In the third part of this series on using genealogical records for research we’ll look at marriages. Before 1837 only marriages conducted by the Church of England, Jews and Quakers were legally recognised. Prior to that date you may find records from the place of worship. The 1836 Marriage Act allowed for the ceremony in other registered places and formal registration began.
Records, like births and deaths, are held for the district where the ceremony took place. Each page reference usually covers two marriages. Therefore, when you search via the Free Births Marriages and Deaths or a subscription site you will have two possible partners for your subject. You may be able to cross-reference against other sources to determine which is correct. Otherwise you have to order the marriage certificate unless this has been digitised by the site. At present the GRO only provide postal, not electronic, copies of marriage certificates.
The marriage certificate will give you the marriage place and date, the names and ages of the couple, their marital condition, the occupation of the groom, the names of both fathers and their occupations, the address at the time of marriage, the celebrant and the names of witnesses. Be aware that ages and addresses may be inaccurate and incomplete.
Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper suspect encyclopedia published by RJ Parker in 2018.