Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

27/1/2008

Irregularly married

For more than half a century a steady stream of fines went to benefit the poor from couples found to be irregularly married. This was a matter affecting Leith probably more than any other place in Scotland, and presented the kirk sessions of both North Leith and South Leith with a particularly frustrating problem.

In Scots law it was sufficient for a couple to declare before witnesses that they took each other as husband and wife for the marriage to be legal; but the Church was implacably opposed to such unions, as no record of the transaction was normally made, and the marriage could easily be denied later Many a girl was left with a baby and no income, when the father denied the union. Again, if the man was in the armed forces he might be killed or drowned, but if the marriage was irregular the wife was not informed of her husband’s death; she only heard of it by chance from others. Unable to prove her marriage, she did not qualify for a widow’s pension, and could not even claim a place on the poor roll. With both soldiers and sailors constantly coming and going, irregular or clandestine marriage became common in Leith.
source-Marshall’s “The Life and Times of Leith”(John Donald, 1986)
for more click on the introduction

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