What information can be found on a marriage certificate?

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01 November 2016
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Find out how marriage records can help you build your family history

Marriage records are extremely helpful for building your family history. Search the marriage indexes online, find your ancestors, and then note down the details you need to order a copy of the marriage certificate.

The marriage indexes can tell you the following about your ancestor:

  • First name and surname of the bride and groom
  • Year the marriage was registered
  • Quarter the marriages was registered (March, June, September or December)
  • Name of the registration district
  • Volume and page number

These are all very useful for helping to pinpoint your ancestors’ marriage so that you can order the marriage certificate.

Marriage certificates for England & Wales

The cheapest website to buy a copy of an English or Welsh marriage from is the official government website, www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates. Each certificate costs £9.25 (be wary of sites charging more than this). This may sound a lot of money, but a marriage certificate should also name the fathers of the bride and groom and their occupations and so give you clues to another generation further back on your family tree.

     MORE: Why send for a death certificate?

The main body of the certificate as it was introduced in 1837 in England and Wales has remained unchanged to this day. It is identical in content wherever the marriage took place; exactly the same forms are used by the C of E, Protestant Nonconformists, Roman Catholics, Jews and Quakers and indeed by the local registration service for civil ceremonies. The wording at the top and towards the bottom of the certificate varies slightly depending on the denomination and tells you where, how and by whom the marriage ceremony was performed. 

The information on an English or Welsh marriage certificate includes:

  • When married
  • Name and surname of bride and groom
  • Age
  • Condition (marital status)
  • Rank or profession
  • Residence at the time of marriage
  • Fathers’ names
  • Rank or profession of fathers
  • Names of witnesses

Marriage certificates for Scotland

Registration of marriages in Scotland began on 1 May 1855 and, as with the associated records of births and deaths, the amount of information recorded is far greater than in England and Wales. In that golden first year of registration, the birthplaces of the bride and groom were recorded as well as the number of former marriages and the number of children from those marriages. These details were dropped from 1856 but the certificates still continued to record the names of both parents, including the maiden names of the mothers. Visit www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.

Marriage certificates for Ireland

Registration of all non-Roman Catholic marriages commenced on 1 April 1845 but all other marriages weren’t recorded by the state until 1 January 1864, when the full general registration system came into force. For the Republic of Ireland order certificates from www.groireland.ie and for Northern Ireland go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/gro.

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