Consanguinity in marriages is a useful tool for establishing relationships in your family tree. It is a note featured in many catholic marriages in the Caribbean. The further back in time the more marital dispensations you will find being handed out for consanguinity. This was done as closely related people through blood or a previous spouse could not get married without a dispensation.

Couples marrying were restricted from engaging in first degree blood relationship: father/daughter, mother/son and generally first with second degree relationships: uncle/niece, aunt/nephew. In my research, the only marriage I found with first degree consanguinity was the marriage of Ramón Valerio de León to Águeda Tavares López with a first with fourth degree relationship (Ramón was the brother of Águeda’s great grandmother). With the extreme gap in generations it seems that to be legally married in this way was an uncommon yet possible occurrence.

Second degree, or first cousin, relationships are common as individuals have married cousins for seemingly most of human history. An unequal relationship of second with third or fourth may make the relationship harder to locate if adequate generations are missing. Third degree, second cousin, relationships are also common along with third with fourth degree. Fourth degree, third cousin, relationships are the most distant point of requiring a marital dispensation. After this point a couple did not need any official document establishing kinship to be married. Some couples who knew they were related but were not sure who their most recent common ancestor was would opt to declare themselves as having fourth degree consanguinity.

Affinity was also considered when needing a dispensation. Affinity comes from ancient roman law adapted to Roman Catholicism where a married couple though not having a blood relation created a bond that was equivalent. If a woman was widowed from her first husband and opted to marry a first cousin of his, the marriage would have second degree affinity.

Not all marriages received dispensations even when other documentation indicates they share a recent common ancestor. It must be noted that people have lied throughout history which may explain the lack of some couples receiving dispensations. Avoiding the process and scrutiny of an ecclesiastical order interfering with who you can marry would have been grounds for many to not bother with the process. Endogamy, the practice of marrying within one's group, as a part of the culture was something our ancestors accepted and lived with. In those times their communities were small and maintaining close relationships with your neighbors might have been the difference between life and death. From a modern perspective these practices may be obscene and taboo, but it was our ancestors’ way of life.

To explore some dispensations you can visit this page. The majority of the records are from the Dominican Republic with a select number of Puerto Rican dispensations from San Germán.