Data:Marriages First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, 1702-1746

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This is one of a series of studies of the accuracy of published transcriptions of genealogical data.
It was developed as part of the The Tapestry Project. See Index for a list of related articles.


Original Source: Marriage Records of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, now housed at the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia PA.
Derivative Source: Linn and Egle, 1880
Intermediate Source: USGenWeb Archives


Linn and Egle transcribed the marriage records of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, publishing them in 1880. This publication was in two volumes, the first of which covered the period 1702 to 1746, and the second from 1760 to 1803 (not examined here). The fourteen year gap is probably related to the "New Side-Old Side" schism that resulted in the separation of the congregation into two factions, workshipping in separate churches. The two churches were reunited about 1760.

Linn and Egle transcribed over 1700 marriages for the 1702 to 1746 period, providing data on the DOM, the husbands name, and the wife name. In some instances additional information is included, such as where the parties were living prior to marriage, but this is uncommon. A good transcription of these data is available at USGenWeb Archives, and is not repeated here. This article makes use of the Linn and Egle data presented in the USGenWebArchives to assess a number of questions concerning the marriages that occurred at this church, and also concerning the accuracy of the Linn and Egle transcriptions.


Linn and Egle provide data on the day, month, and year of marriage for 1700+ marriages. These data have been examined to determine the distribution of marriages through the course of a year during the 40+ years span of records contained in volume 1. The following table summarizes these results. The adjacent graphic display of these data is based on the average per month.

Month MarriagesSeasonal Graph
January 127Image:Seasonal Distribution of Marriages at First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, 1702-1746.jpg
Feb 143
mar 149
Apri 149
May 133
Jun 140
Jul 153
Aug 139
Sept 173
Oct 177
Nov 148
Dec 99
Total 1730

These data show two peaks in the seasonal distribution, a minor peak in February and March, and a major peak in September and October. There are also complementary troughs in the data as well; there's a minor trough in the June-July timeframe, and a major trough in December-January.

Today, we normally associate weddings with the month of June. These data, however, show that in the early 18th Century in Philadelphia, June was one of the least preferred months for marriage. We can't know the specific reasons why these couples seemed to prefer late winter and early fall for their marriage, but we can speculate. here are some possible factors that may have influenced when folks decided to get married. Most of these factors emphasize life-way considerations for people in a predominantly immigrant and agarian society.

Economically, harvest time of late summer-early fall is probably a period when people are the most hopeful, and their view of the future is the most positive. The crops were being brought in, and laid up for the winter, and you could tell then better than anytime what your prospects would be for the immediate future. All in all, in an agarian society, later summer and early fall would be a good time to marry.

For many, the promise of America was the opportunity to acquire land and become self sufficient. Children of earlier settlers, particularly the older children, would want to move on to take advantage of the available opportunities. New emigrants would need some time to get an understanding of what opportunities were available. In all cases, they had to solve a complex problem, weighing factors such as

"What lands are available?"
"What lands are secure?"
"What can I afford?"
"How far can I travel?"
"What do my kinsmen want to do?"
"When should we go?"

To my way of thinking that last question has a lot of implications for what we see in the seasonal cycle of marriages. From a purely mechanical point of view, you probably wanted to

Leave just after the fall harvest, when your overwinter supplies would be at their maximum.
Arrive before winter, so that you'd have time to clear land in preparation for planting spring crops.

Those two considerations alone would give you a very narrow period of time between when you could leave, and when you needed to arrive. Basically, if you were moving on, the time to go was October. And for young folk looking to marry, their marrying needed to be done before they left. Parents wanted to see their children successfully established before they left home, children wanted to choose now, when their choices were much better. From this perspective, its not surprizing to see a peak in marriages in September and October.

Annual Trend

A plot of the number of marriages recorded each year at the First Presbyterian Church shows a constant marriage rate over the first decade of the record. A typical year during this 1702-1714 period typically shows a half dozen marriages. This begins to change about 1717 when 16 marriages were performed. Thereafter, there is a steady increase in the marriage rate, until it peaks in 1745 at 140 marriages per year. While the overall trend is clearly upward, significant fluctuations can be noted in some years (marked in red). Drop-offs in marriages are particularly noteworthy in the years 1728, 1739, and 1746.

A portion of the weddings recorded at First Presbyterian during these years undoubtedly represent marriages between established members of the churches congregation. That is, some of the men and women being wed are probably the children of existing members of the congregation. However, the rapid increase after 1714 would probably reflect an influx of immigrants arriving in Philadelphia. In many cases it seems likely that these immigrants are preparing to move inland to take up newly available lands. Where they moved would depend greatly on when they arrived, and the lands available at the time they left the area. Thus, a couple wedding about 1716 might have to go no further than the outskirts of Philadelphia to find suitable land. Those arriving in the 1720's would have to go further afield, perhaps to the area that would become Lancaster County. Subsequent arrivals would have to travel successively further and further away from Philadelphia. It is hoped that eventually the data being collected on WeRelate can be used to evaluate where these couples eventually settled.

1702 7
1703 2
1704 7
1705 8
1706 2
1707 10
1708 9
1709 4
1710 5
1711 9
1712 6
1713 3
1714 3
1715 10
1716 3
1717 16
1718 16
1719 33
1720 19
1721 16
1722 14
1723 19
1724 24
1725 33
1726 36
1727 30
1728 15
1729 41
1730 37
1731 50
1732 56
1733 58
1734 71
1735 67
1736 77
1737 77
1738 68
1739 62
1740 70
1741 83
1742 104
1743 105
1744 140
1745 126
1746 95

Image:Annual Marriages First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, 1702-1746.jpg

Transcription Error

ForwardThese data were originally extracted from the First Presbyterian Church records by Linn and Egle and published about 1880. Their work was later transcribed by Optical Character Recognition software applied by Joe Patterson and proofread by Judy Banja. The resulting product was placed in th USGenWeb Archives.

The Patterson-Banja Transcriptions have been used for the current analysis. The original Linn and Egle transcriptions have not been directly examined. Their transcriptions used a double entry system common to transcriptions of marriage records. That is, they entered a complete set of marriage records first under the husbands surname, and second under the wife's surname. This facilitated "look-ups" in an era when electronic searching used to day was unknown. The net result of this approach was that each marriage record was entered twice, onece under the husband and once under the wife. A quick comparison of some of these records, looking at differences between entries for the husband and wife, suggested that Linn and Egle did NOT simply transcribe these records once, then reordered their initial transcription. Rather, they seem to have performed two entirely separate transcriptions, first for the husband, then for the wife. This approach allows us to make an assessment of the accuracy of their transcriptions. In theory, the entries under the husbands name should be identical to those under the wife's name, other than for the fact that the data sequence has been reordered.

Technically, since we are using the Patterson-Banja transcriptions of the original Linn and Egle Transcriptions, the end product includes both any errors made by Linn and Egle, and any subsequent errors made by Patterson-Banja. The resulting product presented in the USGenWebArchives undoubtedly contains a mixture of errors arising from both transcriptions. Nonetheless, the nature of the errors detected suggests that the Patterson-Banja transcription quite accurately reflects what was in the Linn-Egle transcription, and introduces very few errors on its own. To examine this point a side by side comparison of the two transcriptions would be needed. For the moment, we are assuming that any errors detected are most likely embedded in the original Linn-Egle Transcription.

Method This analysis was performed using a spread-sheet comparison of the records for husbands and wives contained in the Patterson-Banja Transcription. this involved several steps.

Converting the Patterson-Banja Transcriptions into a tab-delimited spreadsheet, separating out each data element provided (e.g., Husbands First and Last Name, Wife's First and Lasts name; date of marriage split into day of month, month, and year, year; other random data included in the data set, including parenthetical notes by Patterson-Banja, were ignored. Some standardization of punctionation was performed, such as removing 'periods' following abbreviations of given names, and where they appeared at the end of last names.
The separate entries under the husband and wife were aligned so that the two records would appear side by side.
The husbands given name as presented in the husband record was then compared to that found in the wife's record. This process was repeated for the Husbands last name, wife's given name, wife's last name, day of month, month, and year entries.
where differences in these seven variables were detected between the two sets of records, they were scored as "a difference".

Results The results obtained from this analysis are presented below, first for a comparison of names, then for dates.

Differences in the "Name Fields" for Husband and Wife Records
Husband Record Wife Record
Wife's Record Missing 12 Husbands Record Missing 0
Given and Surname 11 Given and Surname 8
Surname 93 Surname 95
Given name 37 Given name 59
No Difference 1577 No Difference 1556
Total 1730 Total 1730
Total Differences 142 Total Differences 166
Percent Differece 8.2% Percent Difference 9.6%

Differences in the "Date Fields" for Husband and Wife Records
Missing Spouse date 12
Day Only 27
Month Only 17
Year Only 19
Day Month 0
Month Year 67
Day Year 0
Day, Month, Year 8
All OK 1580
Total Records 1730
Total Differences150
Percent Differences 8.7%