Marriage patterns in two Wiltshire parishes 1754-1914: geographical mobility, consanguinity and illegitimacy




Day, Cathy

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The aim of this project was to determine the birthplaces of spouses married in two parishes in England, how many married their relatives and how illegitimacy affected marital outcomes for all concerned. It considered the effect of religion and social class on the marital aspects of geographic mobility, consanguinity and illegitimacy. This project used a wide array of primary documentary sources that have recently become widely available to construct a database of over 22,000 individuals who lived in southwest Wiltshire in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The author arranged the individuals in family groups and traced pedigrees for several generations. Information was included on religious affiliation, occupation and other variables, enabling the researcher to consider aspects of marital choices. It quantified separately the level of geographical mobility, consanguinity and illegitimacy, and then was able to consider the linkages between these aspects of marriage patterns. Geographical mobility calculated from birthplace was higher than estimates derived from residence prior to marriage. Catholics were found to be more inbred than Anglicans, despite having a lower level of 1st cousin marriage. Social class influenced consanguinity, as did illegitimate reproductive experience and geographical mobility. Mothers of illegitimate children were less mobile than other women, and more likely to marry their cousins. Family experience, particularly that of siblings, influenced illegitimacy and consanguinity rates. The interactions between geographical mobility, consanguinity and illegitimacy were complex and acted differently depending on social class. Members of higher social classes such as farmers had greater geographical mobility and higher levels of consanguinity, whereas amongst labourers, consanguineous marriage was associated with lower levels of geographical mobility. There was an association between being the mother of an illegitimate child and consanguineous marriage, but only amongst the labouring class.



consanguinity, illegitimacy, geographical mobility, Wiltshire, England, cousin marriage, class differences, religion, occupation




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