Marriage licences at the Society of Genealogists

Marriages were carried out either by the reading of Banns or by issue of a Licence.  There were many reasons for using a Licence – need for a quick marriage (pregnancy, leaving for military duty), need for consent of parents, non-conformists not wishing to visit the CoE church for three weeks while the banns were read, wanting to get married around Easter (no banns were read during Lent) or  to demonstrate their status in society.  If the parish register entry or certificate states the marriage was by licence, it is worth finding the details of the marriage licence as it will often contain additional information over and above the marriage entry.

The marriage licences were granted by the church officials from archbishops down to ministers in ‘peculiar’ parishes.  The licence would normally be provided by an official who had jurisdiction over the parish the couple were planning to marry in or the parish both couples lived in.  In most cases, the actual marriage licence has been lost but the allegation and bond (up until 1823) required to allow the licence to be issued have usually survived. 

There are numerous indexes and calendars of Marriage Licences available at the SoG library.  The Vicar General and Faculty Office marriage licences allegations are indexed on SoG Data Online (and have also been provided to FindMyPast).  The Vicar General index covers the time period from 1694 to 1850 while the Faculty Office index covers the period from 1701 to 1850.  If you find a reference in the index, there are microfilm copies of the original allegations available at the SoG library.  If you visit the library, you can view and, if required, print or save a copy (for a small fee).  Alternatively you can request a copy via our copy service for a fee.

Additional marriage indexes and calendars available at SoG can be found on the catalogue by county by typing in ‘County REGISTERS’ (e.g. ‘Bedfordshire Registers’) and then choosing the ‘County - REGISTERS: MARRIAGE LICENCES’ option.  In addition it is worth searching ‘MARRIAGE LICENCES’.  These items are available to view at the SoG Library.

An example from the Faculty Office Index along with the parish register entry and the marriage licence allegation are below.  As can be seen, the marriage licence allegation has the additional information that the groom and bride were a widower and widow respectively.  This additional information could prove vital in confirming the identity of the parties.

Index entry from SoG Data Online

Entry from the parish register. Image produced with agreement from Find My Past. Westminster Archives @ brightsolid online publishing

Image of the marriage licence allegation from the SoG library collection


Amelia Bennett

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