An 1854 Irish Wedding

I’m a little bit late on this article. Ideally, it would have been posted on the 170th anniversary of the wedding, last month.

On the 27th of February 1854, my immigrant ancestors, John Charles Keating and Julia Ann Hyland, were married in the Parish of Ballymore Eustace in Ireland by the Very Reverend James Rickard. Father Rickard supported St. Kevin’s in Hollywood in County Wicklow and the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Ballymore Eustace in what is now County Kildare. Given John and Julia were said to be from Ballymore Eustace, I feel comfortable in the belief that they were married at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Church of the Immaculate Conception in Ballymore Eustace. Courtesy of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (@niah_ireland [Instagram] or @NIAH_Ireland [Twitter]).

The 27th of February in 1854 was a Monday. An old wedding tradition says “Mondays for health, Tuesdays for wealth, Wednesdays the best day of all, Thursdays for losses, Fridays for crosses, and Saturday is no day at all!” Sundays, of course, were reserved for the Lord.

A listing of marriage records, starting in January of 1854, and ending in June of 1854. Of import to this article is the marriage record, dated 27 February 1854, of John Keating and Julia Hyland, with Michael Curran and Celia Franelly (sp?) as witnesses. The initials JR [Very Reverend James Rickard] are at the end of the line.
National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Irish Catholic Parish Registers; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 06481 / 07.

The register indicates that there were two nuptials on that day and then a long gap until 8 June. What made the end of February so popular, especially given the rather chilly average temperature of 34.66°F (1.48°C), and why was there a long gap before the next wedding? Looking deeper, I see similar gap for weddings in the preceding and succeeding years, although different dates in the spring. Looking at an old Catholic Liturgical Calendar for 1854, the 27th of February was only two days before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, 1 March 1854. The different dates in other years was because Lent moves around based on the lunar calendar.

According to an article on the website “Irish Culture and Customs“, a November 1563 church ruling (The Council of Trent’s 24th Session, focused on Matrimony?) prohibited marriage during Lent. The Irish apparently interpreted this as “If possible, get married just before Lent”, or during the Shrovetide period. My ancestors, being strong Catholics, chose to tie the knot on Shrove Monday. (Or Lundi Gras, to those of us who’ve lived in New Orleans… I wonder if they served King Cake at the reception?).

Shortly after their marriage, my ancestors left Ireland, and after a long, arduous journey arrived penniless in the United States in November of that same year. Due to the ravages of the Hunger and later evictions, the population loss in the area around Ballymore Eustace was immense. In 1862, Father Rickard wrote, “The following is a list of the names of the persons whose cabins have been levelled and who left the parish in the past fifteen years.” (Unfortunately, I haven’t found more than a short part of this list, but it does include at least one Hyland family.) A total of 271 houses were levelled as families were forced out of their homes, died of hunger or cholera, or moved abroad as my own family did. The loss to the Irish was unimaginable.

3 Replies to “An 1854 Irish Wedding”

  1. Looking back, it appears that you’re a descendent of Garrett Keaton and Hanna Jacques, parents of Nicholas Keating of Nova Scotia? Those names don’t tend to appear in my family tree, but perhaps in others?

    Do you have any male Keating family members who would be willing to take a Y-DNA test? This might provide a clue or a connection to other Keating researchers from the same bloodline.

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