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Huguenot Genealogy - Finding Protestants in Notarial Records

Scrambled Dispensations Available



Is it useful, one asks, to make fine resources available but in such a mess as to madden anyone trying to use them? Apparently, the answer is in the affirmative if the resource in question is open to collaborative indexing, but we do sigh with a touch of regret. While we like the communal atmosphere of collaborative indexing -- it has the air of a sort of online quilting bee -- we do despair at the often appallingly slipshod and ignorant results. Bad indexing is, to be sure, worse than no indexing at all, and no indexing at all is a cruel torment.

So, with mixed sentiments, we announce the Departmental Archives of La Manche have put online a wonderful collection of nearly ten thousand Dispenses de Consanguinité for the diocese of Coutances (which did not include what is now the southern part of the department) dating from 1597 to 1803, in chronological order, without an index. To be fair, four partial indices to the collection exist on paper and may be viewed at the Departmental Archives:

  • an alphabetical list of parishes from 1597 to 1792
  • a chronological index of grooms' names from 1597 to 1792
  • an alphabetical list of grooms' names from 1722 to 1792
  • an alphabetical list of brides' names from 1722 to 1774

We are indebted to the blog of Guillaume de Morant for the information that the collection of dispensations on FamilySearch is the same as that of La Manche, in a slightly kinder presentation, as seen here.

As we explained in an earlier post, these are quite the tasty treat for the genealogist, showing extensive family relationships. Each case usually consists of a letter to the bishop from the couple, who nearly always were astonished to learn that they were related, requesting that, in spite of the relationship, he grant them permission to marry. There will be an authorizing note from their curate. There will then be an affidavit  from the curate, the couple, their relatives and any other witnesses, usually including a genealogical sketch as well. Finally, there will be the bishop's decision.

The key to finding anything in this collection is to have found already the marriage registration of the couple in question. If there were a dispensation, it should be noted in the register, giving the date. With that date, you can then search the dispensations with at least a hope of success. You may also wish to contribute to the indexing process but please, only if you are really good at it.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy