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This question is related to the answer from @vervet to Seeking marriage record for James Slight and Elizabeth Boyd from late 1820s probably near Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland?

I am aware of a similar question that relates to Marriage Banns in England and Wales (What are Marriage Banns and how can I use them in my research?) but this one relates to Scotland.

On FreeREG there is record of banns for my 4th great grandparents James Slight and Elizabeth Boyd:

Banns read 15th, 22nd, and 29th March 1829 at Haddington Parish Church:
James Slight, of Haddington, and Elizabeth Boyd, of Haddington.
Witnessed by Thomas Boyd and William Slight.

If banns were read on these three dates, and in the absence of a marriage record, between those dates, and with three children being issue from the union according to the 1841 Census (see below), what is the most likely date for the marriage to have occurred?

  • 5 Apr 1829 (a week after the third reading)
  • 29 Mar 1829 (immediately after the third reading)
  • or something else?

Knowing what is typical for marriages around that time and place will be helpful, but I am also looking for evidence to support whether this appears to be a typical marriage around that time and place. The two witnesses appear to be the bride and groom's fathers. The absence of a marriage record seems odd but I have not yet looked into where the registers (separate?) of marriages and marriage banns (or images) can be accessed to rule out that it may still remain available somewhere to consult.


The 1841 Scotland Census has James (40; Mason J[ourneyman]), Elizabeth (40), Susan (11), William (9) and James (5) Slight living at Court Street, Haddington. Note: FindMyPast gives their surname as High - they seem to be missing from Ancestry)

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It may help to keep an open mind on this question, since the records in Scotland are not going to be as tidy and regular at this period as they might have been in a later period, especially when compared to post-civil-registration church records from south of the Border.

The section Proclamation and Banns from the article OPR Banns & Marriages at Scotland's People warns:

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. If the bride and groom lived in different parishes, the impending marriage was proclaimed in both parishes, although not necessarily on the same days, therefore the dates in each register may be different. You may also find that one register may show the proclamation date and the other the date of the marriage itself.

The next section in the article goes on to warn "Do not expect too much from OPR banns & marriages records."

Sometimes when a record is elusive, it helps to go back and do a general review of the history of the period and the geographical area, to lay a foundation for a broader search. In addition to the help at Scotland's People, there are some good resources at FamilySearch, including:

  • The Research Wiki's article Scotland Church Records
  • The British Isles team's online webinar Scotland Church Records, presented by Philip Dunn. You can preview the webinar by reading the handout. The webinar, and the earlier webinar in the series on Scotland Maps and Gazetteers, are especially helpful for information about how to search the surrounding parishes.
  • Graham and Emma Maxwell's site Scottish Indexes offers pointers to records found outside the Old Parish Registers, such as court records, Registers of Deeds, and other sources. As I write this, the only coverage for East Lothian is for Quaker records, but it's a site worth keeping an eye on, since they are adding new records all the time.
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    From memory, my relatives' marriages in Scotland - Dundee and Perthshire - are often only recorded as proclamations. In fact some just look like a record of payment for the proclamations. So I'd not be surprised to see no more than you have already. – AdrianB38 Sep 7 '15 at 8:07
  • @AdrianB38 was this comment for PolyGeo? – Jan Murphy Sep 7 '15 at 14:25
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Banns are usually read 3 times and the marriage usually takes place shortly after the 3rd reading (traditionally the following Saturday). Banns are read in both the bride and grooms parish (if they are not the same) and also in the parish in which they are to be married if different. So the wedding may have been Saturday 4th April or on any day up to 3 months after the banns reading.

I would check surrounding parishes for this period as there may have been a physical problem at the Haddington church that prevented the wedding taking place there.

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    Can you please provide a citation? Every source I can find suggests banns were read 3 times, as they were in England. – Harry Vervet Sep 5 '15 at 12:11
  • OOPS my bad going from memory (it seems to be failing more and more) you are correct 3 times is what is required. Edited my response above to reflect this. Sorry for any confusion caused. – Colin Sep 6 '15 at 6:39

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