Always look twice!

One category of marriage records found in Catholic registers, are marriage dispensations.

In Ireland the most common impediment to marriage was consanguinity, marriage between cousins.

Consanguinity was calculated in degrees, estimated as the number of generations from the bride and groom to a common ancestor.

Unfortunately, in Ireland Dioceses never kept records of applications for dispensations *(1). What survives is usually at parish level, and there’s usually less information set-down than in the actual marriage registers themselves.

In one recent case I worked on, a young couple married in 1829 in the parish of Shrule. I double-checked what other church records survived for the parish, and realised there was a Dispensation register for the relevant time.

The Dispensation Register was recorded in Latin. It had less evidence about the couple than was in the church marriage register; the couple, 2nd cousins, had paid 5s. 6d. for a dispensation, but this was an administrative record, relevant to the diocese but not anything that might contribute to the family history narrative. A forensic examination of the Dispensation produced one vital extra piece of evidence – the couple’s townland address, not recorded in the Shrule marriage registers.

In family history the available evidence is so limited, its always worth cross-referencing all surviving evidence.


*(1) There is limited evidence that some applications survive in Catholic Diocese overseas.


By Fiona Fitzsimons

By Caitlin Bain


3 years ago

Hi Fiona that is very interesting as I Have a few Marriages where dispensations were granted. Is that information available ?
Tom Levins

3 years ago

Hi Tom,

You'll have to look at the individual parish to see if dispensation registers survive for it. The records developed organically, and it's not a case of "one size fits all." Hope this is of use. Fi

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