Dispensations of consanguinity were not, as a matter of course, supposed to be granted on a regular basis. However, amongst the Acadians and Scots of Prince Edward Island, they seem to have been fairly commonplace. But why were they so common in PEI marriage records? And why were they granted to such close degrees of relationships? The letter below, written at a fairly early stage in the colonization of the Island, will explain why.
Here is the portion of a letter sent from Father Angus Bernard MacEachern to the Monsignor de Canath which discusses the situation:
Maragomisch 20 Aug 1800
...But to come to myself, I am sorry to inform you, that I was in a very essential mistake respecting the Faculties that Mr. Jones had from the Bishop. For until the Abbé de Calonne arrived on our Island, I never doubted, but we might dispense in the 3d and 2d degree of consanguinity. Mr. Jones wrote to me, when I arrived on St, John's Island, in general terms, that he conferred on me all the faculties which the Bishop had imparted to himself. Every one of my predecessors dispensed in the 3d degree and in the 3d and 2d. And as our faculties must have flown from the same source I conceived I might act in similar cases, as they did. And since my arrival in these countries, I have married at least 20 couples in the 3d degree; and 3 couples in the 3d and 2d. I reported this matter to Mr. Jones last Spring, praying him, to make the same known to the Bishop. I wrote another letter to yourself about the beginning of last June, but which I found since was mislaid.
The French on Prince Edward Island, from a long series of intermarriages are, become almost, one family, and the Scots are much in the same way. Neither the one or other nation is fond of intermixing with strangers, but especially with those of other persuasions; which were the reasons that we judged better to dispense in the prohibited degrees, than allow other connexions, which would in the course of time be the cause of many perversions. I beg of you to have the goodness to lay these matters before the Bishop, who will determine as his superior wisdom will think most conducive to the Glory of God and the good of souls.
Microfilm F-976: Archives de l'Archidiocese de Québec, Série 310 CN Ile du Prince-Edouard, 1772-1869 (lettres des missionaires). Centre d'études acadiennes Anselme-Chiasson, Moncton, NB