Irregular and common-law marriages
Under earlier Scots law, there were three forms of "irregular marriage" which can be summarised as the agreement of the couple to be married and some form of witnessing or evidence of such. An irregular marriage could result from mutual agreement, by a public promise followed by consummation, or by cohabitation and repute. All but the last of these were abolished by the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1939, from 1 January 1940. Prior to this act, any citizen was able to witness a public promise. The tradition of eloping English couples searching for blacksmiths resulted legally from the fact that blacksmiths were necessarily citizens and could often be recognised by strangers by their presence at their forge.
A marriage by "cohabitation with repute" as it was known in Scots Law could still be formed; popularly described as "by habit and repute", with repute being the crucial element to be proved. In 2006, Scotland was the last European jurisdiction to abolish this old style common-law marriage or "marriage by cohabitation with repute", by the passing of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006.
Sometime due to this we have problems finding any marriage source, especially in the 1700 - 1840 period, unless the participants were within a parish,or members of the church and other times they just forgot to record the marriage. I have also come across a problem concerning the age of marriage, where it may be deemed legally that marrying age in Scotland was 16 when I was a youngster. I have found no data for any earlier ages. Could a girl be married at 13 for instance? Some may deem 13 to young for childbearing in a legal sense but common sense tells us this is not so, some girls can be earlier that others to mature.
I would like to hear any thoughts on this please.