Explanation of terms from the Ste Luce marriages

Banns of Marriage

As mentioned on the Ste Luce marriages page, the Catholic Church requires the publication of three banns of marriage prior to the ceremony itself. The records of marriage in the Ste.Luce parish registry note how many banns were published, how many were dispensed with, and on whose authority. At Ste.Luce dispensations from one or two banns were not uncommon.

As the record reproduced on the main marriages page shows, the Bishop of New Brunswick had granted to the parish priest authorization to grant dispensations from publication of one or two banns. This was authorized by the Bishop of Quebec or by the first Bishop of New Brunswick, Monseigneur William Dollard, who was located in Fredericton, and then in St. John, and who was Bishop until his death in 1851. His successor was Rev. Thomas Louis Connolly, who was in St.John and held that position from 1852 until 1859 when he became Archbishop of Halifax. The Diocese of New Brunswick was divided into two in May 1860, several months after Father Dionne's departure from Ste.Luce.

Below is information about Banns from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia's article on "Banns of Marriage".


The parish priest or his representative (vicar, curate) announces in an audible voice, usually before or after the sermon, for each of the contracting parties the baptismal and family name, names of parents, place of birth or residence, age, condition, (single or previously married, and according to the Roman Ritual, loc. cit., n.13, the name of the woman's former husband). It also should be stated whether the actual proclamation is the first, second, or third, and whether there will be a dispensation from further publications. The priest adds that a serious obligation rests on everyone to reveal to him any known impediment to the proposed marriage. The parish priest is expected to keep a record or register of all publications of banns made by him, also the certificates of publications made at his request in other parishes, the fact and consequences of which he is entitled to know.


Whoever is morally certain either by his own knowledge or through reliable persons, of an impediment (e.g. consanguinity, affinity, previous marriage) to an intended marriage, is conscience bound to reveal it to the parish priest of the contacting parties; it then becomes the duty of such parish priest to investigate the statement made to him (usually under oath) and decide to the character of the evidence; if a grave suspicion be aroused in him, he must refer the case to the bishop, who decides whether a dispensation can or cannot be granted. [...]


The Council of Trent allows the bishop to dispense with the publication of the banns, provided there be a sufficient reason; one such is indicated by the Council itself, i.e. fear of a malicious thwarting of the intended marriage. The vicar-general, vicar-capitular, and administrator of a diocese may also dispense from the banns. [...] The bishop may also allow the deans or the parish priests to dispense from one or two publications. [...] In all cases where the three publications are omitted, the contracting parties are regularly required to take the oath before the bishop (juramentum de statu libero) they are not previously betrothed or married, and that they know of no impediment to their marriage (Clement X, Cum Alias, 21 August, 1670; Ballerini-Palmieri, VI, 716-718).

By a decision of the Congregation of the Inquisition (8 August, 1900) the bishop may delegate to the parish priest the performance of this duty. [...] Dispensation from all the banns is regularly granted only for a very urgent reason; less weightily reasons suffice for a dispensation from two publications or from one. Among the reasons recognized by the law, other than that mentioned by the Council of Trent; are: notable difference of age, or condition of life; peril of the good name of either party; the approach of Advent or Lent, when marriage cannot be solemnized; notable temporal or spiritual detriment; imminent departure of the bride-groom; etc. [...]


Consanguinity means being related by blood. The Church considers it an impediment to marriage if two people are related by blood any closer than the fourth degree of consanguinity, that is, if they are third cousins or closer. Couples who were more closely related were able to marry, but only if they received a dispensation. Dispensation for third cousins was quite common, second cousins less so. Dispensations for first cousins were very rare, though there were a few.

In the Ste.Luce parish register the marriage records note whether the couple has received a dispensation from consanguinity, and if so, what the degree of consanguinity is.

Degrees of consanguinity in the parish record are often expressed like this: "dispensation from the third to third" or "third pure" (which means they are second cousins); "fourth to fourth" (third cousins); or "third to fourth" (second cousins once removed). For a chart that shows the relationships, see Worksheet for tracing dispensations of Consanguinity by Dan MacDonald on the Island Register website.

In a few cases, the relationships are described as "by affinity." This means the relationship is not by blood, but through marriage; thus a man is related to his wife's family by affinity rather than consanguinity. If his wife dies and he wishes to marry someone who is related to his late wife in the fourth degree or closer, he also needed a dispensation.

Consanguinity is a very useful piece of information to trace relationships and determine parentage. For example, I do not know the parents of one of my great-great-great grandfathers. But his daughter married someone to whom she was related in the 4th degree. I therefore know that one of her husband's great-grandparents was the sibling of one of her own great-grandparents. By tracing his family I should be able to find the ancestors of my great-great-great grandfather (since his wife was Scottish, I know that the relationship is on his side).

As with all information in the register, however, we should remember that the priest might have made a mistake, so it is good to search for other information to corroborate what you find in the parish register.

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Last revised 18 Mar 2006
©2006, C.Gagnon