Abstracts of marriage licenses and many original licenses from major London parishes are in this database. Information regarding places of origin and family members may sometimes be found in addition to the marriage date, location, and spouse’s name. As a general rule licenses were reserved for the wealthy or famous, allowing them to circumvent public announcements or Banns of their impending marriage (thus avoiding possible objections) and also allowing a quick marriage. Couples were usually married in the bride’s parish and could wed at a very young age until the early 20th century.
A series of mandates in the sixteenth century required clergy to compile records of baptisms, marriages, and burials within each parish. As the clergy were also obliged to send an annual copy to the bishop (called Bishop’s Transcripts) there are many parish records from this time. During England’s Civil War from 1642–1660 records were destroyed, lost, or never recorded. In 1837 civil registration, also known as General Registration, began recording births, deaths, and marriages on a country-wide level.
Important dates affecting marriage records:1751 – Calendar reform from Julian to Gregorian; 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; enforced a separate marriage register 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; required the use of new pre-printed registers for separate baptism, marriage and burial registers as a way of standardizing records.
Information in this database:
- Surname li>
- Residence li>
- Spouse’s name li>
- Spouse’s residence li>
- License date li>
Help preserve historical records for generations to come. Join the Ancestry World Archives Project, a collaborative effort involving thousands of people around the world keying digital records to make them free for everyone. Anyone can join, and you decide how much time you’ll contribute - as little as 15 minutes helps. Learn more.