Swansea Family History
Swansea Family History 

Marriage Certificates

We have to look back to 1753 with the introduction of the Marraige Act - or its full "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marraige", which was popular known as Lord Hardwick's Marraige Act.  This Act meant that all marraige in England and Wales had to be legal.  The Act came into being on March 25th 1754.  Before the Act, the legal requirements for a valid marriage had to be governed by the cannon law of the Church of England.  This stipulated that banns should be called or a marriage license obtained 

This Act was replaced by the Marraige Act 1836, which allowed people to get marriage in other denominations as well as Church of England in England and Wales commencing from Janaury 1st 1837.


July 1st 1837 markes the start of civil registry in England and Wales


The information that is provided by the marriage records the namrd of thre bridge, Ann Williams, Spinister, and groom David Francis, Batchelor, that they lived in the Parish of St. Marys

Banns of Marraige are the public announcement of an impending marraige between two specified person.  They are usually read out three consectutive weeks before the marraige.


Marraige Licenses were introduced in England and Wales in 1215.  A License could be granted by an archbishop, bishop or archdeacon on payment of a fee, this waived the notice period set out by the banns.  The reasons for a license to be obtainesd may be the parties want to get married quickly, or marry from a parish away from home.

Above is the 'first' marriage in Swansea that had to have a certificate.  The marriage was of George Thomas and Sophia Hardy, taking place at St. Mary's Church, Swansea which took plae on July 3rd 1837.  We can see what further information is provided


Full Age means that both parties were over the age of 21.  We can see that Sophia Hardy couldn't write so she left her mark

I purchased the marraige certificate (see certificate below) of Henrietta Letitia Vivian and her groom Clement Walker Heneage (see pic right).  It was only after some research that I found out that Clement Walker Heneage was awarded a Victoria Cross at the Indian Mutiny, 1858.  The marriage was under a License

What information can be found can be found from their certificate?


1. Where Married.  In our example December 7th 1865


2. Name and Surname.  The names given by the bride and groom at the time of the marriage.  In our example Clement Walker Heneage and Henrietta Letitia Victoria Vivian


3. Age.  The age given by the bridge and groom 'Of full age' means that they were both over 21.  Wth  further research we can find out that they were 34 and 28 respectively


4. Condition.  This shows the martial statues of the parties 'Batchelor' or 'Spinster' was used for those who were not married before, which is in our example.  Other cases could be 'marriage disolved' or 'widower/widow'


5. Rank or Profession.  Don't assumed a woman didn't earn money if there is a line next to her name.  It was common to find only a groom's occupation.  In our example Walker Heneage's occupation is stated as Major, 8th Hussars


6.  Residence.  The address given can be misleading as some couple used temporary addresses to qualify for marraige in that parsh.  In our example the address is given as Singleton, this was Vivian's address.  Walker Henerage had come from Compton Bassett, Wiltshire


7.  Father's Name and Profession.  Those details are vital for checking for the right certificate.  No name would suggest illegitimacy.  In our example the fathers as George Heneage Walker Heneage and John Henry Vivian they were both Esquires


8. Witnesses.  Always check the witnesses on a marriage certificate as they may reveal family connection.  In our exmaple (see pic below), the witnesses included the two fathers, and Graham Vivian, brother of Henrietta.  Graham lived at Clyne Castle.


9. Signature.  Chuch records show acutal signatures.  Those who could not write mark 'X'.  Certificates with the signatures obtained from the local registry are written by the registrar.


10. Married In....... Normally the parish church though some marriage took place in a nonconformist chapel.  In our example, St. Pauls Church according to the rites and ceremonies of the Established Church.


Interestingly, the Rector of Branston, Leicestershire, George Sloane Stanley carried out with the service and not the vicar of St. Pauls.


St. Pauls Church. is a fine Victorian Gothic building and was built in 1849-50 by the renowed architect Henry Woodyer for Henry Hussey Vivian.  More dtails of parish churches will be in a future article.


A word of warning in your ancestors were married in a nonconformist chapel, the chances of finding the records from the chapel register are very silm, so the only solution to this problem would be to obtain a copy of th marraige certificate from the registrar

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© Charles Wilson-Watkins