I originally wrote for this article for the Island Register. My thanks to Dave Hunter, owner of The Island Register, for allowing me to modify and integrate his original code rather than having to redo this all from scratch!
Attached below is a table that can be used to assist you in tracing dispensations of consanguinity. Other formats may be possible but this is the one that I use. It is fairly simple and consists of little more than filling in the blanks.
The table is first broken down into two columns, with the bride's ancestry listed on one side and the groom's on the other. It is also divided into several horizontal sections with one section for each generation, starting with the bride and groom, and working back as far as the great-great-grandparents. Since dispensations of consanguinity were never recorded for relationships more distant than the fourth degree (third cousins), this is as far back as we need to go using them (although it may help to go farther on occasion).
Within each generation, we then list out the known ancestors. The format I normally follow is to always start with the paternal line, and then do the maternal line. So, we list out the father and then the mother, followed by the paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, etc. This is similar to pedigree charts but in table form. It also helps to keep couples together within each generation.
The table will help to show the common ancestor(s) at the same point as listed in the dispensation. For example, a dispensation of the third degree on one sidewill show one common ancestor/couple within the section for great-grandparents. In other words, both the bride and the groom will share a common ancestor/couple at that generation. If the dispensation was third degree double, we will see two common ancestors/couples at that point. Or, if the dispensation was third to fourth degree, we will see that the common ancestor/couple will appear under the third generation (great-grandparents) in one column, and the fourth generation (great-great-grandparents) in the other.
When the lineages for either the bride or groom, or both, are incomplete, we may not be able to see the common ancestor(s)/couple(s) immediately. But, the dispensation will tell us at what point the two lines should intersect. It then becomes a question of thorough detective work to "fill in the blanks". Or, it becomes a process of elimination.
Hints for use:
- Remember that errors do exist in the marriage records, so the dispensation noted may not be correct. Use them carefully, and try to confirm the information they provide through other sources.
- Unless you are faced with illegitimacy, an adoption, or a change of name, you always know the surname for all paternal lineages. Surnames alone may not be sufficient information to work with on all occasions, but they do provide a good start.
- Always use the maiden name of female ancestors. The marriage dispensations do not differentiate between "whole" relationships and "half" relationships (However, "step" relationships are actually considered to be relationships of affinity rather than relationships of consanguinity). The point of intersection may actually be a single ancestor through two or more different marriages rather than a couple.
- Don't restrict your research to the couple in question. Dispensations granted to family members on either side may provide clues. If you don't have enough information to find the point of intersection for one couple, expand your search to include the tracing of dispensations granted to siblings, parents, children, grandchildren, etc. These collateral connections may help fill in some of the blanks, or overcome errors in some of the records.
- Obtain as much supporting information as you can for each generation involved. A dispensation of the fourth degree of consanguinity means that any one of 16 people could be the common ancestor. But, just because there is a John MacDonald for both the bride and groom at that point doesn't mean he is the common ancestor - perhaps there were two or more John MacDonalds in that area. What were the birth dates of the ancestors? Where did they live? When did they emigrate? The recurrence of common names is a problem that plagues researchers looking at Scottish, Irish, and Acadian families.
- This is as much a process of elimination as it is a matter of filling in the blanks. For example, if the bride is half-Acadian but the groom is 100% Scottish on all sides and only a generation or two since emigration, you can probably eliminate her Acadian ancestry from the picture without having to learn their names. That automatically cuts in half the number of people you have to watch for. Again, this is why the supporting information can become so important.
Table for Tracing Dispensations of Consanguinity
|Married Couple:||Dispensation recorded:|
1st Generation (Siblings - Common ancestor here requires dispensation to the 1st degree not permitted):
2nd Generation (First Cousins - Common ancestor here requires dispensation to the 2nd degree):
|Paternal Grandfather||Paternal Grandfather|
|Paternal Grandmother||Paternal Grandmother|
|Maternal Grandfather||Maternal Grandfather|
|Maternal Grandmother||Maternal Grandmother|
3rd Generation (Second Cousins - Common ancestor here requires dispensation to the 3rd degree):
|Paternal Grandfather's Father||Paternal Grandfather's Father|
|Paternal Grandfather's Mother||Paternal Grandfather's Mother|
|Paternal Grandmother's Father||Paternal Grandmother's Father|
|Paternal Grandmother's Mother||Paternal Grandmother's Mother|
|Maternal Grandfather's Father||Maternal Grandfather's Father|
|Maternal Grandfather's Mother||Maternal Grandfather's Mother|
|Maternal Grandmother's Father||Maternal Grandmother's Father|
|Maternal Grandmother's Mother||Maternal Grandmother's Mother|
4th Generation (Third Cousins - Common ancestor here requires dispensation to the 4th degree):
|Paternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandfather||Paternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandfather|
|Paternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandmother||Paternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandmother|
|Paternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandfather||Paternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandfather|
|Paternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandmother||Paternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandmother|
|Paternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandfather||Paternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandfather|
|Paternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandmother||Paternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandmother|
|Paternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandfather||Paternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandfather|
|Paternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandmother||Paternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandmother|
|Maternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandfather||Maternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandfather|
|Maternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandmother||Maternal Grandfather's Paternal Grandmother|
|Maternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandfather||Maternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandfather|
|Maternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandmother||Maternal Grandfather's Maternal Grandmother|
|Maternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandfather||Maternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandfather|
|Maternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandmother||Maternal Grandmother's Paternal Grandmother|
|Maternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandfather||Maternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandfather|
|Maternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandmother||Maternal Grandmother's Maternal Grandmother|