Church of England Marriages
Both the British government and the church had an interest in record keeping, and a 1538 act of Parliament required ministers in the Church of England to record baptisms, marriages, and burials. In 1754, Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 went into effect, requiring a formal ceremony be performed by Anglican clergy in the parish of one of the participants following the publication of banns, or the procurement of a licence, and in the presence of two witnesses (there were exemptions for Jewish and Quaker marriages.) In1836 the Act for Registering Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England provided for the civil registration of marriages, and was effective from 1 July 1837.
Marriage Bonds and Allegations
Marriage by licence was an alternative to marriage by banns, usually because the couple wanted to marry quickly, or were under 21 years of age, or were not normally resident in the parish in which they intended to marry. Original licences rarely survive. Marriage bonds and allegations were the supporting papers completed by a prospective bridegroom to enable him to obtain a marriage licence. The existence of a marriage bond does not however mean that the marriage took place.
The marriage allegation was the document in which the groom alleged that there were no impediments to the marriage. They usually record names, ages, occupations, residences, condition (eg. bachelor, spinster) and the proposed location of the wedding.
The marriage bond set a financial penalty on the groom and his bondsman (often a friend or relative) in case the allegation should prove to be false. The penalty sum was set deliberately high to deter irregular marriages, but was only paid if the allegation was found to be false.
See the browse on the right to determine the years included in this collection.