dealing with.

Of course, today there are lots of other ways to conclusively identify someone, such as social security numbers, fingerprints, DNA. But back in your ancestors day, they had to make do with what worked, and the names of both spouses, with their signatures, was pretty iron-clad.
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