Saturday, 23 March 2013

Finding a marriage certificate for your ancestors (post-1837)...

In 1837, the National Registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced to England and Wales so "technically" if your ancestor was born, married or died after 1837 there should be a record to find for your ancestors...although some ancestors will always remain elusive.

There are numerous ways of finding records for your ancestors but I will focus this blog entry on the resources I regularly use for finding a marriage certificate.

Finding a MARRIAGE certificate:
We will search for the marriage of my great, great, great grandparents Mary Jane Peacock and Charles Hair whose life is discussed on the Davidson page of this blog in Chapters 9 and 12.

The process is very similar as searching for a birth certificate (see previous blog post). You need to do some background research using the censuses or by talking to relatives to gain some information about the couple. 

1861 census return for the Hair family

From the above census page we know they were both born in the Hull area and are still living in the area after their marriage. Their eldest child was two years old so we can start by making a few assumptions - that they married in the Hull area and they married in approximately 1859 or before. If you search the 1851 census for Charles you will find he is living with his parents as single which tells us that they probably married between 1851 and 1859 and definitely between 1851 and 1861.

Again using the FreeBMD site you input the information you already know:

FreeBMD search for the marriage of Charles Hair and Mary Jane

NB You do not have to fill in all the details if you do not know them, eg her maiden name.

This search provides only one result:
  • Charles HAIR, Sept 1856, Sculcoates, Volume 9d, Page 243

If you click on the page number you can see the other names listed on the same page. In this example the other names on the same page are:
  • Robert George COOPER
  • Charles HAIR
  • Martha HAIR
  • Mary Jane PEACOCK

As you will notice it appears someone else with the same surname is listed on the same page of the register, there could be a few reasons for this:
  • co-incidence that someone with the same surname was the next to be married in the parish church
  • it could be a relative and they shared a wedding day

Looking into this further, it appears that Charles had a sister called Martha so it could be that they either shared a wedding day or that they married within a few weeks or one another and no-one else was married in the parish between their marriages.

To now order the certificate we go the General Register Office (GRO) website. Again if you have not already registered with the site you must do this and have your card details to hand to pay for the certificate. It costs £9.25 for a standard search in which the certificate could take a few weeks to come through or £23.40 for priority which would only take a few days. You would need the following information from the FreeBMD search to order the certificate:
  • Year of registration of marriage 1856
  • Either the groom or bride's surname at the time of the marriage (or both) HAIR or PEACOCK
  • Either the groom or bride's forename(s) (or both) Charles or Mary Jane
  • Quarter registered Sept
  • District name SCULCOATES
  • Volume number 9d
  • Page number 243

NB The surname has to be their surname at the time of their marriage which is not always their maiden name if she had previously been married and widowed.

A few weeks later your certificate arrives through the post...

Marriage certificate for Charles Hair and Mary Jane Peacock

This certificate tells us one of the witnesses was a Martha Hair, it would be interesting to order the other certificate listed on the same page one day to find out whether this is Charles' sister and whether they shared a wedding day. The certificate fills in a few more gaps in the information you may already have to aid your research back further into the past.

NB After 1912 the surname of the other party (bride or groom) is mentioned in the registration transcription of the marriage and makes finding your ancestors marriage a little easier.

Problems you may have in finding your ancestors:
  • name misspelt or variations of spellings
  • transcription errors
  • registered under a name which the person was not called regularly....nicknames or middle names were used as a first name
  • mixed up first names and surnames or middle and first names/surnames
  • the birth, marriage or death was not registered

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