Bigamy at Sale

In Week 2 of Writing the Family Saga, I chose to write under the subject of ‘Elementary, My Dear Watson’. I chose to again write about the bigamy of Thomas Forbes Nisbet which I wrote about in the first writing unit.  

Bigamy at Sale

BIGAMY AT SALE screamed the title of the search result on Trove.   First came shock and then excitement, as  I had been searching  for marriage and death notices about my 3xgreat aunt Annie when I found this instead.  The article revealed that Thomas, her new husband  of seven weeks,  was arrested on a charge of bigamy.  Apparently he had a wife and children in Scotland!

Having only recently started researching my family, I had only pieced together their life from the results of Victorian BDM searches. I was using Trove to supplement this information, totally unaware that what seemed like an uneventful life was anything but!

Subsequent articles revealed that a man who had attended Thomas’s first marriage, had exposed this fact, which made it to the ears of Annie’s father.  He organised the warrant of arrest.  Although the Magistrate dropped the matter due to lack of evidence that Thomas’ first wife was still alive, he had confessed his guilt.

So like any family ‘detective’ would do when faced with a mystery, I followed the clues.

Thomas’s first marriage certificate showed that he had married Willamina nine years before Annie and most surprisingly that it had ended in divorce.  Unfortunately there was no date written near the divorce stamp.  Had Thomas eventually done the right thing or was it a result of Willamina declaring desertion as she remarried fifteen years after Thomas and Annie’s wedding.

A certain birth certificate also showed that Thomas had no choice but to marry Annie!


  • Empire (Sydney)
  • Gippsland Times
  • National Records of Scotland
  • Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria

Reflective Statement

Unlike last week  I knew what I was going to write about straight away this week.  It was just keeping it to 250 words.  As I had only just begun my addiction to family history this article was my first ‘shock’ moment.  I have had quite a few since but you always remember your first!

In my efforts to solve the mystery I uncovered quite a few other details.  It certainly showed me that you could not rely on information from just one source but needed many to get to the truth.

1872 - Thomas Nisbet - Bigamy at Sale

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I have been researching my family history since 2009. I am interested it the family names Shingles, McEwan, Snowdon & Witt around Gippsland and Wodonga areas of Victoria, Australia

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