Friday, 15 July 2011

The Thing About Scottish Marriages

In finding the 1911 census for Scotland, I learned some new information about my great grandmother. Her first husband went off to South Africa to battle in the Boer War and apparently never returned. She remarried in 1913. I found her in a miners row known as Bothwellshields. This was the first time I have ever seen reference to Bothwellshields. It is in the district of Shotts. Interestingly all 4 sons were reported as being at home, however, when my grandfather was 8, he was listed as being home as well, although in reality he was with his uncle, where he also shows on the 1901 census. What I didn't expect to find on the 1911 census was that my great Granny & her second husband, Geordie, were residing together, listed as man and wife, and the two claim to have been married for 6 years!

This wasn't terribly uncommon in Scotland in those days. It is known as a “marriage of declaration” whereby two people simply have to declare themselves as man and wife (generally in front of two witnesses) to be considered married. The interesting piece for me is that Agnes kept her first husband’s name (Crawford) and did not assume Geordie’s name even though the two had declared themselves to be married. It also clears up, for me, the comment on their marriage certificate that their marriage was “under warrant of the sheriff-substitute” I had always thought that the reason for this was because Agnes had to wait the requisite 7 years without contact from her first husband, Hugh, in order to be legally married to Geordie. In fact it was simply to say that their marriage by declaration was now considered legal in that they had paid their fine and married in a “regular” fashion in front of a magistrate (civil marriage).

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