WEEK 5 Order a marriage certificate
Confirm dates and relationships in your family tree by exploring civil registers
The civil registration of all marriages that took place in England and Wales from 1 July 1837 allows us to take our family history search back to the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, because the certificates provide the bride and groom’s fathers’ names and occupations, so you can join the dots back to the previous generation. If the father’s name was left blank this often signifies that person was born out of wedlock, in which case their surname was probably their mother’s maiden surname and their birth certificate is unlikely to disclose the father’s identity either.
Marriage certificates for England and Wales cost £9.25 and reveal whether either party had been previou sly married and widowed or divorced, t heir abode, and whether they were of ‘full age’ (over 21) or a mino or. In theory, anyone under th he age of 21 needed their pare ents’ consent to marry, so bo oys over 14 and girls as you ng as 12 could be wed. It was sn’t until 1929 that the age of consent was raised to 1 6. If you’re lucky, the bride e and groom’s exact ages s will be on the certificate e. All of this information should ultimately help you find more census returns and birth certificates. We often need to find a marriagee certificate once we’ve traced a couple as far b ack as we can using census returns, and want to narrow down the options ns to identify them on earlier censuses with their parents. The officiating minister at the ceremony was responsible for sending copies of the marriage register to the local superintendent registrar and also to the Registrar General every quarter, and the names were included in the General Register Office ( GRO)’s national index. The bride and groom’s names were entered in the index with the same registration district, volume and page numbers, and from 1912 the index shows the spouse’s surname to make finding the right entry easier. Online copies of the GRO index on freebmd.org.uk, thegenealogist.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk can be searched for people with matching registration details right back to 1837, which is particularly useful when you only knoww the bride’s first name. Bear in minnd that more than one couple usually share the same reference numbers because several marriagges appear on the same page in the register. As with any index, mistakes could have been mmade when it was coompiled, so if you can’t finnd a marriage in the GRO indeex then it’s worth having the loocal superintendent registrar’s index checked if you have some idea of where the marrriage took place. Some of thesee regional indexes have been partially digitised at ukbm md.org.uk/local_ bmd and ccopies of marriage certifi ficates can be ordered from tthe superintendent registr rar’s office. BeforeBefo paying to order any certificate, it’s always a good idea to checkhk whetherhh the Ancestry or Findmypast websites have already digitised the original marriage register. These sites have partnered with several County Record Offices to scan copies of a selection of Anglican, Catholic and Protestant nonconformist registers, so if your ancestors married in a Christian place of worship then there’s a chance that the copy of their marriage certificate filed in the church register is online.
Scotlandspeople.gov.uk holds digital copies of statutory marriage registers, which cover Scotland from when civil registration
A special constable and his bride pictured in 1915