Post 1754 marriage registers, what can be gleaned from them?
Following Hardwick’s Marriage Act, the year 1754 saw the introduction of a pre-printed register for marriages.
From this date all marriages had to be by Banns or licence and take place in a consecrated building (up until 1837).
The only exceptions to this were Jewish and Quaker marriages.
- A requirement for banns of marriage was introduced to England and Wales by the Church in 1215. However a failure to call Banns did not invalidate a marriage.
- Marriage licenses were introduced in the 14th century, to allow the usual notice period under banns to be waived, on payment of a fee and accompanied by a sworn declaration, that there was no canonical impediment to the marriage.
- Licenses were usually granted by an archbishop, bishop or archdeacon and such documents would be kept in the parish chest
- There could be a number of reasons for a couple to obtain a license: they might wish to marry quickly, they might wish to marry in a parish away from their home parish or because a license required payment, they might use this to show their social status.
- There were two kinds of marriage licenses that could be issued: the usual was known as a common license and named one or two parishes where the wedding could take place, within the jurisdiction of the person who issued the license.
- The other was the special license, which could only be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury or his officials and allowed the marriage to take place in any church.
To obtain a marriage license, the couple or more usually the bridegroom, had to swear that there was no just cause or impediment why they should not marry.
This was the marriage allegation.
- A bond was also lodged with the church authorities for a sum of money to be paid if it turned out that the marriage was contrary to Canon Law.
- The bishop kept the allegation and bond and issued the license to the groom, who then gave it to the vicar of the church, where they were to get married.
- There was no obligation, for the vicar to keep the license and many were simply destroyed.
- Hence, few historical examples of marriage licenses, in England and Wales, survive.
- However, the allegations and bonds were usually retained and are an important source for English genealogy.
Most marriages at this time were by Banns.
- Banns had to be read on three consecutive Sundays in the parishes of both the bride and the groom so that any objections to the marriage could be made, i.e that either of the couple was a minor, siblings or already married. It was assumed that people who lived close to them would know them best!
- These Banns were then entered into a register, sometimes separate, sometimes a combined Banns and marriage register.
- The marriage would then take place in one of these parishes.
Some recording problems may arise here in the parish where the marriage did not take place, a combined register may have the name of the proposed bride and groom and then the recorder has entered the details of another couple in the marriage section.
So what to look out for in Banns or licence documents?
The red arrow indicates the parish for the groom. The marriage for these two had been hard to pin down before finding the Banns because the marriage had taken place not in London but in Barbados, so it proved very useful.
Check both parishes for the marriage. You may have thought the couple were both from the same parish, the Banns notice will confirm or deny this and the two parishes can be checked for a marriage.
The marriage record itself, gave the name of the bride and groom, their status, spinster, bachelor, widowed, the date, incumbent, signatures and witnesses.
Witnesses are useful for giving hints at other family connections which may not have been previously known about.