Finding love in Ancestry.com’s weekend freebie

imageICYMI: Ancestry.com is offering free access to some of their featured UK records through midnight on Monday.

Even though most of the records which could be helpful to my research are either not accessible for free or just plain not there at all, I did manage to find one particular gem: a memorial copy of the Quaker marriage certificate for my 8th-great grandparents, Hannah Cullimore and William Watson, who married 22 Mar 1710/1711 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.

I already had the date of their marriage from another source and was searching for a baptismal record for Hannah Cullimore when I came across the scanned certificate in Ancestry’s England & Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage and Death Registers, 1578-1837.

It gives a good deal of information about the Quaker marriage process – first they announced their intentions to marry a month before they wed, next their intentions were published in the meetinghouse in case other Friends had just cause why they should not marry.

And then, the really romantic part…

In front of several fellow Friends, William and Hannah took each other by the hand and declared themselves as husband and wife, and ,while still holding hands, further promised to live together as husband and wife in love and faithfulness until death.

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The memorial Quaker marriage certificate for William Watson and hanah Cullimore describes their intimate wedding. [image from Ancestry.com]

Such an awwwwwwwwsome find, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I often wonder if my early ancestors were truly in love or if it was an arranged union (perhaps not so formal as if they were royals or from India, but more of a “he/she comes from a good family” or both families benefit kind of thing). Certainly there were likely many matches where being practical probably outweighed being enamored.

And how much input young women had back in the day on their prospective life partners depended quite a bit on their religion, culture and the times.

Early 18th-century Quakers held much more egalitarian beliefs than other religious groups of the same era.

This find is also Valentine’s Day perfect for another reason… a simple reminder, really, of the sanctity of my own marriage and its romantic start. After a week of domestic spats (exacerbated by lack of sleep from caring for a toddler sick with the stomach flu), it’s as if my ancestors knew I needed to reflect on this and shined a light from across the centuries.

My Dutch hubby and I had no intention of marrying – it wasn’t necessary to do so and be legally recognized as a couple in the Netherlands and neither one of us liked the idea of an officiant or institution to oversee our commitment to one another.

But I had always said that if I were to marry, it would have to happen in my home city, Philadelphia, where one can get wed under a Quaker marriage license, with no officiant nor church needed. I further said that if were it to happen, I wanted to married in front of the Robert Indiana Love sculpture in the city’s Love Park (officially, JFK Plaza).

So, on a visit to the States, my Dutchman proposed to me out of the blue and we exchanged promises of love hand-in-hand at sunrise in front of the Love sculpture. The wedding was witnessed by two friends who signed our Quaker marriage license.

As I write this, my husband is on photo-assignment in sub-freezing temperatures at Love Park (and wearing his wedding shirt!), capturing the final weekend of what is internationally known as a skateboarding mecca. For just a few days, a long standing ban on skateboarding in the park has been lifted. Afterwards, the park will undergo a major overhaul and the sculpture will be temporarily relocated.

But getting back to William and Hannah… the certificate is a great find because it also revealed new information that Hannah’s father, John Cullimore, was already deceased. And it confirmed something I had found out some time ago – that prior to marriage, William Watson was residing in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (as a groundskeeper of William Penn’s Pennsbury Manor). Hannah Cullimore is supposedly related by marriage to William Penn, but I have not yet learned how.  Hannah Callowhill Penn’s father, Thomas Callowhill signed as a witness to the marriage, but that’s not proof of any relationship.

Anyway, this weekend is a great one to take a moment to appreciate all the many forms of love in our lives that have taken us by the hand and to ruminate a bit on the multitude of romantic partnerships that ultimately brought us into existence. Happy V-Day!