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Expert advice - parish marriage records

As marriage records were often important documents for the couple it is suggested that when a marriage is recorded the information is usually quite accurate. That doesn"t mean that all couples married according the rules of the church or at the appropriate time or place.

As we have seen above, Hardwick"s Act was introduced to tighten up abuses that had been happening. It is always worth checking how the marriage took place, as extra information might be useful.

The banns book might record where either party were living if not of that parish. You will often see the abbreviation "otp" meaning of this parish noted in registers.

If the marriage was by licence, the allegation (a sworn statement by the couple alleging there be no impediment to the marriage) might give indication of age or parents if one of the parties was a minor (under 21).

Remember that until 1929 boys could marry at the age of 14 and girls at 12, provided permission was received from the parents.

Parents are seldom recorded in marriage registers but after 1754 witnesses must be noted and they may be family members and hence useful clues. Usually the marital status and place of residence of the bride and groom will only be noted after 1812.

Clandestine marriages


Marriages that took place clandestinely or irregularly, flouting church rules, are more difficult to track down.

Some parishes such as St James Dukes Place and Holy Trinity Minories in London or Dale Abbey in Derbyshire were notorious as irregular marrying places, either because the vicar behaved incorrectly, permitting marriages without banns or licence for example, or the area was exempt from ecclesiastical law.

The area around the Fleet Prison was infamous for disreputable parsons, often prisoners themselves, performing marriages of sorts. Some of these priests kept rough memoranda or notes on the ceremonies they performed and some 350,000 couples are recorded into the Fleet Registers now held in series RG7 (on film at the Family Record Centre).

Between 1653 and 1660 an attempt was made by Parliament to allow magistrates to perform marriages as a local "register" or registrar. These marriages may only be recorded in the parish register much later after the restoration of the monarchy when this unpopular measure was withdrawn