This data collection contains marriage records and marriage banns from Church of England parish registers deposited at the Library of Birmingham. p>
It should be noted that some churches continued to record marriages in composite registers after 1753 and therefore you should also check Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812.
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.