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  1. #1
    Loves to help with queries.
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    Default orkney interests

    Since there is no Orkney forum (that I can see), I'll post this here. I'm looking for the names James Simpson and Elizabeth Wall, in South Ronaldsay, Orkney (sometime prior to 1837) and have not been able to locate any marriage certificate for them despite searching for 10 years.

    I've just recently learned that in Scotland it was perfectly acceptable for couples to live together as common-law, and still have all the children baptised in the local church, and nothing was thought bad about this arrangement. Something to do with the woman "proving" she was fertile. Whereas in England, if any couple were not married, the kids were seen as "illegitimate".

    Now my question is, if my 2 names mentioned above were common-law, is there any sort of record I can use to locate them, their children and their parents?

    BD
    My BURROW family from DEVON

  2. #2
    Starting to feel at home.
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    Feb 2005
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    Stirlingshire, Scotland
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    Default

    Hi,
    From what i have found in my family rresearch so far, illigitamacy was very much frowned upon in Scotland as well as England. I have found a fair few in my tree (much to my grandmothers dis-taste). 2 had to leave their children for their parents to raise, another had to give birth in a poorhouse. In fact i have only come accross one who lived with her family and managed to "find" a husband willing to take her and her child on.
    Don't know about anyones else experience regarding this but thought i would pass it on to you anyhow!!
    Good luck searching
    Amanda

  3. #3

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    Marriage certificates didn't start in Scotland until 1855. Before that, we depend mostly on the Old Parochial Registrers (OPR) of the Church of Scotland, now on line at Scotland People with the BMDs. There are 2 major problems with this. The first is that whle some CoS Ministers included baptisms and marriages from other denominations in their registers, they didn't all do it. Registers from other denominations are generally (copies at least) stored in the National Archives (NAS) and are not yet on line. I have, in the past, found half a family in the OPR, and the other half in a Free Church register. The second problem is that many registers have not survived - damp, neglect, war, and poor materials have done nothing for the survival of records. If you check the relevant parish of GENUKI, it should tell you whether there is a surviving CoS register.

    As regards attitudes, the law on matrimony in Scotland was very relaxed. If you lived somewhere with someone, and behaved as though you were married, then you were -married. Somewhere in the scottish section of the ACDB catalogue is a book called Hume's decisions which contains numbers of cases where the Judge had to try and sort out such cases.... Of course, the view that the Kirk took was entirely different! If you have found baptsms for multiple children of this couple, tmessage=Marriage certificates didn't start in Scotland until 1855. Before that, we depend mostly on the Old Parochial Registrers (OPR) of the Church of Scotland, now on line at Scotland People with the BMDs. There are 2 major problems with this. The first is that whle some CoS Ministers included baptisms and marriages from other denominations in their registers, they didn't all do it. Registers from other denominations are generally (copies at least) stored in the National Archives (NAS) and are not yet on line. I have, in the past, found half a family in the OPR, and the other half in a Free Church register. The second problem is that many registers have not survived - damp, neglect, war, and poor materials have done nothing for the survival of records. If you check the relevant parish of GENUKI, it should tell you whether there is a surviving CoS register.

  4. #4
    Newcomer to Brit-Gen
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    Feb 2012
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    Paisley
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    Default

    There is an Orkney Family History Society, worth joining if you have more Orcadians in your ancestry. Just to add to the very complete replies you've had, it seems that common-law marriages in Scotland were called "irregular" but still considered to be marriages. This is a definition I found of "regular" and "irregular" marriages (sorry, I don't know where I got it, should have kept the source):

    Marriage Forms and Practices

    From the time of the Reformation and the founding of the Church of Scotland in 1560, marriage ceased to be a church sacrament; it became a civil matter based upon the consent of adult individuals. How the marriage took place, meaning its form, might have been regular or irregular, but it was a binding union. A regular marriage took place before a church minister following the reading of banns. An irregular marriage came about in one of three ways: by mutual agreement, or by a public promise followed by consummation, or by cohabitation and repute. In all cases, for regular and irregular marriages, both bride and groom had to be free to marry, not within forbidden degrees of kinship and over the age of consent (12 for brides and 14 for grooms).

    It's not clear to me if the children of irregular marriages were considered to be "legal" or not!
    Hope that helps,

    Nang in Paisley

  5. #5
    Loves to help with queries.
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    He he I havent been here for years and I just popped in today - which happens to be the same day someon else replies.

    Anyway, While I still havent found any marriage records for Liz Wall and James Simpson, I have managed to find 2 other items of interest.

    One was the baptismal record for their daughter Elizabeth Simpson (my 2x gt grandmother) - which states she was born in 1823 but not baptised until 1837 and the second item was a note about Liz Walls (Wells) filed in London when she immigated to New Zealand in 1842. The note referred to her "natural daughter" Elizabeth Simpson, aged 20 and living in Orkney, and Liz Walls (Wells) herself was called a women of "loose morals".

    So basically the answer to my original question is - NO the Scots were perfectly OK with common law marriages while the English were snobs and hypocrites about it. Those english upperclass men could have their mistresses and their bastard children but woe betide the mistress and the wife and society if anyone found out.

    So I am no longer looking for this marriage record since I now know they never married.

    I have also been in contact with the Orkney FHS but cant afford to join them as yet. When I can afford it, I will sign up and join them so they can do some Orkney searching for me. I still have not found anything on James Simpson whatsoever - other than the 1821 South Ronaldsay census and Liz Simpsons baptismal record
    My BURROW family from DEVON

  6. #6
    Newcomer to Brit-Gen Fiona mac's Avatar
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    Kincardineshire
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    Hi
    Have you tried this website? It also has a queries link
    http://www.southronaldsay.net/

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