Catholic marriage records can be some of the most rewarding records while doing
Hispanic family history. Besides the common marriage ceremony performed by the parish
priest, there are other records that may not be known to the inexperienced researcher.
I would like to write on the pre-marriage investigation, marriage dispensations, and the marriage ceremony. For further reading on the topic see chapter 10 of Finding Your Hispanic Roots by George R. Ryskamp.
The pre-marriage investigation was designed to ensure that both the bride and groom met the church's requirements. In general these investigations (informaciones matrimoniales or diligencias matrimoniales) were recorded separately from the sacramental parish books. The investigation included proof of good standing in the church and written permission of the parents if the bride or groom were underage. If the groom was from another parish, then the admonitions were posted in his home parish. Canonical admonitions were read for three consecutive Sundays prior to the marriage. The admonitions were done to ensure that the couple did not have any impediments imposed by Catholic canon law. Some of these impediments included:
• Related within the fourth degree of consanguinity (blood) or affinity (marriage).
• Crimes such as adultery or homicide
• Another living spouse
• One party not a Catholic
If an impediment was found, then the couple desiring to marry had to be dispensed or forgiven by the bishop. The most common impediment found and most rewarding genealogically are the dispensations of consanguinity and/or affinity. These records are not found at the parish level. The diocesan bishop had the authority to grant a dispensation and these records were maintained at the diocesan level. The bride and groom were guilty of this impediment if they shared any ancestor within the fourth degree, or in other words, a common great-great-grandparent. These dispensations will explain exactly how the couple is related; giving you their lineages back to the common ancestor.
Finally, after going through the pre-marriage investigation and the dispensation (if necessary) the couple could finally get married. Here are some other key phrases to watch for:
"habiendo hecho las diligencias acostumbrados…" (Pre-marriage investigation).
"habiendo precidido las tres canónicas moniciones…" (usually followed by the three dates they were read).
"y no resultado/habiendo impedimento alguno" or "dispensa apostólica del cuarto grado de consanguinidad…"
"Desposé/casé y velé en facie ecclesia" (Sometimes the velación or blessing was done separately)
If you are searching for a marriage record, keep in mind that the couple usually married in the home parish (or resident parish) of the bride.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
Would you like to browse through our collection of GenWeekly articles written exclusively for Genealogy Today? Yes, take me there Would you like to keep up-to-date with the latest releases from Genealogy Today, along with news from a variety of other sources by receiving The Genealogy News (a FREE service) by email? Yes, sign me up Would you like to become a Genealogy Today member and be able to manage your research experience, post messages to forums, add comments to resources and much more? Yes, show me how Would you like to tap into our community of over 85,000 members by posting a query and get assistance breaking down your most difficult brickwalls? Yes, show me how Would you like to go shopping in a marketplace of over 700 items, including charts, scrapbooking materials, books and a variety of unique gifts and supplies? Yes, take me there