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Thread: "consort"?

  1. #1
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    "consort"?

    Question: The cementary at X is very old, dating back to the early 1800's. On two or three of the old tombstones, it mentions a lady being a "consort" to one of the men. In these cases, the man also had a "wife" identified on a third tombstone. Does "consort" mean slave, or mistress?

    Answer: "The phrase consort of, when found on a wife’s tombstone, usually indicated that the husband was still living at the time of the woman’s death. (from http://www.motherbedford.com/GenBook94.htm)"

    Another related term is "relict," meaning that the woman was a widow at the time of her death. Not to be confused with the word RELIC! :-)

    Some of the older dictionaries, such as Webster's 1828, list other implications of that term, including companion or partner, but we find it very doubtful that a church cemetery would list a mistress relationship on a tombstone! Maybe the "other" wife was his first wife?"

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
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    Re: "consort"?

    I don't rightly know.

    There is a cemetary south of here with a large mid-19th century obliesk to Mr. "GotBucks" . Said pylon lists his accomplishments, elected offices and such like. To the immediate right is "Beloved Wife"-Lists her maiden name and married name birth, marriage , death, and names and DOB of the children from the marriage. To her right is Beloved Wife (#2)--lists maiden and married name, her birth, marriage, death and names and DOB of the children from the marriage. Mr. Gotbucks outlives both "Beloveds". Beloved # 1 has a slightly more ornate stone than Beloved #2. Both seemed to have died on the bearing of a 3rd or 4th child.

    To his left is a stone somewhat larger than both both Beloved Wives. Its title is "Beloved Consort" --Lists her maiden name, DOB, no marriage date, names and DOB of all children, who bear the same last name as Mr. GotBucks. Not surprisingly--she outlived Mr. GotBucks. Children's DOB preceed the marriage to Beloved Wife 1, continue through both marriages.

    My assumption has always been that this was a free woman of color. I have absolutely nothing to base that on, other than the cemetary lines were somewhat informally drawn in some of these smaller towns.
    Terre Lawson

    Wearing Grossly Out of Fashion Clothing Since 1958.

    ADVENTURE CALLS. Can you hear it? Come ON.

  3. #3
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    Re: "consort"?

    I've been wondering about the "consort" issue myself as there are several tombstones in Texas that state "consort"; some with another wife buried near some without. I have never seen the issue that as described with the possible mistress; I find that very interesting.
    Annette Bethke
    Austin TX
    Civil War Texas Civilian Living History
    www.txcwcivilian.org

  4. #4

    Re: "consort"?

    I made a point of asking our county historian this question when we came across a man in our Rose Hill Cemetery in Columbia, TN who had put 'consort of...' on his consort's grave marker. The county historian made a point of telling me in no uncertain terms that the lady in question was definitely the man's wife, that 'consort' was just another name for 'wife'. I can't remember if she was his first wife or whether the lady with the tombstone stating she was his wife was first. I think she died before the 'wife'.

    I know...this isn't half as interesting as Terre's overlapping time line with her man's consort. I wonder if all those folks show up on the tax rolls at the same time.

    Trish Hasenmueller

  5. #5
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    Re: "consort"?

    Well, lets take a run at this in a different light---that of a legitimate legal relationship, or at least one recognized by society.

    The title of "Prince Consort" is used today to indicate that Phillip is married to Queen Elizabeth II, but he is not entitled to be King in his own right. He doesn't have the bloodline for it.

    Now--back up the useage---I wonder, could this be a way of expressing marriage or other quasi-legal relationships between those of differing societal levels? I'm thinking especially of Alabama's traditionally strong interpretations of 'common law' marriage, where children of known unions whether formally legalized are not, and males especially inherited some sign of who their father was, either through land or a personal possession specifically given in will.
    Terre Lawson

    Wearing Grossly Out of Fashion Clothing Since 1958.

    ADVENTURE CALLS. Can you hear it? Come ON.

  6. #6
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    Re: "consort"?

    I am sure you are onto something there, Mrs. Lawson, but if a common law marriage was recognized as such, wouldn't that make his subsequent marriages bigamy?

    Also, of course a slave's children would have the same last names as their master, regardless of who was their actual father, wouldn't they? But those would not be listed on the tombstone, or would they?
    Last edited by amity; 03-09-2007 at 06:16 PM.

  7. #7
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    Re: "consort"?

    There are TWO different family plots in the cemetary up on the bluff at Grand Gulf, MS, that have CONSORTS buried in the same plot with the husband, wife and various children. I don't remember the names, but when I looked at the dates of the childrens births in one of them, it was quite clear that CONSORT in the particular situation mean't 'the other women' while the man was alive and married. The CONSORT died before the wife, yet is buried in the family plot.
    Ronnie Hull
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  8. #8
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    Re: "consort"?

    Great topic; been wondering myself for a few years.

    The old Methodist cememtary that is now on the grounds of the Atlanta Motor Speedway has a couple of "Consorts of [Joe Smith]" type monuments. The women on th markers have no last name listed, even though the women clearly listed as wives of the same men, buried together a little ways away, do have both maiden and married surnames...
    Lindsey Brown

  9. #9
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    Question Re: "consort"?

    Hallo!

    Anyone who spends time in an 19th or 18th century cemetery is going to find a number of "consorts."

    The more global usage today is for the husbands and wives of kings and queens or nobility. As shared, Prince Albert is Queen ELizabeth's "Prince Consort" because by marrying the queen does not make him king.
    Or when Prince of Wales Charles becomes king, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall becomes the Princess Consort.

    For a long time, I thought that "consort" was just a nicer way of saying "wife" on a grave stone. And I think it largely applies.
    However, it gets messy in some plots (no pun intended), and my unsupported theory is that it might be reference to the "wife" of a man who could not "remarry" after divorce such as an Anglican, etc., etc.

    "Common Law" marriage is just as "binding" as a "civil marriage," and takes a "divorce," "etc," to undo (although individual state's common law provisions do vary...)

    Curt
    In gleichem Schritt und Tritt, Curt Schmidt

    -Hard and sharp as flint...secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
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  10. #10
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    Re: "consort"?

    Has anyone (other than Trish's historian) checked census, marriage or other genealogical records to try to sort out the relationship among a husband buried with a wife and "consort" and children?

    One possible explanation for overlapping children--not that this would fit in every case--would be the following:

    Mary Smith and John Smith are happily married and bearing children at the same time that Jane Jones and William Jones are doing the same.

    John Smith and Jane Jones die. Mary Smith marries William Jones, who adopts her young children as his. John Smith is buried elsewhere, so you have a plot that includes William Jones, his wife (or relic) Mary, and his consort Jane, with William apparently fathering children by both of them at the same time.

    I'm just having trouble believing that virtually every old cemetery contains families where the wife allowed her husband's mistress to be buried beside him and publicly acknowledged as such. "Consort" may have been used that way in some cases, but I wonder if in other cases it was merely a decision to use an archaic term, and we're making more of it than they did, like trying to figure out why one letter is signed "your obedient servant" and another "sincerely," when the choice indicates neither servitude or sincerity, but is just one tradition vs. another.

    For fun, I put "consort of" and "cemetery" in google and went to the first hit, and was planning to research the result. I got "Col. David Hart..." and "Matilda Hart, consort of D. Hart..." in a Kentucky cemetery, but on the same page it already states they were married: "Col. David Hart - married Matilda Kemer, September 29, 1796. He was a member of the State Legislature from Fleming County in 1814-15-16 and was a veteran of the war of 1812." So apparently in this case consort was a synonym for wife.

    If anyone has an example from a local cemetery and wants to post it with full names and dates, especially if there are overlapping children or something odd, I wouldn't mind spending a few minutes in the census and online genealogical records to see what turns up.

    Hank Trent
    hanktrent@voyager.net

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