The Society of Genealogists
Boyd's Marriage Index 1538-1840 and Boyd's 1st Miscellaneous Series 1538-1775
Boyd's Marriage Index is an index to English marriages taken from copies of parish marriage registers, Bishops' Transcripts and marriage licences, for the period 1538 to 1840 (when statutory registration began). It was principally the work of Percival Boyd, MA, FSA, FSG (1866-1955) and his staff and volunteers. It was made at his expense between 1925 and 1955, and has since been expanded.
All English counties are covered. None are covered completely, although some, e.g., Cambridge, are almost complete. The periods indexed vary according to the copies of records which were readily available. Registers from over 4,300 parishes have been indexed, a total of over 7 million names. Well over a million of these names relate to the London and Middlesex areas.
The index is also particularly important to anyone researching Yorkshire or indeed East Anglian ancestry. Not only is the coverage here almost complete (over 95% of all the ancient parishes are included), but little of this data is available anywhere else (for example, the International Genealogical Index has very limited coverage of this area).
Index entries contain the first and last name of the bride and groom, the year, county and parish where the marriage took place, and source of the record (Bishops' Transcripts, marriage licences and banns).
Boyd's Marriage Index is the largest index of pre-1837 English marriages; however, it is estimated that only 15% of marriages for the period are included.Search Boyd's Marriage Index and 1st Misc Series now
The Index Series
The original 534 Index volumes held by the Society of Genealogists were divided into the following three series.
- Main Series - contains records for the following counties: Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devon, Durham, Essex, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Middlesex (includes Cities of London and Westminster), Norfolk, Northumberland, Shropshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Yorkshire. The County of London was not formed until 1888. London parishes formerly in Surrey and Kent, south of the River Thames, are included in the two Miscellaneous Series.
- First Miscellaneous Series - 1538-1775. This data includes over 1.4 million names that are not included in any of the separate county lists. The records in the First Series include the following counties: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Dorset, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Staffordshire, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire.
- Second Miscellaneous Series - 1538-1837. This series was typed by the Genealogical Society of Utah from miscellaneous slips prepared and bequeathed to them by Boyd. It contains marriages from all the English counties, including gaps left by the First Miscellaneous Series. This series is not available on findmypast.co.uk
Here you can see an example of a First Miscellaneous Series record - click on the image to enlarge it:
Most records have been captured from the Parish Registers; however, many have been captured from Bishops' Transcripts (BTs)*, and both sources have been used for some. Another major sources used in the index was published Marriage Licences*.
*Bishops' Transcripts: from 1598, English parishes had to send their bishop an annual list of baptisms, marriages and burials. Surviving Bishops' Transcripts are usually held at the relevant county or diocesan record office. Where the seat of the bishop is in a different county to the parish, the transcripts could be in either county.
Most records have been captured from the Parish Registers, although many have been captured from Bishops' Transcripts (BTs), and both sources have been used for some.
You may find two records for (apparently) the same event, one from the Parish Register and one from the BT. In theory a BT should contain a copy of what appears in the register; however, there are often variations in spellings, names, and dates and either source may contain additional information. Where names in the two records differ this may mean either:
- The names in the two sources are not quite identical. This could be due to a mistake having been made in the BT, a mistake in the register having been corrected in the BT, or that the person making the BT entry had difficulty reading the register entry.
- The names in the two sources were the same but the discrepancy is within the Boyd's Index. This could be because of an error in one or other of the Boyd's entries, an error in capturing the Boyd's entry, or that the person(s) creating the Boyd's entry read the original handwriting differently in the two source documents.
*Marriage Licences were issued by the Church's licencing authority, usually an Archbishop, Bishop or Archdeacon working within an Archdiocese, Diocese or Archdeaconry or Deanary. Valid for up to three months, a licence enabled the couple to marry without the requisite calling of banns on three consecutive Sundays and indicated the parish (or parishes) where the couple might marry. The licence itself was taken by the couple to the church where they were to marry.
The licencing authority retained the accompanying declarations known as bonds and allegations which certified that the marriage was to take place according to Church Law and that there were no reasons that the couple could not marry. It is these surviving bonds and allegations on local record offices that have been indexed and published. The bond or allegations might give supplementary information about the couple, such as their ages, parents or guardians who gave consent for the marriage and possible place of residence.
All Boyd's Marriage Index entries contain:
- First and last name of groom
- First and last name of bride
- Year of marriage
- County and parish of marriage
- Record source - Bishops' Transcript, marriage licence, banns
For example: 1607; COOK; MARY; PARMBY; NIC; CAMBRIDGE ST ANDREW GREAT; CAMBRIDGESHIRE
There are some idiosyncrasies in the way that first names are abbreviated and last names are spelled.
Common first names are often abbreviated; however, abbreviations used are not always consistent, e.g., Elizabeth may be abbreviated as ELZ or ELIZ or spelled out in full.
Last name group
In the original printed indexes some records have more than one name entered in the last name field, e.g., 1795; ACRED, ACRIT, ACRID, ACREED; JN; KATH; ABELL; DENBY
This may be because the name could have been spelt in different ways, or because the parish records had unclear spelling. Where there was an ambiguity in the spelling, Boyd recorded all variants. These variants have been put into last name groups.
In the example above ACRED, ACRIT, ACRID and ACREED make up one last name group.
Searching on any of the last names will find this record. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell which name from the group was the original name.
Boyd used a few last name spelling conventions, although not consistently, particularly for records after 1800. Variations in last name spellings should be looked at in detail. Conventions include:
Initial letters: to find last names with the initial letters in the left column below, try searching on last names beginning with the corresponding letter in the right column:
|Looking for||Search for names starting|
|TH* (H silent)||T|
* Spellings are generally 'normal' for records after 1800.
Silent final e is ignored: There are some anomalies, e.g., AIRE, but generally, if a last name exists with a variant which has an e on the end (such as COOKE), try dropping the e (enter COOK), e.g., enter CLARK instead of CLARKE and GREEN instead of GREENE, etc.
Double letters as single: e.g., WILSON will appear but not WILLSON. This may be confusing, since BENNETT and KELLETT do appear. Try the alternatives: if you don't find a spelling where there is a double consonant, try using a single.
X sometimes replaces cks: e.g., HIX not HICKS, COXON not COCKSON. But BRACKS, BROCKSHAW, BRUCKS, JACKSLEY, JACKSON, STOCKS are all present. Try both alternatives if you don't find the person you were looking for.
Ch sometimes replaces tch: e.g., HUCHINSON for HUTCHINSON, but BUTCHER, CATCHER appear. If you don't find a last name containing tch, try dropping the t.
I and y: where a name containing i has a variant with y, e.g., Bird and Byrd, y is used at the end of the name and i in the middle: e.g., GILES not GYLES, SMITH not SMYTH.
Last syllable: Names of more than one syllable are treated with some freedom:
- An, en, in, on, un
- Ar, er, or
- Field, field, feld
- Bourn, born, burn
- Wood, wode, ward
- Bridge, brig
- Ey, ye, y, ie
- El, al, ell, all, ale, le
- Ford, forth
- Son, sonn, sone, sonne, etc
Aliases and multiple last names
Some records contain alias last names or first names. Any of the variants can be searched on. The contents of the original record will be displayed in the miscellaneous field on the results page.
The alias name is indicated by either ALS, OR or by parentheses, e.g., the following record could be found under SHELDRAKE or ROWELL. If the search had been on SHELDRAKE the groom's last name would be shown as SHELDRAKE rather than ROWELL. The miscellaneous field at the end shows he was known by both last names:
1821; MEULEN; SUS VANDER; ROWELL; WM; MILTON; CAMBRIDGESHIRE; SUS VANDER & WM SHELDRAKE ALS ROWELL
In the record below, the bride's first name would be found under ELZ and FRANCES. If you had searched on ELZ the first name would be shown as ELZ rather than FRANCES. If you did not enter a first name you would get two records, but the miscellaneous field shows that they are the same event:
1722; HARLOCK; FRANCES; GOODJOHN; JN; CAMBRIDGE ST CLEMENT; CAMBRIDGESHIRE; ELZ ALS FRANCES & JN GOODJOHN
Out of county references
The original index volumes were divided mainly by county and contain records of marriages which took place within that county. They also include some 'out of county' records, marriages which took place in other counties but where bride and/or groom came from the Index county.
Searching a county, e.g., Cambridgeshire, will find records referring to Cambridgeshire parishes, and also some referring to parishes in other counties, often Middlesex and London.
For example, when searching Cambridgeshire, the following record might be displayed:
1711; RIGHT; ELZ; ABELL; WM; LONDON, ST BENET PAUL'S WHARF; MIDDLESEX
In this case, one or both parties came from Cambridgeshire.
Note: there may be just one or two out of county records for a parish.Search Boyd's Marriage Index and 1st Misc Series now