Scandinavia Engagements and Marriages

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Engagements/Marriages[edit | edit source]

Some Scandanavian words for engagement and marriage are:

  • Danish — trolovede, ægteviede-- copulerede, vielse, bryllup
  • Norwegian — trolovelse, egteviede-- copulerede, gift, vielse
  • Swedish — lysninger lysning-- gift, vigda, giftermål, brudfolk, vigde, vigsel
  • Icelandic — trúlofast, hjónaband-- giftur, hjón, brudhjón
  • Finnish — kuulutetut-- vihityt, vihki

Engagement[edit | edit source]

In Scandinavia, the engagement comes from customs dating to the middle ages. Men representing both parties would meet with the couple and officially bind a them to be married. This engagement date is usually recorded in the early church records. Later the reading of the banns in church before marriage took place of the engagement. Either way the engagement or reading of the banns was the most important part of getting married-- the marriage was a follow-through.

The banns were supposed to be read at least three times before the actual marriage took place. Normally, this was taken care of in the church service or immediately before or after. Anyone who had reason to object to the marriage would have an opportunity to do so. Once the banns were formally read, a heavy fine usually had to be paid if the engagement was broken.

The engagement could take place any time from three weeks to up to two years before the actual marriage. Generally the couple was allowed to live together as man and wife after the formal engagement. This could result in the first child of the union coming shortly before or after the actual marriage was pronounced.

Separate records may have been kept of the banns or formal engagement. It was in this record that the names of the bondsmen or marriage witnesses were usually recorded. These were men who basically stated, via their signatures, that they knew of no reason why the couple could not and should not enter into the state of marriage. The bondsmen are the respective fathers, brothers, or uncles of the prospective bride and groom, so their names should also be recorded in your records.

The actual marriage date could just be an addendum to the side, at the bottom, or at the top of the formal banns or engagement record.

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Minimum marriage information would include a year and the first name of the groom and bride. Most records would also include a full date of marriage and the name of the place that each party lived immediately prior to the marriage. Though that residence name can be an excellent research clue and tool, particularly if it does happen to be the same name as the place you found your ancestor's birth or christening, that place cannot be presumed to be the birth place. It is the name of the place that they lived at the time that the marriage (or engagement) took place. Other information listed in the record could include birth dates, birth places, parents' names, names of the bondsmen or witnesses, reference to where the couple was going to live, if they had been vaccinated for smallpox or had it naturally, the dates the banns were read, the amount of bride's dowry paid, and the name of the officiating minister. All the pieces of information taken together help form the research picture for your ancestors.

As a general rule, the couple was married in the bride's home parish. Then if the groom was from elsewhere, he took her back to his home parish to live and have children. If the groom was a widower and had a home already established, the marriage occasionally took place in his home parish or sometimes in his home. The printed format in Denmark and Norway for a time asked whether the marriage took place in the home or in the church house.

Do not be shocked to find a young man marrying a much older woman. Many times, this was the only way to get to some land to work. In older time periods, if a female was widowed late in life and she did not re-marry quickly enough or wanted to choose someone closer to her own age whom the village leaders did not think could handle the work, she could be forced to marry a younger man.

If you were a young female, you might be pressured or could have the desire to marry a much older man of means. Then when he died, a younger man would come courting you in order to marry, and through that union he obtained land, or leasing rights to it, and whatever belonged to you.