Except that, in the eyes of the Catholic Church (and, perhaps just as importantly, in the eyes of the bridegrooms’ Catholic parents), the first marriage ceremonies did not count, because the brides had not been baptized.
Yes, that’s brides and bridegrooms in the plural, because:
Two Gaffney brothers, the sons of Bernard Gaffney and Catherine Killeen, did the same thing: married a non-Catholic American woman in the United States; and then married the same woman again in Canada, in a Catholic ceremony held at Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa. In both cases, the brides were baptized as Catholics on the same day as their second marriage ceremonies. And in both cases, the godparents to these newly-converted daughters-in-law were the bridegrooms’ parents, Bernard Gaffney and Catherine Killeen.
(Another example of a mother-in-law serving as godmother to an adult convert to Catholicism: when Elizabeth Malcomson, wife of John Moran, converted to Catholicism in 1892, her mother-in-law Mary Leavy served as sponsor).
Edward Arthur Gaffney married Johanna Gertrude Palmer, daughter of John Palmer and Esther Toles, about 1887, in the United States, presumably in Michigan. And on 2 August 1891, he married her again in Ottawa. But only after Johanna Gertrude Palmer had been baptized into the Catholic Church:1
The above record does not give an exact date or place for the initial marriage: the priest records that the couple “declared that they have already contracted marriage about four years ago in the United States.”
James Gaffney married Mary Florence Randall, daughter of John Randall and Salome Hoyt and widow of George W. Dickson/Dixson, on 10 September 1891, in Saginaw, Michigan. And on 26 August 1892, he married her again in Ottawa. But only after Mary Florence Randall had been baptized into the Catholic Church:2
The above record does give an exact date (and place) for the initial marriage: the priest notes that the couple “declared to have contracted marriage in Saginaw Michigan on the 9th September 1891” (but the Michigian marriage records have 10th September 1891 as the date).
Note that in both cases, the couple made a declaration that they had been previously married in the United States. But in both cases, the American (and non-Catholic) marriage was “found null” because the bride had not been baptized. That is, “found null” by one or more Roman Catholic officials in Ottawa, not by any civil authority in the state of Michigan: the marriage of James Gaffney and Mary Florence Randall on 10 September 1891 in Saginaw, Michigan was perfectly legal and valid, but it was not a Catholic sacrament.
Needless to say, we’re not talking “consciously recoupling” here, or holding a recommitment ceremony (“I still do!”), or anything hip and contemporary like that. This was Ottawa in the early 1890s; and the Gaffneys were Roman Catholics. And when it came to marriage as a Catholic sacrament, there was a canon law to be obeyed. There were impediments to be overcome. There were immortal souls at stake.
And there was a pair of Irish Catholic parents — Bernard Gaffney and Catherine Killeen — who served as godparents to their Catholic convert daughters-in-law, and who also served as witnesses to the second (but first one to really count), Catholic marriages of their two sons. I can only imagine the family pressures that were brought to bear upon the two couples; and especially, I would guess, upon Edward Gaffney and Johanna Gertrude Palmer, since this couple had a son, Edward B. [Bernard?] Gaffney, born December 1890 in Michigan — born after his parents’ first marriage ceremony of 1887, but born outside the boundaries of a Catholic marriage, nevertheless. I bet Catherine Killeen couldn’t wait to sign that register, to bear witness to things having been set right, not only for her sons but also for her grandchildren.
Neither couple lived in Ottawa at the time of their second (but first to really count) marriages, by the way: both couples lived in Roscommon Co., Michigan, and were presumably just visiting the Gaffney parents in Ottawa when they found themselves at the altar for a second time.
And if I find evidence of a third Gaffney brother having done this, I think I’m going to call it a trend!
Basilique Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1891-1893, image 39 of 158, B. 198, Johanna Gertrude Palmer baptism, and M. 45, Edward A. Gaffney-Johanna G. Palmer marriage, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 9 April 2015), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967. ↩
Basilique Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1891-1893, image 103 of 158, B. 212, Mary Florence Randall baptism, and M. 36, James Gaffney-Mary Florence Randall marriage, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 9 April 2015), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967. ↩