Religion has played an interesting role in my family’s life, particularly that of my father’s family. Mixed marriages were, up until recently, uncommon. Most people found their life partners amongst their own denomination, and often congregation. This is where most had their social networks, meeting with their community every Sunday, and participating in their church’s events, clubs and schools.
The Leitchs however were a bit of a rebel bunch. In researching them I at first assumed that they were Presbyterians, like many of their Scottish brethren (those raised in theLowlands). Perhaps it was foolish, but there you go. Big mistake. It appears that James Leitch (1789-1842?) was a Baptist. He was married as a Presbyterian to Jean Frew, but then disappears from the records, as do his children. I at first thought that the children were not baptised because of the expense of this was an impediment, but it could be that the family had since converted to the Baptist faith, and believed in adult baptism, so the children wouldn’t be baptised until much later. There was aBaptistChurchin Saltcoats, where they lived, in the period when the couple were having children. His son William on the census inOntarioand on his death certificate was listed as a Baptist also.
So what about this? Baptist churches were rare inUpper Canadain the mid nineteenth century. Baptists relied on circuit preachers who made their way in the wilds to various communities on a seasonal basis. This meant that they were often without the services of a minister, and had to rely on other faiths to fill the gap. Another consideration was the legal aspects of the church, and the legal recognition of the church in matters of marriage. The Presbyterian, Anglican and Catholic churches had the authority of the state to keep registers, registering baptisms, marriages and burials up until the mid nineteenth century.
Of the marriage records that I can find for James’ children, they married in the Presbyterian Church, and with the exception of William, were listed as Presbyterians in the census. William, his only son, was married to a Presbyterian, and their children were all Presbyterian as well. Interestingly, my great grandfather William Christopher was only baptised when he married, at a Presbyterian church inMontreal(1893). Even more interestingly, this was a marriage to a Roman Catholic. His sister Jane also married a Roman Catholic, Aeneas Macdonald.
Jane converted to Catholicism. William did not, and neither did his wife, Mary Jane convert to Presbyterianism. They both kept their own faith during their marriage, and because of it were buried in different cemeteries. Their children were raised Catholic, and the two who married, married Catholics. And then there was my dad, who was William’s grandson. He married an Anglican, mom, and their children were raised in her faith.
You can see a remarkable fluidity in the practice of faith, and the willingness to marry outside their faith. So the Leitchs in my line were, from 1800 to the present, as follows: Presbyterian, Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Anglican.