Imagine, at that day and age

My 2x great grandparents, James Slater and Ellen Moynihan, gave birth to a son, James Slater, on 26 Sep 1887 in Boston. According to the records, James was a premature baby and never made it out of the hospital. He didn’t even survive 48 hours. I can’t imagine what that must feel like for a parent.

However, that unfortunate circumstance is not why I chose to write an article today. I’m writing because James Slater and Ellen Moynihan were not yet married in 1887 when they had their child. They were not married until October of the following year. Imagine, at that day and age, what their families must have said and felt. And I can only imagine the stares and glares from the neighbors. Though it is seemingly much more common (though I have zero data to back that up) now and also seemingly more accepted in our society (also, no data to back this up,) James P. and Ellen must have been the subject to quite a bit of gossip.

However, if there was any backlash or reprimand from their families and neighbors, it didn’t stop James and Ellen from building a family together. They got pregnant again in 1888 and this time their son, also named James, survived and lived at least until past the age of 50. But this renegade couple was only married for about one month in 1888, when James was born. They were married 28 Oct 1888 and James was born 24 Nov 1888. Obviously James and Ellen did not play by the rules.

I just wonder if there was any underlying reason for their delay in marriage? Their 1888 marriage records states that it was the first marriage for both, but what if one of them was married previously and they were waiting to get divorced or their spouse to die? Morbid and total conjecture on my part, but it does have me thinking.

James and Ellen may have spent another 11 years together as husband and wife, when James died in 1897 at the age of 33, but they did have four more children together, three of which survived childhood. One of which was my great grandmother Elizabeth Slater who died in 1982 at the age of 92.

Ellen went on to marry again and have more children, but her early life with James Slater now fascinates me. Like so many of the family members that I research, I keep finding interesting stories that get played out in paperwork and I try and connect the dots as best I can. Damn this is fun.


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