#52Ancestors: 2nd Great Grandmother Annie Sophia Allen Charged with Fraud and Deception in Divorce

My 47th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I am almost caught up after being quite ill for much of this year.

Annie Sophia Allen birht register
Birth register from Ancestry.com.

My 47th ancestor is my 2nd great grandmother Anna “Annie” Sophia Allen (b. 1871).

My mother knew Annie when Mom was a very young girl in Michigan, and she and her siblings refer to their great grandmother as “Mamie Grandma”. She was the mother of my great grandmother, Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971) and my great grand uncle William James Mara (1894-1951). Annie also gave birth to an older son out-of-wedlock, Herbert Gerald Allen (b. 1889), who does not appear to have been raised by Annie.


Annie was born 17 September 1871 in Rockwood, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were William Barnabas Allen (1845-1916), a blacksmith from Rockwood, and his wife Lucy Jane Allen (1846-1931). The  birth was registered 5 October 1871, in Eramosa District, by the doctor.

I have identified six siblings for Annie; I think she was the second oldest.

First Marriage & Divorce

In my last post, I wrote about Annie’s marriage to and divorce from my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara (b. 1858), as well as a possible explanation (extreme cruelty) for why she immigrated to Michigan with their two young children Viola and William (without husband Thomas) around 1900.

Second Marriage & Divorce

I also mentioned that Annie remarried on 03 December 1902 to a John Carr, the day before her divorce to Mara was issued (if it was even ever finalized).

Annie and John Carr divorced almost exactly 11 years later, on 08 December 1913 in Wayne (Wayne County), Michigan. They do not appear to have had any children together. Seeing the claim of extreme cruelty as the reason for her divorce from Thomas Mara made me curious about the reason for divorce from John Carr. It turns out that Annie is not the one who filed for divorce. Carr filed for divorce from Annie, on the grounds of “fraud and deception”!, which went uncontested by Annie! Unlike the ambiguous register entry for Annie’s divorce from Thomas Mara, this one clearly indicates that Carr’s divorce from Annie was granted.

Allen Annie Sophia - Carr John - Divorce - Ancestry
Divorce register entry for Allen and Carr. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Fraud and deception??? Remember… I have not yet found any proof that a divorce from Thomas Mara was ever finalized. The only record I found for that first divorce showed the divorce stats as “pending”.

I decided to take a closer look at the marriage entry again for Annie and John Carr. The register entry shows one previous marriage noted by Annie (I had assumed that was to Thomas Mara). Interestingly, her father’s name is noted, but her mother’s name is recorded as “unknown”. But even more interesting are the surnames given by Annie. She identified herself as “Annie S. Allen” (her maiden name), but also as “Annie S. James”. James??? What is this James surname? Mara was her first married name.

Did she marry someone with the last name of James in between Mara and Carr? Which would be really odd since she (I think) divorced Mara one day after marrying Carr. And even if another intermediary marriage did take place, that would make two previous marriages instead of just the one she noted on the record.

Was Annie lying about her first married name, claiming it was James instead of Mara? Perhaps knowing that she was not legally divorced yet from Mara, so she didn’t want anything linking her to last name Mara at this time? Although, I assume her kids went by Mara.

Allen Annie Sophia - Carr John - Marriage - Web - FamilySearch
Marriage register entry for Annie and Carr. Courtesy of FamilySearch.org.

Whatever the reason is behind this claim by Annie of James as her first married name, it definitely looks like she was trying to deceive her new husband John Carr and/or legal authorities. This has suddenly turned into a priority family line for me to research further! My hope is that Annie was not intentionally deceiving new husband John Carr or the authorities…that her cause for filing for divorce from John Mara (extreme cruelty) had Annie scared and trying to hide from Mara…a battered woman on the run, hiding her real identity.

Shady Lady

Mom has often told me that Mamie Grandma had a lot of gentlemen callers and friends (I think her own mom told her that). We were never quite sure what exactly to make of that remark. But Mom and I would joke about it, commenting that perhaps her Mamie Grandma was a prostitute or madame. When I started digging up the family history and pestering my grandmother’s one remaining living sibling with questions, Mom told me not to bring this up with my great aunt…it might be a sensitive subject with that generation.

And this was before we knew about the child she gave birth to at seventeen.

Accidents and tough times have and will always happen to women. Annie may have been desperately in love with illegitimate son Herbert’s father, then left abandoned and heartbroken when he found out she was pregnant. She may have suffered abuse from my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara . Both incidents may have left her vulnerable, emotionally scarred, and desperate. Or my 2nd great grandmother might simply have been lacking in any moral character….a floozy and a fraud. I am not judging her. I just think these findings are amusing and make for great storytelling.

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#52Ancestors: 2nd Great Grandfather Thomas Mara Charged with Extreme Cruelty in Divorce

My 46th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I am almost caught up after being way behind most of this year due to illness.

Mara Coat of ArmsMy 46th ancestor is my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara (1858-1916). Thomas Mara was married to my 2nd great grandmother Anna Sophia Allen (b. 1871), with whom he had two children: William James Mara (1894-1952) and my great grandmother Agnes Viola “Viola” Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971).

In doing a bit of research recently on Anna Sophia Allen, I took a closer look at the marriage and divorce records for my 2nd great grandparents.

Thomas and Anna Sophia married on 6 June 1892 in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Thomas, a widow, was 34 years of age, worked as a machinist, and was a member of the Church of England. Anna Sophia, single (labeled spinster!), was 20 years of age, and was a member of the Methodist church. Anna had already given birth to illegitimate son Herbert Gerald Allen in 1889.

Not surprisingly, there isn’t even any place for a profession to be listed for the bride in this 1890s marriage register.

Thomas Mara & Anna Sophia Allen Marriage Record
Thomas Mara & Anna Sophia Allen Marriage Record. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Anna Sophia and Thomas divorced on 4 December 1902. The divorce decree was issued in Michigan, where Anna lived at the time with her children William (age 8) and Viola (age 9). I don’t think Thomas ever immigrated with them to the United States; I find no record of him living here. And I always wondered why Thomas did not immigrate with his wife and children.

It was a closer look at this divorce record (the divorce register, not the actual certificate or court case) that caught me off guard, and perhaps provided an answer to my own question about why Thomas did not immigrate to the U.S. with his family. Sophia was the claimant in the divorce, and filed for it 12 August 1902 under the grounds of “extreme cruelty”. Thomas did not contest the divorce. Sophia’s allegations can lead one to assume that she and the children fled from a violent Thomas.

The register entry is a bit confusing. It indicates that the divorce was still “Pending” at the end of the year. Note how records above and below show a “Granted” status and are not crossed out like the pending ones. This is the only divorce record I find for them. Perhaps there is another corrected entry or follow-up entry somewhere, but I have not found it yet.

Mara Thomas Allen Sophia Allen - Divorce Register - 1902
Divorce register entry for Thomas Mara and Anna Sophia Allen. They are listed on line 222. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

The Pending status made me wonder if maybe the divorce never went through.

Except that Anna Sophia remarried, to John Carr, so she had to have been divorced from Thomas Mara first, right?

Oddly…Anna Sophia Allen married John Carr on 3 December 1902. The day BEFORE her divorce from Mara. So at the very least, my 2nd great grandmother was a bigamist for one day. Or perhaps she was never legally divorced from my 2nd great grandfather, and spent the rest of her marriage to Carr as a bigamist. I will have to keep looking for proof that her divorce from Mara was finalized.

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