When I began researching 19th century Merediths in Lancaster and Northumberland Counties (VA) I was frustrated by the dearth of marriage records for some family members. For people of some financial means they seemed cavalier about marrying according to the laws of Virginia. And then I found this letter.
Transcription of Letter from Thomas Meredith to Revd. Mr. Dzeroyinski at Georgetown, 16 Sept 1830. (Collection: Maryland Province Archives, 62:16., Georgetown University Library, Washington, DC)
Baltimore Sept. 16. 1830
The Archbishop has informed me of your kindness in so promptly consenting to Revd. Mr Du Buson’s visiting Lancaster County in Virginia, my native place, to perform the marriage ceremony for my niece, when at the same time I hope an opportunity will be afforded him of doing much good by explaining the Catholic doctrines & preaching a few sermons for them – The Revd Father Besithe (sp?) told me he expected Revd Mr. DuB. would be in Geo Town by the latter part of last week, but the archbishop informed me he had not come, on Sunday last & you had written for him. My niece is living with an elder brother of mine, who has not informed when the marriage is to take place, by his last letter he intimated that he was making arrangements to come to Balto. not knowing that a Priest could go down, if that arrangement has not been concluded before my letter informing him of Revd Mr DuB’s willingness to go, reaches him, I think it will take place at his house on 30th [NW or possibly Nov.]. You will lay me under an additional obligation if you will be so kind as to inform me of the arrival of Revd. Mr DuB. at Geo. Town as soon as is [ou???] or ask him to do it, that I may address him on the sugject so soon as I get decisive information from my brother. In the mean time would inform him that the Steam Boat leaves Baltimore on Wednesday at 10 oclk A.M. & arrives at my brother’s before sunrise on thursday morning. If the marriage should take place on thursday evening would that be allowing him time enough before the ceremony?
Thanking you very sincerely for your kindness in so eadily granting me the great favor asked & begging that you will excuse me for troubling now. I am Revd. & Dear Sirs with the highest respect & veneration
Your obliged & able servt
Transcription of letter in reply.
GeorgeTown College Sept. 18th 1830
I received yesterday your of 16th[??] Last week I wrote to Father Dubuisson who is [?????] at [????]town [??] St. Marys County to go to Baltimore to see you and arrange every thing respecting the marriage in question. He will probably see you this week. Should you receive an answer from your Brother before he sees you, you can direct him accordingly. I am glad to be serviceable to you in any way as you are so zealous in promoting the greater glory of God.
Far from cavalier, they were Catholic. Though legally allowed to practice their faith following Jefferson's 1786 Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, they had no pastor or church available. A Catholic church was not established in Lancaster County until 1885 when a Meredith descendent donated land in Kilmarnock. I have since found some of their marriage records in Maryland and Washington, DC. And it seems some marriages may have been performed by visiting priests and never recorded in Virginia. Now if I could only identify the mystery bride...