Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Previously on Saga Seeker

To recap, we have learned from primary sources that:

Alfred and Ann were married in Coventry in1823.
Their son John was born in Coventry in 1827.

Yes, but how do we know that Ann was pregnant on the day of her marriage?

Back in 1820s England, it was customary for couples to have babies every two years. So it would be logical that John was not Alfred and Ann’s first child. Because they were married in Holy Trinity Parish in Coventry and were still living in Holy Trinity Parish in Coventry three years later as indicated on John’s baptismal record, looking at the Coventry Holy Trinity Parish bishop’s transcripts from 1822-1827 for other children of Alfred and Ann would be a great way to spend 30 minutes. And since the microfilm of the parish records for those years and that location is already cued up, let’s roll!

Upon scrolling through the parish record, we find this:
Church of England, James Barker baptism, 9 November 1824, Coventry, Warwickshire bishop’s transcript for Holy Trinity Parish, FHL microfilm 0502211

And we find this:
Church of England, Alfred Barker baptism, 29 May 1823, Coventry, Warwickshire bishop’s transcript for Holy Trinity Parish, ancestry.co.uk, accessed October 2011.

Aren’t parish records lovely, what with the parent and child’s names recorded so clearly?
These two parish baptism records reveal that:

baby James was baptised on 9 Nov 1824
baby Alfred was baptised on 29 May 1823

Alfred and Ann were married four months earlier on 27 January 1823.

Moment of Clarity Back in 1820s England, marriage was viewed as a series of events involving the engagement, the announcement, the ceremony and consummation. Remember in Sense and Sensibility when everyone was so worried that there was “an understanding” between Mary Ann and Mr. Willoughby, and when Mr. Ferris had to continue on with his marriage to Miss Steele because of a secret engagement even though he no longer loved her? That “understanding” and that secret engagement was just as binding in a court of law as was the marriage license. Because of this, the ceremony was viewed as just the final event and the engagement was as big a marriage event as was the actual marriage ceremony. Pre-marriage-ceremony consummation was widely practiced, as seen in the parish records where so many babies were born shortly after their parents’ marriage.


  1. You explain everything so well! And your research is so thorough. Thanks for sharing Allison!

  2. You are a terrific and interesting teacher. What are you planning to do with your degree?

  3. I love the way you bring in the history of the time to help explain the sensitive issue of these people getting pregnant before they were married. This is a great entry, although I would like to offer one suggestion. When you introduce the photos of the bishop's transcripts, you call them parish records. While it isn't wrong, it creates slight confusion because I thought, for a minute, that you had actually looked at the parish registers... They aren't THAT different, but the terminology you used just confused me a little.