National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Catholic Parish Registers - Marriages

Catholic Parish Registers - Marriages

Marriage registers rarely record much more than the names of the individuals being married. The earliest record available dates from 1736, but the majority of the records do not begin until the 1800s, mainly for the major cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Catholic Parish registers usually record the date of marriage, often with the information that the banns of marriage have been duly proclaimed. Usually only the marriage date will appear in the index.

The proclamation of banns was the notice of contract of marriage, read out in the Church before the marriage took place. Couples or their 'cautioners' (sponsors) were often required to pay a 'caution' or security to prove the seriousness of their intentions. Forthcoming marriages were supposed to be proclaimed on three successive Sundays, however, in practice, all three proclamations could be made on the same day on payment of a fee. It is entirely possible that banns of marriage for a Catholic couple were called in the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. Due to a complicated legal situation, the Church of Scotland was seen as the only legal place for banns to be called. In some cases, this means that you will find a Catholic marriage being recorded in Church of Scotland Old Parish Registers, however it is highly likely that the marriage actually took place elsewhere in the presence of a Catholic priest. Additionally, it may be that you find a record of a Catholic marriage in the Old Parish Registers, but no corresponding record in the Catholic Parish Registers, and this might be due to there being no surviving Catholic Parish Register for that area or time period; or that records were not kept at that point due to the laws against Catholics in force during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The information contained in the original registers can be quite minimal, and varies from parish to parish and indeed over time within each parish. At best, a marriage register will record the following:

  • date of marriage and an indication that banns had been called
  • name of bride
  • name of groom
  • parish of residence
  • parish of origin
  • occupation of the groom
  • name of the bride's father
  • names of witnesses
  • name of officiating priest.

At worst a date of marriage, the names of the bride and groom recorded along with the name of the officiating priest will be available.

Some records are in Latin. Translating the information given is not very difficult, and a Latin dictionary or glossary will be useful. An example of a marriage entry in Latin is shown here (click on image to view the full size):

An example of a marriage entry in Latin

Dumfries, St Andrews: Marriage Register, 1858-1947. MP/54/1/4/2 page 179

On the 14 April 1893, I underwritten, joined in marriage, Robert McDonald (30 high Street, Dumfries) [son of blank] and Mary Combes (76 High Street, Dumfries) [daughter of blank]. Daniel Cowan and Margaret Combes, witness. Daniel O’Brien [priest].