Monday, 8 March 2021

A glimpse of what's lost and hope for what can be found!

Sadly before 1855 there are 'missing' birth, marriage and death records. One reason for this is that not all of our ancestors attended the Church of Scotland. This may have been because they were not very religious or it could have been that they attended a church of another faith. If that’s the case we are less likely to find their life events in the Church of Scotland records on ScotlandsPeople. Sometimes a very diligent parish clerk ensured all births were registered regardless of the parents’ religious persuasion, but sadly this is not common.

There are, of course, records of other churches. Some of these have been digitised and made available online. Even when records are online they are not 100 % complete. The ravages of time, water, dust and on occasion mice have taken their toll on these records. 


In today’s example we have something very interesting. John Flynn, as some of you may remember from an earlier post was a ‘vagabond’. John married Ann Colquhoun on 5 April 1845 but by 1859 the marriage had broken down and there was quite an extensive court case.


This extract was provided as part of the court case. The marriage register was obviously still around in 1859 and I wanted to find the original entry. A search in the Church of Scotland Old Parish Registers (or OPRs) on ScotlandsPeople showed no results. What I found curious is that there are records for the parish of Urr for this period so I kept digging. I should mention at this point, the town of Dalbeattie was in the parish of Urr, which is in the county of Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland


I looked at the register to see if there were any gaps. I did this by searching for marriages in the year 1845 for the parish of Urr. I left the name blank. I could see that page 211 had marriages from March 1845 and page 212 had marriages from April 1845 (you can see this for free). I then clicked in to see the register and it looks very complete, with no blank sections where a clerk intended to come back and fill something in. There are entries for 15 March 1845 and 18 April 1845, but nothing for the 5th of April 1845 and nothing for John and Ann.


Looking again at the extract we found in the court case I see that John and Ann were married by John Strain. Who was John Strain, which denomination did he belong to? A quick search on Google brought up the Catholic Encyclopedia and this confirmed what I was beginning to suspect, that he was a Catholic priest. That would explain why the marriage is not in the Church of Scotland records!


Both Findmypast and ScotlandsPeople have Catholic registers so I made a search in these but nothing has been found. What I have found on Findmypast using their ‘Browse’ feature is that although there are many records for Dalbeattie, including for much earlier periods than 1845, there are not very many for the period when John Strain was a priest there. 


On this occasion, we know the record was created and was still in existence in 1859 but it seems that the original is lost. 


What can we learn through this little meander in the records? Look carefully at the record, find out who created it and why. Learn more about the creator of the record and the records they created. This will help you understand what you are looking at and help you piece together your family story.


We also learn that all is not lost when we can’t find a record of a birth, marriage or death before 1855. Clues survive in all sorts of places and we’re working hard to help get more of these court records added to scottishindexes.com so you can find these treasures. There is hope for what is lost.





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