Monday, 3 October 2016

Day Three of Family History Month - Scottish Marriages

Pre - Civil Registration (1855)

OPR Marriages: The OPRs document what was known as the “Crying of the Banns". The intention of the couple to marry was announced from the pulpit for three successive Sundays prior to the marriage. This was standard practice in the Church of Scotland at the time. The Banns were generally proclaimed in the parish church of each partner.

Civil Registration (1855-present)

Marriage Records: On the marriage record, you will find the names for each partner’s parents, the occupation of each partner and the occupation for at least each partner's father. Accessing marriage records always gets you one generation back by providing the information on the couple's parents. The maiden name of each mother of the couple will also be listed on the marriage register for the couple getting married. You now have the information needed to find the wife with her parents in census records. As well, you can look for her parents' marriage registration

Irregular Marriages

Unlike the rest of the UK, Scottish marriage laws were much more lenient. Under Scots law, there were three forms of "irregular marriage". An irregular marriage could result from:

*      mutual agreement,
*      a public promise followed by consummation
*      cohabitation and repute

Traditionally, in Scotland, a man and woman over the age of sixteen could be married by declaring themselves husband and wife in front of witnesses. Laws in Englandwere much more strict following an Act of Parliament in 1745. Another Act of Parliament in 1857 (112 years later) imposed residential qualifications for those who married. They needed, by the new law, to live 21 days in the area before they could marry.

If you can’t find your ancestor anywhere in the marriage registers or parish registers for the “Proclamation of Banns” they may have had an “irregular” marriage. Irregular marriages were popular for couples who couldn't afford a divorce or who didn't have the money to pay to either the Kirk or to the Registrar for the wedding.

You may find that your ancestors, who were in an irregular marriage, later married by Warrant of the Sherriff. A warrant was required so that the legality of the marriage could be determined and the marriage then registered by the Registrar. This may well have taken place at the time when the couple decided to baptise their children.

Irregular marriages were also common in more remote areas like the Highlands or Islands where a minister may not have been assigned or where the closest Kirk or registration office was more than a day's walk.

You may also find that a lot of marriages took place on December 31 or January 1. This was not for tax-break purposes, but rather because for 400 years, the Church of Scotland forbid the celebration of Christmas. Instead, “Hogmanay” or New Year’s Eve was the holiday to be celebrated and New Year’s Day was a holiday from work. Knowing this, couples often planned their weddings accordingly so that family could attend without worry of having to work. 

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