Research Tip of the Week

At the Expert Workshop in Feburary, Aileen Wynne asked us all to talk about our favourite source, for one minute only. This is much harder than you might think, and it led to an interesting exchange of ideas and a lot of laughs.

My favourite source is whatever I’m working on at any given time. Over the last few months I’ve worked a lot with Catholic parish registers. What’s surprising is the range of records. Baptismal and marriage records, of course, but included among the ‘mainstream’ registers are records of deaths and funeral masses; baptisms for adult converts; rarer registers of banns; dispensations for marriages; registers of communion and confirmation; and even ‘churchings’ – the blessing given to women after childbirth.

Parish registers can also tell us a lot more than simply who’s getting married or whose child is baptised.

On a recent case in the parish of Delvin county Westmeath, I was surprised to find a huge upsurge in the number of couples renewing their marriage vows: between 1785 and 1879 thirteen couples (see below).

But this isn’t an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, and lifestyle was not an issue in late 18th Century Westmeath. So how do we explain this sudden trend evident in the parish registers?

In Ireland, right up to Famine times, many couples made their own arrangements with the blessings of their family, but without seeking the consent or approval of their church.  What we see here, is the first attempt by the clergy to bring their parishioners into conformity with the sacraments of the Catholic church.

Delvin RC register Marriages 1787

  • 1785 March 18th Married i.e. renewed their consent Patrick Hacket & Mary Wheeler

Witness Bridget Gil, Ann Coffy & Daniel Mani[torn]

  • 1785 July 17th Married James Ward & mary Halfpenny,

Witness the whole congregation of C.S. Delvin.

  • 1785 July 17th Married Thomas Murtagh & Betty Murphy

Witness the whole congregation of C S Delvin.

  • 1786  July 16th Married i.e. renewed their consent Laurence Murtagh & Mary Kelly.

Witnesses Delvin Congregation

  • 1786 July 23rd Married i.e. renewed their consent Michael Tay[torn] & Ann Murray

Witnesses Total  Delvin Congregation

  • 1786 July 30th Married i.e. renewed their consent Pierse Tuite & Mary Ball

Witness the whole Delvin congregation

  • 1786 August [obscured by page turned up, but before 15th ] Married i.e. renewed their consent Andrew Nowlan & Mary O’Neill. Witnesses The whole Congregation of Kill.g
  • 1787 March[?] 18th Married i.e. renewed their consent [left blank] Lois/ Loid? & [left blank] Calen.

Witness the whole congregation of Killuagh.

  • 1787 25th March Married i.e. renewed their consent James M [illegible] and Mary Harmon.

Witness the whole congregation

  • 1787 15th April Married i.e. renewed their consent James Golden & Mary Tiernan

Witness the whole congregation of C.S. Delvin.

  • 1788 26th Oct. Renewed their consent Ralf Buck & Winifred Drake, Witness the whole congregation of C.T. Delvin.
  • 1789 18th Jany. Renewed their consent Martin Muldoon & Bridget Fitzsimons. Witness the congregation.
  • 1789 22nd Feby. Renewed their consent Thomas Kelly & Allice Flynn. Witnesses the Congregation of C.t. Delvin.

By Expert Researcher Fiona Fitzsimons Fiona_Fitzsimons


This entry was posted in Uncategorized.