Tatum Frampton and Dr. George Ryskamp, History Department
In 1563, the Council of Trent exercised fundamental societal control by enforcing marriage laws within the Catholic church which outlined in detail the process of marriage. Every Catholic marriage required a pre-marriage investigation.1 This new structure forbade couples from marrying within the 4th degree of consanguinity (blood relation) or the 4th degree of affinity (by marriage), nor where there existed a previous betrothal, impotence, one party not a Catholic, or the inability to read the banns if the bride or groom was not from the same diocese, etc. A waiver to any impediment required the overseeing bishop of the diocese to appeal to the authority of the Pope.2 A study of why marriage waivers were requested and granted could reveal social and cultural implications of historical importance–particularly in the Basque countries of both France and Spain. The Basque people, known as the “mystery people” of Europe because of their unique language and archaeological history, were divided in 1512 between Spain and France down the Pyrenees mountain range.3 In 1539, through the Edict of Villers-Cotterets, all legal documents in France had to be written in French. A comprehensive analysis of marriage dispensation records has not been completed for the French Basque area.
Gathering marriage dispensation data throughout April-May 2017 provided further insight into the French Basque culture and allowed this data to add to a compilation and a broad comparative study of marriage dispensation records in other Catholic areas. Dr. George Ryskamp has previously gathered marriage dispensation data in dioceses in Spain, Italy, and in a few U.S. cities, including Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis, St. Augustine (Florida), Chicago, and Santa Fe, (New Mexico). All research conducted in France will be compiled into an online database, compared to research done in these other Catholic areas, and analyzed according to the various reasons for marriage impediments. It is hypothesized that there will be a big difference between those in Anglo-America and those of Southern Europe.
During Spring Semester 2017, I lived in Bayonne, France collecting genealogical data at the Department Archive (Archive Départementale) from marriage dispensations available and still accessible from the years 1775-1785. There was a fire in the early 20th century that effected the records available in Bayonne, France. The original case file, including all communications between the bishop and parish priest itself were destroyed, but the original parish entry stating that the marriage dispensation was approved still exists today. It states both the degree of relationship and/or the specific reason for the impediment. Unfortunately, like many other marriage dispensation records in Spain, it did not provide a drawing of the specific genealogical relationship, listing names and proceedings between the bishop and the couple. Luckily, for our research purpose, the parish entry available provided the necessary information for the project to be completed with accuracy.
The marriage dispensation entries were written in both French and Latin. Each entry that was for either consanguinity or affinity was written in Latin, while other reasons for dispensation were recorded in French. This data was extracted from the “Summary of Funds” (les Sommaire des Fonds), entitled “Ecclesiastical Insinuations of the Diocese of Bayonne: 1775-1785” (Insinuations ecclésiastiques du Diocese de Bayonne).4 An excel sheet was compiled with the following columns (labeled in French): Image #, Page, Year, Reason for Dispensation, Notes, Husband’s First Name, Husband Last Name, Occupation, Single or Widow, Place of Birth, Residing, Wife’s First Name, Wife’s Last Name, Single or Widow, Place of Birth, Residing, Husband’s Parents, Wife’s Parents. Not every dispensation entry included all of this information, but all information that was available was entered into the database. Particular attention was paid to why the dispensation occurred and any further notes regarding that. This information was collected in hopes that not only would the reason for the dispensation be useful to study the social and cultural climate during the 18th Century in Bayonne, France, but that the data might be helpful for genealogical purposes as well.
With over one hundred hours of research completed in the archive, 500 entries have been extracted and studied for further data in Bayonne, France alone. Additional research was completed by Dr. George Ryskamp and a few other students in the Diocesan Archives in Bilbao, Spain where original entries between the Bishop and the parish priest were available. It was discovered through this process that an overwhelming majority of marriage waivers were requested to remove the banns from being read in one or both of the parishes. Out of the 500 entries processed, only 56 entries were because of consanguinity and 11 for affinity. It is interesting to note that between 1775-1785 in Bayonne, it was more common for couples to marry those that were related to them by blood, rather than marry those who were related by marriage. It confirms historical research stating the close nature of Basque families. This statistical data is to be compared with other marriage dispensation extractions stated previously to do a comparative study about the marriage culture in the Catholic church during the 18th century.
1 Hayes, P.J. Impediments to Marriage in the Catholic Church. The North American Review. University of Northern Iowa. Vol. 180, No. 582 (May, 1905), pp. 765.
2 Lynch, William Albert. The Catholic marriage: A handbook. London: Corgi, 1968, p.17.
3 Bilbao, Jon and Douglass, William A, Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World, Reno, Nevada, University of Nevada Press, 1975, p.10.
4 Example of the 18th Century Latin Handwriting that was extracted for this project