Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Wedding Wednesday - Scottish Weddings

Researching Scottish marriages is often highly interesting. There are certain Scottish customs which can prove confusing for people who are tracing their Caledonian ancestors. For example, sometimes it will appear as if a date of marriage cannot be trusted, as the parties would be too young to be wed. However, prior to 1929 girls could marry as young as twelve, and boys at fourteen. No parental consent was required, which is still the law today, although since 1929 the minimum age for getting married has been sixteen.

One of the most confusing aspects of Scottish marriages, at least for me when I first started my genealogical research, is the fact that a search might return several dates for the same couple. I quickly discovered that the dates related to a proclamation of marriage, known as banns, as well as the marriage itself. 

Proclamations of banns were traditionally made on three consecutive Sundays, and were recorded in the Old Parish Registers of both the bride and groom. The couple would state their intention to marry, and the congregation in each parish would be given the opportunity to object. If no objections were made the couple would usually be married in the bride's parish, sometimes in a church, but more typically in her own home. 

This means that there are usually several different records to research for any particular historical marriage in Scotland, but the results can be very rewarding. OPRs will usually reveal the names of the bride and groom, their parishes, the dates of proclamations and the marriage, and the names of at least two witnesses.

The OPRs will also sometimes show irregular marriages. An example of an irregular marriage would be a man and woman living together as husband and wife, but without having gone through the proclamation of banns and a formal ceremony with a minister. Such instances were often punished by the kirk sessions in the parish, hence their inclusion in the OPRs. Prior to the Marriage (Scotland) Act of 1834 irregular marriages were relatively common.

Finally, from 1855 onwards Scottish marriage certificates can be a rich source of information. They include the names, addresses, ages, marital status, and occupations of the bride and groom. They also include the names and occupations of the parents of each party, including the maiden names of the mothers. This can be extremely valuable new information, and is an advantage of Scottish records over others. The names of two witnesses can also be found on Scottish marriage certificates. 

Researching the marriages of your Scottish ancestors can not only be enlightening, but it can also provide a huge amount of important information to take you on to the next step of your genealogical journey.

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