The records provide the following information about the couples who married:
Names of bride and groom
Residence, where outside St George’s parish
Date of marriage
Depending upon the date and the individual record, the transcriptions may also give such information as race, marital condition before marriage, and social status or occupation.
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St George’s is the Anglican parish covering Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was always the most populous parish, and couples from the other parishes on the main island and from the outlying islands of the Grenadines occasionally married there also. Additionally, given the number of records from the island of Bequia, it seems possible that the incumbent of St George’s parish made periodic visits there to celebrate marriages.
The records begin in 1765, a couple of years after St Vincent was ceded by the French to the British in 1763. Many of the earliest records relate to persons with clearly French names, but with names recognisably of a British Isles origin gradually increasing in number. There was a dip in marriages during the period 1779-1783 when the island was briefly under French control.
The stratified social hierarchy is clear from the language used in the entries. Elite men generally were given the suffix Esquire, with the next tier of social class down being privileged with the prefix Mr. Those white settlers and their sons who were neither Esquire nor Mr were sometimes shown with an occupation but equally often without any further comment. These records are of significant Black history interest. Of those men marrying in the church, most were what would now be termed mixed race – in the language of the time, mostly “mulatto” or “mustee”; it is likely that “coloured” here also refers to mixed race. Black grooms per se are usually referred to as “negro”. The term “Carib” (spelt in different ways), which appears a few times, has a more specific meaning, although of course we do not know how accurately it was applied. A “Carib” or Garifuna had mixed Black African and indigenous Caribbean heritage.
Race is sometimes qualified by comment on status. The word “slave” does not appear. However, it’s common to see the word “free”, as in “free mulatto” or “free coloured man”. The same qualifying terms are used of brides, so you may see “coloured woman” or “free coloured woman”. While we can confidently state that the use of “free” means that the person was not enslaved, the absence of that word doesn’t mean the individual was not free. It is possible that slaves did not marry or were not allowed to marry in church, although they and their children were certainly baptised in this same church during this period.
There is only one marriage which is stated explicitly to have been between a white groom and a black bride (and none vice versa). This was the 1815 marriage of John Cleary and Anne Browne, which the clerk completing the register underlined significantly as "white man… coloured woman".
The records are also of interest for the large quantity of army men featuring in them. Although there are plenty of others, the most frequently occurring corps are the 37th Regt of Foot (from 1800 to 1802), the 53rd Regt (1797-1800) and the 90th Regt (1806-1814). There are also men from the Royal Artillery and, in the last years, the York Chasseurs or York Rangers (later disbanded in Quebec, Canada). Army rank is usually only given for commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers – if the register is silent, the rank of private should be inferred for the soldier.
Less information tends to be given for brides than for grooms. Marital condition (spinster or widow) may be given, and it is noticeable that at least 22% of the women marrying were widows (a proportion of the brides for whom no marital status is given were probably widows too). Generally speaking, other ranks could only marry with permission of their commanding officer. Army widows, as a prime source of available women, therefore often received proposals in short order from army bachelors or widowers and quickly remarried.
The register (which is composite, also containing baptisms and burials) seems to be a certified copy, like a bishop’s transcript, faithfully made from the original parish register. It is in the collection of the Saint Vincent National Archives.