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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Understanding Marriage Certificates (UK)

These can be frustrating, in that they may show "of full age" instead of the actual age for anyone over 21 (but this occasionally signified "over the age permissible": 12 for girls and 14 for boys until the Marriage Act of 1929, then set at 16 for both until 1969, now 18 for both - "minority" was still considered under age 21). If the age is given, it is simply what the couple reported, and their veracity may be influenced by their desire or by her condition. The fathers of the bride and groom are listed, but if one did not want father contacted... If the father was deceased, this may be noted, but lack of such an entry does not mean the father was alive. It is also safe to say that a high percentage of the brides were pregnant, so the first child might arrive only a few months after the wedding, if not already in a pram in the back room. Marriages that took place in non-conformist churches before 1898 had to be carried out in the presence of a civil registrar.

Starting in the last quarter of 1911, the GRO Indexes began to include both surnames.

A Marriage Certificate will contain the following information:

Date and place of the event
Names of the bride and groom
Ages of the bride and groom (see above)
Each spouse's "condition" (bachelor, spinster, widow, etc.)
Each person's rank or profession
The bride and groom's respective residences
The bride and groom's respective fathers' names
The fathers' ranks or professions
An indication of the form of the ceremony "after banns", etc.
The signatures (or marks) of the couple
the signatures (or marks) of two witnesses
Signature of officiating minister or registrar
If one of the fathers were deceased or retired, the registrar was supposed to note that, but it was a practice not uniformly followed.