Genealogists rely on records to research their family history. Sometimes, however, the records don't tell the whole story. The old parish register (OPR) for Old Machar parish in Aberdeen, includes a marriage entry for William Watson and Janet Gibb on 4 August 1839. Anyone researching that record would likely assume that William and Janet were married. (Even though it is widely understood that many OPR marriage registers record the publication of banns rather than weddings per se.)
However, an entry in the Kirk Session minutes for Old Machar on 2 December 1839 (NRS reference:: CH2/1020/17) tells a different story:
Compeared Janet Gibb unmarried residing in Old Aberdeen, confessing that she had brought forth a child in uncleanness, eleven weeks ago, and accusing William Watson an unmarried man formerly gardener at Causewayend & now in Yorkshire as the father. She at the same time produced a certificate of having been thrice proclaimed in the Church of Old Machar in the month of August last in order to marriage, and stated that the same week in which they were to have been married, William Watson absconded. The elders stated that they were partly acquainted with this case and that they believed the statement now made by Janet Gibb, and that in fact the only doubt they entertained on the subject was whether in the eye of the Law, the man was not considered as her husband. The elders reported favourably in other respects of the woman and the Kirk Session resolved to restore her to Church privileges. She was accordingly admonished and dismissed from censure.
So worth bearing in mind: you should always understand the nature of the record you're researching to make sure you don't make unwarranted assumptions.
Genealogy and Family History - A mix of our news, curious and intriguing discoveries. Research hints and resources to grow your family tree in Scotland from our team.