The Story so Far

We are now six months in to the project and have constructed substantial databases of family structures over the period 1861, 1881 and 1911 for our focus areas, which include parishes in the North East, the South West and the North West.  We are supplementing the census figures with information drawn from Poor Law applications which give much more detailed information on family structures that is often omitted from the census schedules. Surprisingly, we have found that the class composition of applicants mirrors the general population with representations from the unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and even some lower middle-class applicants.  So we will also use the Poor Law applications as a proxy for the census which is available only until 1911.

Census Database

At the same time as the family structure research, we have been looking at irregular/informal marriage.  Scotland was virtually unique in Europe in recognising three forms of irregular marriage as legally valid until 1939, and in the case of marriage with habit and repute, until 2006.  We will shortly have a podcast on the website discussing official attitudes to irregular marriage and popular practice. So do please check back soon (if you follow us on Twitter @WCMScotland you will receive notifications of when our latest blog goes live).

Our findings have been presented to the SSH conference in Vancouver, the Centre for Gender History at Glasgow and at the Economic and Social History seminar series in the School of Political and Social Sciences. There will also be an article on irregular marriage published in one of the leading international social history journals:

 Gordon, E (2013) ‘Irregular Marriage: Myth and Reality’, Journal of Social History, 47 (2)

We have been discussing our plans for presenting a panel at the joint Women’s History Network /International Federation for Research on Women’s History in Sheffield at the end of August.  The theme of the conference: the Local and the Global fits very well with our research on the impact of war on family structure, marriage, marriage breakup and cohabitation.  It seems appropriate that the project team attend this conference as the journal, Gender & History will be hosting a reception to celebrate its 25th anniversary.  The Journal is edited here at Glasgow by three of the members of the Centre for Gender History and is one of a number of projects that members of the Centre are involved in. For further details of the Centre, its staff and research scope please feel free to visit the website.

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