Geoffs Genealogy Update 5 November 2014

Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | Geoff

By far the biggest event in the lives of my family during October – indeed, during the year – was the marriage of our son – Owen – to Nikki. This really was a fantastic day and evening at Rowton Castle Hotel, near Shrewsbury, and I’m sure that a good time was had by all who attended. It was so lovely to get together with relations, and meet some of Nikki and Owen’s friends in lovely surroundings, and the occasion and the wedding location made me reflect on marriage over the centuries.

Owen and Vikki’s was a civil marriage, which took place in an hotel, reflecting the fact that in recent years there has been a great increase in the variety of venues and venue types that are licensed marriage venues. Throughout the period 1600 to 1836, with the exception of a few years during the interregnum, marriages were required to be carried out in accordance with Canon law, laid down by the Church of England. This meant that marriage ceremonies had to be carried out by a minister of the Church of England. Yes, there were marriages carried out by dissenting ministers, but these were not recognised by the law and so, as Rebecca Probert explains in her excellent book Marriage Law for Genealogists, it was almost always the case that our ancestors in the period up to 1836 were married in the Church of England, even if they were non conformists.

The calling of Banns before marriage was introduced in the Church of England in 1604, with the alternative of marriage by Licence, but Probert emphasises that marriages were valid without banns or a licence, so long as they were carried out by a minister of the Church of England (Probert, p 76). Hence the growth in the number of so called clandestine marriages. During our research into the Bankes Pedigree we have found a number of examples of Clandestine marriages, for example John Price (abt 1720 – abt 1756) married Deborah Rand (abt 1722 – abt 1765) in London’s Fleet Prison in 1745.

Between 1653 and 1660, during the Interregnum, a system of civil marriage was in force. As you may imagine, this ruffled the feathers of many people who were committed to the Church, so there were also church marriages carried out. Although not recognised at the time, these marriages were recognised in law after the Restoration.

As most genealogists are probably aware, in 1753 Hardwicke’s Clandestine Marriages Act came into force, aimed at stopping the growing practice of clandestine marriage. This  legislation laid down that to be valid a marriage had to be celebrated by an Anglican minister in an Anglican church, after the calling of Banns or a Licence. There were also rules introduced that governed the records that needed to be kept, and these rules established the layout of the marriage records that we now use in our research.

In 1837 Civil Registration was introduced in England and Wales. Church of England clergymen were required to send a return of marriages in their church to their local registrar every three months, and the local registrar sent copies to the General Registrar. This resulted in the certificates and indexes that we use in our research today. In addition to this, the Act made it possible for people to marry in civil marriage ceremonies at register offices. This ceremony was shorn of the religious content, and thus offered Catholics and Non Conformists the option of marrying legally without going through a ceremony in the Church of England. Additionally, after 1837 a growing number of dissenting chapels and Catholic churches or chapels were licenced to carry our marriages.

Many of my Culshaw forebears were Catholics, but up to 1837, so far as I have been able to trace, they married in the Church of England. It is possible that, in keeping with a practice that was common prior to 1837, they had two weddings – one in the Catholic church and another in the Anglican church, but I have seen little evidence of that. It took me a number of years to trace the marriage of my  great grandparents John Culshaw (1855-1924) and Elizabeth Bennett (1853-1931), and I eventually found it in the local Civil Registration records, using the Lancashire BMD website. John and Elizabeth were both Catholics, and were married in 1875 at St Andrew’s Catholic Chapel in Leyland, Lancashire.

I have found time for one or two bits of treeing during the month, but most of October has been spent editing wedding photos and getting the autumn gardening done. I think I’ll save the bits of treeing news for next month’s post.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *