John W. Redelfs wrote:
I don't see how a law passed in the 21st century could have any effect 
on your 19th century ancestors.  Laws aren't retroactive.

It seldom makes any sense that they would be, but as I understand it, 
legal instruments are sometimes made to be retroactive, "nunc pro tunc". 
 This generally happens when the instrument is amended some time after a 
judgement.  Since such things are just a sort of fiction that we 
collectively respect, there is no rational obstacle standing in the way 
of such an arbitrary rule.

In any case I cannot imagine how retroactive marriage rules would 
inconvenience any of my plurally married ancestors.

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