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Saturday, 7 April 2012

I is for Ironbridge, Illegitimacy, Irregular Marriages and (of course) the Internet - A to Z Genealogical Challenge -

Ros at http://genwestuk.blogspot.com/ has come  up with the idea of an A to Z genealogical challenge for the month of April.  It soon got me thinking, so here are my contributions.

I is for

Ironbridge, built 1779  over the River Severn
Ironbridge - my father  grew up  near Ironbridge , Shropshire, often described  as the birthplace of the industrial revolution with the building in 1779  of the first ever iron bridge (over the River Severn). It is now a World Heritage Site.

Illegitimacy - I am sure this must be  feature in many a family history.  In
 the course of research into my mother's Danson family,  I came across this document at Lancashire Record Office which identified such a case.

In 1810,  John Danson, aged 21 and eldest son of Henry Danson and Elizabeth Brown of Carleton, Lancashire  was served with an affiliation order ordering him to contribute to the upkeep of his “said bastard child”  - a daughter by Ann Butler of Marton.   The poor child was repeatedly given this tag in the document below which  is fascinating on its choice of language:

“Ann Butler, single woman, was upon the 27th day of August last, delivered of a female bastard child in the said township of Marton…and that John Danson, husbandman of Carleton did begot the said bastard on her body and is the father of the same.

Thereupon, we order… for the better relief of the said township…and the sustenance and relief of the said bastard child…John Danson pay unto the churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor…the sum of One Pound Eighteen Shillings for and towards the charges and expenses incident to the birth…further sum of four shillings towards the cost of apprehending and securing the said John Danson….the sum of Two Shillings weekly…towards the keeping, sustenance and maintenance of the said bastard child”.

In 1810, £1 18s 0d would have the same spending power of today's £64.52 with 2s 0d being  worth today  £3.40.  (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency).  - not much for bringing up a child! 

Unfortunately I have been unable to trace anything further on this story.  John Danson died in 1836, aged 46, as far as I know unmarried and predeceased his father Henry by 3 years.

Irregular Marriages   -   a feature of Scottish family history.
A “regular marriage was conducted by a church minister following the reading of banns before a witnesses.  An "irregular marriage" did not require an established clergyman and only required that both parties gave consent.  No notice nor a waiting period  was requried.  Such marriages were  valid in Scotland, but often frowned upon and over time they became less and less acceptable.

An “irregular” or “clandestine” marriage was in the form of a verbal declaration by thThe The British Parliament outlawed irregular marriages in 1753 with the introduction of Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, but this did not apply to Scotland. As a result, many English couples eloped to Scotland to obtain a quick and easy marriage. Toll houses on the Scottish-English border became “centres” for irregular marriages - at Annan and Gretna in Dumfriesshire and at Coldstream and Lamberton in Berwickshire.

In 1856 Lord Brougham’ s Marriage Act imposed a resident ial qualif icat ion of 21 days for least one of the partners, which made it more difficult for couples outwith the area. Irregular marriages were not formally abolished until 1940.

Because no minister was required, few records were kept of the event and few have survived 

Such a marriage might not come to light until the first child was born and the parents sought baptism for their children. They were summoned to the Kirk Session, confessed their fault, and werebuked, exhorted, and ordered to pay the charges'”. The charges went to the poor box, the normal fees for a regular marriage were then paid, and the marriage was thus regularised.  As a result, note of irregular marriages can sometimes be found in Old Parish Registers and in Kirk Session records.

So if you think your ancestors may have taken part in an irregular marriage, contact the Scottish Borders Archive Service at archives@scotborders.gov.uk or have a look at the source list on the topic at http://www.heartofhawick.co.uk/heritagehub/collections/source/irregularmarriages.pdf

And in this I of the A-Z Challenge, how could I fail to mention the Internet.  Where, as family historians,  would be  be without it?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a clear explanation of irregular marriages Susan. I wonder how often this may be the cause of "missing" Scottish marriages. Yes the language in illegitimacy cases is quite blunt and sad. If the child had the terms used to her/his face, they'd end up neurotic and feeling worthless in no time at all. However, rightly or wrongly, I suspect that it was just an accepted part of life in the day-to-day world and only pejorative in the paperwork.


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