Wee Free?

I have been peeking at the Marriage certificates from my Hearach relatives in order to see which of the Churches they might display a particular allegiance to.

There were 9 grooms spanning the years 1863 to 1923 (all but 1 occurring by 1890) and precisely 6 of them were wed by the Established Church of Scotland and 3 by the Free Church.

The 11 brides span the years 1857 to 1926 (all but one occurring by 1898) but I have only paid to see 5 of them thus far. Of these 5, spanning 1856 to 1892 , 3 were performed by the Free Church and 2 by the Established Church.

Of course these latter results are partial but, even were they complete, I think that there would have been other factors at play in addition to simply which church the couple preferred.

I do not have sufficient knowledge of wedding customs in late 19thC Harris to be sure of the relative importance of these, but availability of the Minister, the precise place where the wedding was to take place, the couple’s own families influence and the urgency of the event(!) are all plausible considerations. Not to mention the time of year, the occupations of the participants and the process of the banns.

Given all the provisos mentioned I am reluctant to read too much into this little analysis but am certainly surprised that, in an island that is usually described as universally switching to the Free Church in 1843, the majority of my male relations tied the knot under the Established Church whilst their mothers, sisters and daughters appear to have been somewhat more ecumenical with their nuptials.

Note: There was one more marriage between 1932 and 2006 (in 1968) involving a (female) Kerr of Harris but otherwise these 20 weddings were the only ones that took place from the introduction of Statutory Registration in 1855 up to the present day.

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