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Parish records--primarily baptisms, marriages, and burials--are the best source of vital record information before the nineteenth century. Before Civil Registration began in 1837, key events in a person’s life were typically recorded by the Church rather than the State. Starting in the sixteenth century, parish records are some of the longest running records available.
About this Collection:
This data collection contains marriage records and marriage banns dating from 1754-1921 from more than 10,000 Church of England parish registers (including Bishop’s Transcripts) from parishes in the greater London area that have been deposited at London Metropolitan Archives and those formerly held by Guildhall Library Manuscripts section. A full list of the Church of England parishes in London can be found in the more help section. These have been arranged in two ways, alphabetically by name and alphabetically by modern London borough.
It should be noted that some churches continued to record marriages in composite registers after 1753 and therefore you should also check Baptism’s Marriages and Burials 1538-1812.
Bishop’s Transcripts are copies of the original registers which were made annually and sent to the Bishop. They are particularly useful where original records either do not survive or in the case of many of the churches in the City of Westminster, are not held by London Metropolitan Archives. Records are typically arranged in chronological order and contain the following information:
- Names of spouses
- Fathers’ names
- Marital condition
- Rank or profession
- Father’s rank or profession
- Marriage date or dates of publication of banns
- Marriage place (parish and county)
- Whether married by license or by banns
Some key dates for understanding the historical background of parish registers includes the following (bolded items apply particularly to marriages).
1538 – A mandate is issued requiring that every parish was to keep a register. Many parishes ignored this order. Only about 800 registers exist from this time period.
1643-1659 – Registers were poorly kept during the English Civil War and the Commonwealth period which followed, or abandoned altogether.
1711 – An order was made to the effect that all register pages were to be ruled and numbered. This was widely ignored.
1733 – The use of Latin in registers is prohibited.
1751 – Calendar reform. Prior to this the year commenced on 25th March, so any register entry for December 1750 would have been followed by January 1750.
1754 – Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act. A separate marriage register is enforced which records witnesses, signatures of all parties, occupation of groom and the residences of the couple marrying. It also enforced Banns and made clandestine marriages illegal.
1763 – Minimum age for marriage set at 16 (previously the Church accepted marriage of girls of 12 and boys of 14). Those under 21 still needed the consent of parents. On marriage records individuals that are over 21 often have their age listed as “full age” rather than an exact year.
1812 – George Rose’s Act. New pre-printed registers were to be used for separate baptism, marriage and burial registers as a way of standardizing records.
Couples were usually married in the bride’s parish. Until the early 20th century couples could marry at a very young age. Legally, the couple was required to be married either by banns or by license
If married by banns, the couple was required to announce or publish their intention to marry for three consecutive Sundays. If no one objected to the intended marriage, then the couple was allowed to marry. Just because banns were published does not guarantee the marriage actually took place. Therefore, it is possible to find a couple among the marriage banns, but not be able to find an actual marriage record for them.
Couples usually married by license if they didn’t want to wait the required three weeks for the publication of banns, or if the bride and groom lived in different dioceses. Marriage by license was also common with the upper class.
Specific source citations, including call and microfilm numbers, are provided on the record level for each entry. Information in this source citation indicates whether the record is from Parish Registers or Bishops Transcripts. A notation such as "transcript of marriages" indicates the record was taken from Bishops Transcripts.