'Irish Roots' archive



Irish Roots


July 20 2015

Irregular marriages from 19th-century Dublin

One of the small pleasures of spending time rummaging through record systems is observing the ways in which they slowly deform under the weight of their own rules. Exceptions eventually begin to accumulate that even the most rational and well-designed guidelines can't anticipate.

With the General Register Office system, the exceptions began to accumulate very early on - late registrations, foreign births, army deaths abroad and my favourite, the Shultz marriage registers.

The Rev JGF Shultz was minister of the German Lutheran church in Poolbeg Street in Dublin from about 1806 until his death in 1839, and for those three decades was the best-known "couple-beggar" in the city, specialising in quick, irregular marriages, no questions asked.

From 1811, Shultz averaged more than one marriage every day, on some days managing as many as 15. He had a good stand. Poolbeg Street is conveniently situated on the quays: a fair number of these marriages were probably elopements.

Inheritance at the time depended on legitimacy, which in turn depended on the validity of the parents' marriage so, before long, Shultz's work was challenged in court. The marriages were found to be valid and in 1870, the GRO purchased his registers.

Along with the other exceptions, the so-called "minor registers", they are held at the current GRO HQ in Roscommon, not the research room in Dublin, and researching them has not been straightforward. Until now.

Henry McDowell, a stalwart of Irish genealogy for more than 50 years, uncovered a manuscript copy of the Shultz registers a few years back and has just published an edited (and indexed!) version - Irregular Marriages in Dublin Before 1837 (Dundalk, Dún Dealgan Press). Harry is launching the book at his splendid home, Celbridge Lodge, (entrance on Church Road, Celbridge, opposite the Grotto) between 5pm and 7.30pm on Saturday, July 25th.

Everyone is welcome. I'll certainly be there.

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