Of the three types of Roman Catholic records most commonly used for genealogical purposes (baptismal, marriage, and burial), marriage records are often the most useful, and potentially the most complex.
Most useful because of the sheer amount of genealogical information that can often be gleaned from a Catholic marriage record.
While a baptismal record will supply the names of two family lines (the names of both the father and the mother of the baptized infant), a marriage record will often supply four: the names of both the father and the mother of the groom; and the names of both the father and the mother of the bride. And the mother of the bride or groom is typically listed with her maiden name, not her married name: in a Catholic marriage record, the parents are recorded as, for example, Michael Ryan and Bridget Lahey, not as Michael Ryan and Bridget Ryan, nor as Michael Ryan and Wife, nor as Mr. and Mrs. Michael Ryan. A Catholic marriage record can therefore be an extremely important source of information about maternal origins.
For early Irish to the Ottawa Valley (1st- and 2nd-generation emigrants), moreover, a marriage record will sometimes (not always! and not even very often; but often enough that it is always worth checking the parish register) give the name of a county, and sometimes even a parish, of origin in Ireland (see, for example, Irish Origins in Canadian Roman Catholic Marriage Records: St. John the Evangelist, Gananoque, Leeds Co., Ontario, Part I and Part 2).1
Most complex because of the requirements that had to be met in order to marry in the Catholic Church.
Had the requisite three bans of marriage been published? Or did the couple have to obtain one or more dispensations from the publication of the banns?2 Were there any impediments (of blood or marriage, for example) which required dispensations? Was a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic? And if so, was this a case of a Catholic marrying a Protestant, which required a dispensation from the impediment of “mixed religion” (mixtae religionis)? Or was this a case of a Catholic marrying a non-Christian, which required a dispensation from the impediment of “disparity of worship” (disparitus cultus)? (Note: I have never come across an instance of “disparity of worship” in the nineteenth-century Ottawa Valley area RC parish registers, but here’s an example from the twentieth century). Were both parties of age? Or did one or both parties marry as a son or daughter minor, which required the consent of his or her parents?
The Formula: in English and in French
That said, and despite the potential complexities of Catholic marriage dispensations, whether the record was in English, French, Latin, or another language, the basic formula remained the same.
The [day of month of year], [1, 2, or 3] bans having been published [and/or the dispensation of 1, 2, or 3 bans having been granted], between [name of bridegroom], son of age [or: minor son] of [name of bridegroom’s father] and of [name of bridegroom’s mother] of [name of parish] on the one part, and [name of bride], daughter of age [or: minor daughter] of [name of bride’s father] and [name of bride’s mother] of [name of parish], on the other hand, no impediments having been discovered [or: a dispensation for the impediment of ________ having been granted], we the undersigned priest received their mutual consent and gave them the nuptial blessing in the presence of [name of witness] and [name of witness] who signed [or who could not sign].
Le [day of month of year], vu la publication de [1, 2, or 3] bans de mariage [and/or vu la dispense de 1, 2 or 3 bans de mariage], entre [name of bridegroom], fils majeur [or: fils mineur] de [name of bridegroom’s father] et de [name of bridegroom’s mother] de [name of parish] d’une part, et de [name of bride], fille majeure [or: fille mineure] de [name of bride’s father] et de [name of bride’s mother] de [name of parish], d’autre part, ne s’étant découvert aucun empechement, nous prêtre soussigné avons reçu leur mutuel consentement de mariage, et nous avons donné la bénédiction nuptiale en présence de [name of witness] et de [name of witness], qui ont signer [or: qui n’ont su signer].
Le vingt sept juillet mil huit cent soixante quinze, vu la dispense de deux bans de mariage accordés par Monsigneur Duhamel, évêque d’Ottawa, vu aussi la publication de troisième ban faite au prône de notre messe paroissial entre John Finnerty, fils majeur de Peter Finnerty et de défunte Ann Havey de cette paroisse, d’une part; et Catherine Benton, fille mineure de Thomas Benton et de Honorah Ryan aussi de cette paroisse, a’autre part, ne s’étant découvert aucun empêchement, nous soussigné curé de cette paroisse, avons reçu leur mutuel consentement de mariage, et nous avons donné la bénédiction nuptiale en présence de Michael Havey, Margt Finnerty et de Thomas Benton père de l’épouse qui aussi que les contractants n’ont pu signer. A. Chaine.
My translation of the above:
The twenty-seventh of July, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five, in view of the dispensation of two marriage bans granted by Monsignor Duhamel, bishop of Ottawa, in view also of the third ban having been published at our parochial mass, between John Finnerty, son of age of Peter Finnerty and of the deceased Ann Havey of this parish, on the one part; and Catherine Benton, minor daughter of Thomas Benton and of Honorah Ryan also of this parish, on the other part, not having discovered any impediment [no impediment having been discovered], we the undersigned priest of this parish have received their mutual consent to marriage, and have given the nuptial blessing in the presence of Michael Havey, Margt Benton, and of Thomas Benton, father of the bride, who, along with the contracting parties could not sign. A. Chaine.
Note that as a minor daughter (fille mineure), Catherine Benton required the consent of her parents in order to marry John Finnerty.
A Few Terms in Translation
|de cette paroisse||of this parish|
|fille majeure||adult daughter; daughter of age|
|fille mineure||minor daughter|
|fils majeur||adult son; son of age|
|fils mineur||minor son|
|un empêchement||an impediment|
|aucun empêchement||no impediment|
|la bénédiction nuptiale||the nuptial blessing|
|défunt (masculine)||deceased (for a male)|
|défunte (feminine)||deceased (for a female)|
- But for the Ottawa Valley area, some of the early, pre-1850s records are extremely brief, and often (and much to the frustration of the researcher) lack the names of the parents of the contracting parties. ↵
- Note that the “publication” of the banns did not refer to the issuing of printed literature. It referred to the announcement (making public, so: publication) of the banns at the parochial mass. ↵
- St (John) Chrysostom (Arnprior, Renfrew Co., Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1867-1882, p. 151, image 82 of 153, John Finnerty and Catherine Benton, M.6, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 13 November 2011), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967. ↵