A picture containing company name

Description automatically generated

Newsletter – 28th February 2023



Save 30% at the British Newspaper Archive ENDS TODAY

Child marriages outlawed in England & Wales

When could you marry in earlier centuries?

Illegal weddings

Marriage index entries

Related only by marriage? Not a problem!

Success story: DNA to the rescue

Mind the Gaps! ONLINE TALK

Tracing Ancestors in Wales HALF-DAY ONLINE COURSE

Big savings at The Genealogist EXCLUSIVE

Save on subscriptions to Who Do You Think You Are? EXCLUSIVE OFFER

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 21st February) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!



Save 30% at the British Newspaper Archive ENDS TODAY

You’ve got just hours to save on a new subscription to the British Newspaper Archive – the offer ends at midnight (London time) on Tuesday, so if you’re reading this on Wednesday morning in Australia you might just be in time.


Are you an Ancestry user? If so it’s a great opportunity to get cut-price access to an enormous collection of magazines and (mostly) local newspapers that is otherwise only available to Findmypast subscribers. There are almost 64 million pages with, by my reckoning, upwards of half a billion articles and literally billions of names – it’s the biggest online collection of British newspapers there is.


Local newspapers tend to focus on the activities of local residents – mostly ordinary people who may have passed exams, taken part in sporting events, appeared in court as witnesses, or been involved in an accident. You’ll find announcements of births, marriages, and deaths, but also reports on weddings, many with photographs, and some listing the names of guests as well as participants. Look through any paid-for local newspaper today, and you’ll appreciate the scope and scale of what you’ll get access to!


This offer isn’t exclusive to LostCousins members, but you will only be supporting LostCousins when you use the link below:





Child marriages outlawed in England & Wales

Since yesterday it has been illegal for under-18s to marry in England or Wales, and the new law also prohibits ceremonies which are not legally binding.


As a BBC article points out: “Previously forced marriage was only an offence if coercion, such as threats, was used. But under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act, it is now illegal to arrange for children to marry under any circumstances, whether or not force is used.”


The minimum age remains at 16 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.



When could you marry in earlier centuries?

Under Canon Law boys were able to marry at 14, and girls at 12 – and those minimum ages continued to apply after Civil Registration was introduced in 1837. Indeed, it was only in 1929 that the minimum age for boys and girls was raised to 16. Although minors (children under 21) were supposed to have their parents’ consent to marry, a failure to obtain that consent didn’t usually invalidate the marriage – but see Marriage Law for Genealogists, a book that should be in the library of every keen family historian, for more precise information.


But this article isn’t about age at marriage, it’s about the hours and the days during which marriages could be celebrated. Browsing through old registers won’t tell you the time of day at which a marriage ceremony took place, but it will give the date – and like me, you must have noticed that there are times of the year when there were fewer marriages.


According to Professor Rebecca Probert in Marriage Law for Genealogists, in the early 17th century marriages were allowed from 13th January to Septuagesima Sunday (the third Sunday before Lent), but were then prohibited until 8 days after Easter Sunday.


For example, in 2023 this would mean that they were allowed for the 24 days from 13th January to 5th February, but then prohibited between 6th February and 17th April, a period of 70 days. They were then allowed until Rogation Sunday (14th May in 2023), then prohibited for 3 weeks until Trinity Sunday (4th June in 2023). Fortunately it was considerably easier to get married in the second half of the year – marriages were permitted until the start of Advent (3rd December in 2023).


It was possible to buy a licence to marry during one of the prohibited periods and, even without a licence, if the vicar was prepared to take the risk a marriage after banns would still have been valid. Nevertheless, a consideration of the dates on which your ancestors married might give you some clues to the circumstances – particularly if you take into account the timing of the baptism of the couple’s first child.


Those restrictions were removed in 1644, but reimposed at the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 – though Professor Probert indicates that the Church had difficulty enforcing the prohibitions.


There were also restrictions as to hours – you could only marry between 8am and 12 noon. It has been suggested that the term ‘wedding breakfast’ is a consequence of the timing, though since this wording was not used until the 1830s it seems unlikely. Again marriages contracted outside the permitted hours were valid (but regarded as clandestine), though from 1823 until 1886, when clergy solemnising a marriage before 8am or after noon became liable to transportation for 14 years, there can have been few examples!


From 1886 the hours were extended to 3pm in the afternoon, and in 1934 they were extended again – to 6pm.



Illegal weddings and Superintendent Registrar’s certificates

When Professor Probert spoke to LostCousins members recently there were some questions that were still unanswered at the end of the session, and I thought it would be helpful to share her answers with readers of this newsletter.


‘Illegal’ weddings

One attendee asked whether it would have been illegal for a man to marry his deceased brother’s wife in the 1830's. Such a marriage was certainly within the list of “prohibited degrees”. Its precise status would depend on when it was celebrated. If it was before 31 August 1835 then it would have been validated by the Marriage Act 1835 – but if after that date it would have been automatically void. 


So it was ‘illegal’ in the sense of not being recognised as valid – but it was not a criminal offence and so couples who did marry within the prohibited degrees could not be prosecuted. However, there are occasional examples of individuals being prosecuted for perjury under the Marriage Act 1836 for making a false declaration that they were free to marry before the superintendent registrar.


Another related question was about the penalties for someone officiating at a void marriage. The Marriage Act 1835 doesn’t address this point and the Marriage Act 1836 only sets out the penalties for superintendent registrars and registrars who allow marriages to go ahead where the formal requirements haven’t been properly observed. That said, the church courts would no doubt have taken a dim view of clergy who conducted marriages that they knew to be void!


The "Superintendent Registrar's Certificate"

A Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate was introduced by the Marriage Act 1836 as the standard preliminary for non-Anglican weddings. It cost a shilling to give notice and another shilling for the certificate to be issued, with a mandatory waiting period of 21 days. During that time notices of the marriage were either read before the Poor Law Board of Guardians (before 1857) or simply posted up in the register office (from 1857).


A Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate could also be used to authorise an Anglican wedding in place of banns or licence – although from 1856 Anglican clergy were entitled to refuse to accept the certificate and insist on Anglican preliminaries!


Most of us are likely to have examples in our tree of widowers who married their dead wife’s sister at a time when it was prohibited – indeed, I have three examples in my maternal grandfather’s tree, one of whom was his father, my great-grandfather. Such marriages were retrospectively legalised in 1907, but it was nevertheless a subject that wasn’t spoken about in my family – my late aunt, born in 1916, knew that there was something ‘wrong’ with the marriage, but not what the problem was. It was good to be able to put her mind at rest.



Marriage index entries

Prior to 1911 the marriage indexes for England & Wales didn’t include the surname of the spouse – which created enormous problems for those of us who started our research ‘in the old days’.


Eventually the General Register Office (GRO) indexes were transcribed by FreeBMD volunteers, and later by Findmypast (then known as 1837online). How did this help? It enabled the quarterly entries to be sorted, not just by name, but according to the volume and page references.


Although the volume and page references relates to the copy registers held by the GRO, those registers were compendiums of bundles of loose pages sent to the GRO by individual churches and register offices. When two people married they signed the same page of the bound register kept by the church or register office – and when the marriage entry was copied for submission to the GRO the two names would be on the same loose page.


How did that enable researchers to work out who had married who? Typically there are two marriages per page, so there are only four people with the same index references, two males and two females. Back in the days when marriage was between a man and a woman there would have been only two possible ways that those four people could have been joined together in holy matrimony.



Related only by marriage? Not a problem!

Although the primary reason LostCousins exists is to connect family historians who share the same ancestors (and are both researching them), it would be wrong to dismiss a connection simply because the other member is only related by marriage.


For example, at the end of last week I received this email from Sue:


Peter, I just wanted to say 'Thank you so much' for running the competition in January. It spurred me on to enter a lot more 'cousins' and I made a new contact!


We are only cousins by marriage but he has been so helpful with sharing information and I have been able to solve one of my brick walls.


I now have a new enthusiasm for my research and that's thanks to you. The lectures have been so interesting and the offer for membership of The Genealogist most welcome.


Sometimes a researcher who at first appears to be only related by marriage turns out to be a cousin – but unless you correspond with them you’ll never know. And even if the only connection is a marriage, the descendants of that union will be cousins to both of you, something that is more important than ever now that most of our ‘brick walls’ come tumbling down as a result of DNA matches.



Success story: DNA to the rescue

Another Sue was in touch last week – she was responding to the article in the last issue in which Chris explained how she had knocked down several ‘brick walls’ using DNA.


Very interesting articles about "brick walls" being knocked down by DNA testing.  I was finally able to knock down a brick wall myself this week due to DNA testing done by my father.  My paternal grandmother had always told us, and written down on family tree sheets, that her grandfather, Alfred Taylor Moore, was born in 1840 in Ireland, and that her grandmother's name was Marie Morey. No amount of research had found these two relatives, until, out of the blue, a genetic cousin in Australia contacted us - he is related through the Morey branch.  Suddenly, a brick wall came tumbling down and we now find that Alfred was actually born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, and that Marie was actually Martha.  We don't know why my grandmother had come up with this false information - perhaps it came from her mother?  Who knows?  And the morale of the story is, take any family tales or sagas with a pinch of salt, and do your own research - hopefully with a bit of DNA help along the way.


I know how Sue must have felt because for me it happened round the other way – my great-great grandmother was baptised a Catholic to Irish parents, but nobody in the family seems to have known of her Irish Catholic origins, and her children were baptised in the Church of England. I tracked down a copy of the biography of her grand-daughter in the hope that there be some clues, but though my ancestor was mentioned in the book there was nothing to hint at her origins.



Mind the Gaps! ONLINE TALK

I know that a lot of you were mightily impressed by the short video from professional genealogist Dave Annal which I linked to in the last issue – so you might well be interested in a live Zoom presentation that he is giving under the auspices of the Society of Genealogists. It is entitled Mind the Gaps! Understanding and Improving your Online Searches, so it’s a topic where we can all learn something new.


The talk takes place between 10.30 and 11.30am (London time) on Saturday 11th March. You’ll find more details here – it’s only £10, and if you’re an SoG member like me it’s just £6.50  


Tip: recordings of most SoG talks, including this one, are available to attendees for 14 days afterwards, so don’t worry if you’re going to be busy on the day – book anyway.



Tracing Ancestors in Wales HALF-DAY ONLINE COURSE

My wife is three-quarters Welsh, so this half-day course run by Gill Thomas on behalf of the Society of Genealogists is right up her street – though she’ll have to watch the recording, as there’s something else in her diary that can’t be moved.


The course takes place between 10.30am and 12.45pm (London time) on Saturday 4th March and costs £20 (£16 for members of the SoG) – you can find out more and book here.


The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


Big savings at The Genealogist EXCLUSIVE

The final presentation for entrants in this winter’s competition featured Mark Bayley from The Genealogist speaking about ‘Mapping Your Ancestors’, focusing particularly on the powerful Map Explorer feature – which makes use of tithe maps, censuses, and the 1910 Lloyd George ‘Domesday’ survey to help you identify where your ancestors lived.


If you weren’t fortunate enough to be invited, or were unable to attend, you’ll be interested to know that there is a short (20 minute) video online which demonstrates Map Explorer – you’ll find it here.   


Mark has also arranged a special offer for LostCousins members – you can get a £40 ‘lifetime’ discount on an annual Diamond subscription, reducing the cost to £99.95 a year.


In the first year you’ll also get a Digital Research Pack worth over £64:


12 month Subscription to Discover Your Ancestors online magazine (worth £24.99)

TreeView 2 Discount Voucher (worth £10.00)

Discover Your Ancestors' Occupations by Laura Berry (digital edition - worth £9.95)

Researching and Locating Your Ancestors by Celia Heritage (digital edition - worth £9.95)

Regional Research Guidebook by Andrew Chapman (digital edition - worth £9.95)

Discover Your Ancestors Periodical Compendium 2021 (digital edition - worth £9.95)


By my calculation that’s a saving of over £100 in the first year!


To take advantage of the offer please follow this link.



Save on subscriptions to Who Do You Think You Are? EXCLUSIVE OFFER

The exclusive offer I’ve arranged for LostCousins members is still running but please note that it applies only to print copies, not the digital edition.


I've been a reader of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine ever since issue 1, and I can tell you from personal experience that every issue is packed with advice on how to research your family tree, including how to track down online records, how to get more from DNA tests, and the ever-popular readers' stories. Naturally you also get to look behind-the-scenes of the popular Who Do You Think You Are? TV series.


There's an extra special introductory offer for members in the UK, but there are also offers for overseas readers, each of which offers a substantial saving on the cover price:


UK - try 6 issues for just £9.99 - saving 68%

Europe - 13 issues (1 year) for €65 - saving 33%

Australia & New Zealand - 13 issues (1 year) for AU $99 - saving 38%

US & Canada – 13 issues for US $69.99 – saving 59%

Rest of the world - 13 issues (1 year) for US $69.99 – saving 41%


To take advantage of any of these deals (and to support LostCousins) please follow this link.



Peter’s Tips

Wherever you are in the world you’ve probably heard that there’s a shortage of vegetables and salads in Britain at the moment. Some supermarkets are limiting the amounts that customers can purchase, and if you shop for groceries online  (as I do) the choice can be very restricted.

There was an extremely limited choice of lettuces when I placed my order this week – I could order only one pack of Romaine lettuce hearts, and the only other type of lettuce in stock was Little Gem. And they certainly were LITTLE when they arrived – I couldn’t believe that the delivery driver could keep a straight face when handing them over. The first thing I did was weigh the packet – it came to just 133g, including the plastic bag, which gives you some idea just how teeny weeny those two lettuces were.


Today is the last day of February – which means that if my full-fibre broadband isn’t working by the end of the day, I’ll have been let down yet again by Openreach and Vodafone (you will recall that it was originally supposed to be up and running on 19th December last year). Let’s hope that this time they meet their self-imposed deadline!


Turning to more important matters, in the early hours of this morning New Zealand’s cricketers beat England by a single run in one of the most exciting test matches of all time. It took me back 60 years to another tense finish, when England were playing the West Indies at Lords, the home of cricket. With two balls to go, one wicket standing, and six runs needed for victory, Colin Cowdrey came in to bat with a broken wrist – for a 12 year-old schoolboy this was high drama. As I remembered it Cowdrey with his arm in plaster had to face Wes Hall, the world’s fastest bowler, but in reality he was at the non-striker’s end, watching as his partner fended off the last two balls (you can re-live the moment here – it’s around 18 minutes from the beginning).



Stop Press

This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......



I’ll be back soon with more news from the world of family history,


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2023 Peter Calver


Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE?


Many of the links in this newsletter and elsewhere on the website are affiliate links – if you make a purchase after clicking a link you may be supporting LostCousins (though this depends on your choice of browser, the settings in your browser, and any browser extensions that are installed). Thanks for your support!