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As if deciphering old records that were written, you suspect, with watered down ink and a nib that had seen better days was not hard enough, you often have the added complexity of them being written in Latin. It’s not quite as bad as you might imagine because in many cases the priest was just using a standard formula and filling in the blanks. Let’s have a look at an example that I saw in the marriage register for St Mary’s in Wigan, Lancashire:

1846 die decimo octavo menses Maii, null legitimo impedimento detecto, ego Carolus Middlehurst Missus. Apcus. Sancto Maria in oppido Wigan Jacobum Hall filium Georgii et Marie Hall de Staley Bridge et Annam Heaney filiam Nicolai et Judith Heaney de Wigan interrogavi, eorumque mutuo consensus habito, solemniter per verba de praesenti matrimonio conjunxi, praesentibus notis testibus Henrico Baron et Catherine Baron qui uterque habitat Wigan. 

By breaking this into smaller pieces, it is possible to understand what it is saying (with the help of Google Translate and my schoolboy Latin):

1846 die decimo octavo menses Maii The eighteenth day of May 1846 

null legitimo impedimento detecto no lawful impediment was detected

ego Carolus Middlehurst Apcus. Missus. Sancto Maria in oppido Wigan I Charles Middlehurst ? ? St Mary in the town of Wigan

Jacobum Hall filium Georgii et Marie Hall de Staley Bridge et Annam Heaney filiam Nicolai et Judith Heaney de Wigan James Hall, son of George and Mary Hall of Staley Bridge, and Anne, daughter of Nicholas Heaney and Judith Heaney of Wigan

interrogavi, eorumque mutuo consensus habito, solemniter per verba de praesenti matrimonio conjunxi I asked, and having their mutual consent, solemnly united by words of marriage

praesentibus notis  testibus Henrico Baron et Catherine Baron qui uterque habitat Wigan the presence of witnesses Henry Baron and Catherine Baron, who both live in Wigan.

Slightly odd wording but it is clear what is being said. We can see the names of the bride and groom, their parents and where they were from, the names of the witnesses and where they were from. I don’t understand Apcus. Missus., it looks as though both words are abbreviations but it doesn’t seem too important at this point.

When Christian names are written in Latin it is not always clear what the English equivalent is. For example Jacobum (accusative form of Jacobus) can mean Jacob or James, cross checking with census records will resolve this.

It’s a good idea to look through the whole register – if it is a printed register then it might contain an example of the format that the priest was supposed to use, which can be a help when deciphering badly written words.  For the St Mary’s register it also shows the formula to be used for dispensations obtenta per Reverendissimum Dominum A. B. Vicarium Apostolicum hujus Districtus dispensatione ab impedimento primi (vel secundi &c.) gradus consanguinitatis (aut affinitatis seu alio quovis impedimento) which translates as obtained by the Most Reverend Lord A. B., Vicar Apostolic of this district was a dispensation from the impediment of the first (or second etc.) degree of consanguinity (or affinity or any other impediment)

A further example was added to say that when a dispensation was granted by virtue of their missionary faculties the priest was to insert data per me dispensatione ab impedimento… given by me a dispensation from the impediment of…

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