England, Norfolk Marriage Bonds (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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England Norfolk Marriage Bonds, 1557-1915 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Norfolk,  England
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Record Description
Record Type Marriage Bonds
Collection years 1557-1915
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
Norfolk Record Office


What is in This Collection?

This collection contains marriage records covering the period 1557-1915. They are primarily from the county of Norfolk, but with a few records from certain parishes in the counties of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

Marriage allegations and bonds were sworn statements filed by a bride and groom as part of a marriage license application. The allegation stated that there was no known reason that the marriage should not take place; bonds contractually obligated the signers to pay a sum of money if the allegation was incorrect. Until 1733, marriage bonds were written partly in Latin but the wording was standardized and is easier to decipher in the printed forms that were in use by the 1690s.

Due to both tradition and a fee associated with obtaining a marriage license, most English couples were married by banns, not by license, and so would have neither a marriage allegation nor its related bond. However, families able to pay the fee would often avoid the reading of public banns and obtain a license, since many families did not like the thought of public objection to the intended marriage. Before the 1830s, nonconformists were required to marry officially in the Church of England, so most applied for licenses, rather than having their marriage announced by banns. Other possible reasons for obtaining marriage licenses are explained in Marriage Allegations, Bonds and Licences in England and Wales.

Although most bonds and allegations have survived, some are in poor condition and difficult to read, especially when the microfilmed images are badly focused. Licenses themselves were not normally retained for long after being handed to the officiating minister, but a few survive with parish records and a series from the Norwich Consistory Court (1903-1988) is described in Norfolk Record Office Information Leaflet 48: Marriage License Bonds.

Norfolk

To Browse This Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for England Norfolk Marriage Bonds, 1557-1915.

Collection Content

This collection contains bonds and other documents for those married by license in the counties of Norfolk and . The marriage license allegations and bonds in this collection are in broadly chronological order under four ecclesiastical courts:

Sample Images

Marriage Records may contain:

  • Date of document
  • Name of the future groom
  • Age and marital status of the future groom
  • Residence of the future groom
  • Name of the future bride
  • Age and marital status of the future bride
  • Residence of the future bride
  • May include names of parents or guardians of minors

How Do I Search This Collection?

Before beginning a search in these records, it is best to know the full name of the individual in question, as well as an approximate time range for the desired record. When entered into the search engine on the Collection Page, this information provides the quickest, most reliable path to finding the correct person. Of course, other information can be substituted as necessary.

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page to return a list of possible matches. Compare the individuals on the list with what is already known to find the correct family or person. This step may require examining multiple individuals before a match is located.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page
If granted the rights to view the digitized records in this collection (see below), the images may be accessed by following this series of links:
⇒ Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒ Select the appropriate "County"
⇒ Select the appropriate "Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction"
⇒Select the appropriate "Year" to go to the images

Compare the information found on the images with what is already known determine if a particular record relates to the correct person. This process may require examining multiple records before the correct person is located.

Some of the records in this collection may be written in an old script that can be challenging to read. Refer to BYU’s Script Tutorial for assistance with reading the records.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Make sure to fully transcribe and cite the record entry for future reference. See below for assistance in citing this collection. Save or print a copy of the image if possible.
  • Use the information which has been discovered to find more. For instance, use the estimated age given in a marriage or burial record to calculate an approximate year of birth, if that is yet undetermined.
  • If in the appropriate period, use the information which has been discovered to find the individual in civil records. Particularly useful for research in nineteenth-century England are the England Census and the England Civil Registration records.
  • Continue to search the index to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives. Note that family members often appear on an individual's vital records, such as in the role of witnesses to a marriage.
  • If there is a second bondsman named John Doe with no stated occupation or address, he is most likely fictitious and should not be entered into genealogical records.
  • Remember that the existence of a marriage bond or allegation does not prove that a marriage actually took place.

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?

  • When looking for a person with a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which individual is correct. Use other information, such as place of birth, age, occupation, or names of parents, to determine which candidate is the correct person. If listed, a personal title may be a clue to property ownership or occupation, either of which might be noted in other records.
  • Check for variants of given names, surnames, and place names; transcription errors could occur in any handwritten record. Also remember that it was not uncommon for an individual be listed under a nickname or an abbreviation of their name, especially in church records. See Abbreviations Found in Genealogy Records for examples of common abbreviations.
  • Vary the search terms. For example, search by either the given name or surname to return broader list of possible candidates which can then be examined for matches.
  • Search the records of nearby parishes. While it was uncommon for an individual in this period to move more than about 20 miles from their place of birth, smaller relocations were not uncommon. For this particular collection, this step may require finding records in the bordering English counties of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. LIncolnshire to the northwest is also a possibility, but is a less likely one. Note that marriages usually took place in the parish where the bride resided.
  • Look at the actual image of the record to verify the information found in the online description, if possible.
  • If browsing through images, note that the pages in this collection are not necessarily arranged in date order.

Indexes and Hints

For a 1986 listing of marriage bonds and indexes, see Jeremy Gibson’s "Bishops Transcripts and Marriage Licences, Bonds and Allegations: A Guide to their Location and Indexes," available at the Family History Library.

The Family History Library also has indexes to some of these marriage bonds:

Additional unpublished indexes are held at the Norfolk Record Office, as described in its leaflet.

The Society of Genealogists has an extensive collection of indexed abstracts from "Norfolk and Suffolk Marriage Licenses" (1549-1799) relating to bonds and allegations of the Norwich Consistory Court and many other authorities, including East Anglian archdeaconry courts and the Archbishop of Canterbury's Vicar General and Faculty Office. This may be the most comprehensive index of its kind but it is not available online. Originally compiled by Arthur Bertram Campling (1871-1947), it was typed in 1975 and is now bound in five volumes on the Marriage License shelves at the Society's premises in London (shelf mark ML/GEN).

Many marriage license bonds and allegations are indexed at FamilySearch.org. Unfortunately, the results do not show the online image numbers or the bundles in which they can be found, and the name of the issuing court is seldom clear. Without checking the film number (see below), it may not even be apparent that the source is a marriage license record, unless the user is aware of clues such as these:

  • Birth Date or Age: If ages are shown before 1837, they are almost certainly from a marriage license allegation or bond, as earlier marriage registers did not normally record them. (Most brides and grooms were 21 years "and upwards" so their calculated birth dates are not necessarily accurate.)
  • Marriage Date: If this is a little earlier than the date in the parish register, it is probably the date of the license documents. (These dates are more likely to be the same if the minister who performed the wedding ceremony was the person who had supplied the license.)
  • Marriage Place: Sometimes the full name of the court is stated here (such as "Norwich Consistory Court, Norfolk, England"). Occasionally an authorized parish church (or more than one) is given. If no parish is specified, then:
    • "Norwich, Norfolk, England" can indicate the Norwich Consistory Court
    • "Norfolk, England" can indicate the Norwich Consistory Court or the Norfolk Archdeaconry Court
  • Indexing Project (Batch) Number: This begins with the letter "I" for marriage license records but also for many bishop's or archdeacon's transcripts and other records; check the film number (see below) to differentiate between them. (The standard prefix for marriages extracted from parish registers is "M".)
  • Source Film Number: This is usually the best indicator of the relevant court. Make a "Film Numbers" search in the FamilySearch Catalog or refer to these ranges:
  • Reference Number: This can be very useful if it gives the folio number of the bond or allegation, which is sometimes written at the top of the page and may be indicated in an alpha-numerical list of grooms (surnames arranged alphabetically by initial letter only, notably at the beginning of most NCC bundles between 1695 and 1751). An item number (for example "item 4, p78") can help to identify one of several bundles on the same film. Less usefully, the Reference Number field often displays nothing, or just a year (such as "1825" or "1826" for NCC documents dated 1825 in the 1820-1826 bundle).

Indexing at FamilySearch.org is not complete. Some bundles have not been indexed at all. In at least one of the NCC bundles (1783-1784), half of the images are indexed but the other half (484 to 956) are not.

General Information About these Records

Courts' Jurisdictions

Marriage licenses could be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, bishops or archdeacons and their deputies or surrogates (designated local clergymen) within their respective jurisdictions. Rural surrogates often kept bonds and allegations for some time (usually less than three years but possibly up to ten) before submitting them to the court's registry, where they were customarily filed in bundles by year of receipt, not by date of creation. It may therefore be necessary to look in several later bundles to find relevant documents.

The Norwich Consistory Court (NCC) was the diocesan court, headed by the Bishop of Norwich and managed by his Chancellor. It had jurisdiction over almost the entire counties of Norfolk and (until the 19th century) Suffolk, plus a small number of parishes in Cambridgeshire. The other three courts in this collection covered various parts of Norfolk. For more information about these courts and their jurisdictions, see the Norfolk Record Office's leaflet and GenUKI's Church Administration Areas Directory for Norfolk. Alternatively, select a parish at England Jurisdictions 1851 and then click on the "Jurisdictions" tab in the white box, where the name of the "Probate Court" will be the same as the lowest court for marriage licensing.

In practice, jurisdiction rules were not always followed. Couples living within a single archdeaconry had no need to obtain a license from a higher court like the NCC, but they often did so (perhaps because they lived close to a surrogate). Officially, couples living in separate dioceses came under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury (see Marriage Allegations, Bonds and Licences in England and Wales), particularly if one partner was in the Province of York. But they too can sometimes be found in the records of the NCC and even the archdeaconry courts in the Diocese of Norwich.

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation

"England, Norfolk Marriage Bonds, 1557-1915." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2017. Citing Church of England. Record Office, Central Library, Norwich.

Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

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