A Vichy Régime Identity Card
The Effacement of La Grande Armée

When Your Ancestors Did Not Marry

St Roche marriage 1844
Over a year ago, we wrote about the paucity of marriages in the month of May. In the comments section for that post, some of you speculated as to why May was avoided, and we hazarded our own feeble little guess. The truth, via our energetic and kindly neighbour, Aurore, has been discovered at last.
In our modern lives, our activities revolve around our work calendar. We are free to do as we wish on weekends and holidays and, if you are French, during the month of August. Those are the times when we indulge in our leisure activities and, possibly planning a honeymoon during a holiday or vacation, it is close to those times that people tend to marry nowadays. It was not always so. Most people had neither leisure activities nor leisure time. For the majority, life was in some way tied to agricultural work and thus to the seasons. All else was governed by the Church.
It was the Church that discouraged marriage in May, for May is the month of the Virgin Mary. During the month of the Virgin, connubial bliss, we presume, particularly that of enthusiastic beginners, would have been bad for the couple's spiritual development. The four-day, eight-feast party that was most weddings even up to quite recently would not have been too good for the spiritual development of the rest of the family. 
For those of you trawling the online parish and civil registrations, reading page after page of ink-splattered, spidery scrawl, knowing to read May registrations last can save the eyes. Other times to save for last, as marriages were discouraged by the Church at those times as well, are:
  • Lent
  • Advent
  • Fridays
  • Saturdays


Lent and Advent are times of self-restraint in the Catholic Church. Friday was the day of the week on which Christ was crucified, so self-restraint was again required. Saturdays were when people were supposed to be confessing their sins and not committing them, so another day  of self-restraint.  Our Sixties Californian soul is beginning to twitch at these restraints.

Aurore has also informed us that, in the past, Tuesday was the best and therefore most common day for a marriage. She could not tell us why.  

So, read the registers for January to March and then June to November, saving April, May and December for last. Unless you have savant syndrome with a specialization in calendar calculating, it really is not worth trying to work out the days of the week, which are not always noted in register entries anyway.

.©2012 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy