Saturday, 26 September 2009

An Irregular Catholic Marriage

As a continuation of my last post I thought I would include another entry from one of the Catholic Registers.

This entry is recorded in the register for Kirkconnel in the Diocese of Galloway and is interesting not only because of the parties involved but also because it refers to a marriage that had already taken place:

At Gateside 7 Jan[ua]ry 1813

Louis Marie Narcisse Dubois de Gennes, & Catharine Allan of Gateside having, by a written document which is littorally as follows -

(“We, Louis Marie Narcisse Dubois de Gennes, Agent for the Military Stores in the French service, present prisoner of War on parole at Dumfries in Scotland, & Catherine Allan McCartney, daughter of John Allan McCartney Esq[ui]re of Halketleaths, Physician in Liverpool, having, for some time past, been privately married, think it proper to acknowledge our said Marriage before witnesses, in order to render it valid by the law of Scotland: We do therefore hereby in presence of the witnesses subscribing acknowledge that we are Man & Wife, & promise to adhere to each other as such, till death shall part us: in Testimony whereof, we have subscribed this acknowledgment, written by me the said Dubois de Gennes, along with a duplicate thereof, at Dumfries, the eighteenth day of November Eighteen hundred & twelve years, before these Witnesses Pierre de Grege, Knight of the French Empire, officer of Light Artillery, & Jean Pierre Huet, paymaster in the French Service.”

Signed - Dubois de Gennes

Catherine Allan)

Pierre de Grege

J.P. Huet

satisfied me that they were legally married, according to the laws of this Country, in compliance with their earnest request, as they profess the Roman Catholic Religion, I, Thomas Bagnall, Cath[olic] Clergyman at Kirkconnell, did confirm their marriage according to the Rites of the Holy Cath[olic] Church, at Gateside in presence of Mrs Allan, Mrs & John Carmont on the 7th January. 1813

According to the online catalogue of SCAN (the Scottish Archive Network) the McCartney of Halketleaths Papers are held by Dumfries Archive Centre. The following information is recorded on the family:

The McCartney of Halketleaths family (the estate being near Castle Douglas in Buittle parish, Kirkcudbrightshire) can be found first in the 16th century. They remained in possession of the lands until 1833, the last owner apparently being Dr John Allan McCartney, who died in Liverpool on 28 July 1829. He left a widow, Alice Worswick or McCartney, but apparently had no children by her. He had, however, apparently had three daughters by Catherine Beveridge. Dr McCartney also went by the name John Allan or John McCartney Allan. The lands of Halketleaths (and others) were bought in 1833 by William Parke, of Anfield Lodge, Lancashire from Dr McCartney's trustees.


  1. I'm open to correction on this, but I think in this case it looks like the marriage was initially done privately in France without a church minister and/or without witnesses, and then evidence submitted to the church at Kirkconnel to have it registered with it. However, prior to 1834, I think Catholic marriages were deemed to be irregular 'marriages by consent in front of witnesses', and so valid, but not actually regular or legal, which is slightly different - for this it would have to have had banns called in a C of Sc church and a minister of that church performing the ceremony. Interesting record!

  2. I think I see what you mean. Perhaps I should have called the post "An irregular marriage from the Catholic Registers"? I considered it to be an irregular marriage because it was based on a declaration before witnesses rather than a ceremony performed by a clergyman. As such it wasn't actually a Catholic marriage, it just involved two people who 'professed the Roman Catholic Religion' and was recorded in a Catholic register.

  3. I think it's way more interesting than that, because you have three records of marriage here! It looks to me like they were married by a private declaration initially ('privately married'), which was totally valid (you didn't actually need witnesses, but you'd have a hell of a time proving it if ever challenged), so they then decided to have a public ceremony, hence the marriage by declaration with witnesses, which made it 'valid by the law of Scotland' as they put it, which is right. They then sought to give it further legitimacy by submitting evidence to the church in Gateside. I did wonder if it had been worded badly, and that the priest had actually been involved, but the witneses are different, so it is clear he has been given a document and subsequently registered it in his books on the basis of that. I think the priest was wrong though to say that he was satisfied that they were 'legally married according to the laws of this Country' - they weren't, the marriage by declaration was definitely an irregular marriage, valid but not legal. It seems to me that he has tried to give it more oomph by stating that he "did confirm their marriage according to the Rites of the Holy Cath[olic] Church" which seems to me that it was recorded as an RC church marriage - the previous efforts were clearly not that. The irony is that recording it in a Roman Catholic register did not make the marriage any more legal than the irregular marriages which had already taken place, though probably did a lot for their souls in the eys of the Church! The law did not change until 1834, so prior to this it could only be legally carried out by C of Sc ministers and with the calling of banns. I'm guessing a healthy donation also went into the church's coffers! One thing I don't know about on RC records is whether there are the equivalent of vestry minutes or kirk session minutes for Scottish parishes?

  4. I really enjoyed this information about this, is very interesting, thanks for sharing!

  5. I am descended from one Catherine Dubois Carmont. As I understand it, Dr John Allan McCartney was her Uncle, although her death certificate lists her father as Allan Carmont, MD (which is not correct, her father is John Carmont of Dumfries). There is detail on Agnes Macdonald nee Carmont here (Catherine's older sister) which refers to her doctor uncle in Glasgow (Dr McCartney)

  6. Thanks for the information. It is interesting to find out a little more about this family.