England, Durham Diocese, Marriage Bonds and Allegations (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: England, Durham Diocese, Marriage Bonds & Allegations, 1692-1900 .

Record Description

Allegations are handwritten documents. Later allegations are handwritten on preprinted pages. Most of the originals have now been compiled and bound in volumes. The majority of the original marriage allegations have been preserved. While most are in the custody of the diocese, others may be found in the records of the Vicar General and the faculty office of the Archbishop of Canterbury; most are now in the county records office.

The Bishop of Durham’s transcripts of marriage bonds and allegations for Allertonshire Peculiar includes the following Yorkshire parishes:

  • Birkby
  • Cowesby
  • Hutton Bonville
  • Leake
  • Nether Silton
  • North Otterington
  • Osmotherly
  • Thornton-le-Street

For a list of records by date or locality currently published in this collection, select the Browse link from the collection landing page

A marriage allegation is a sworn statement filed often by the marriage participants in connection with their license application. It is a statement that there is no known reason that the marriage should not take place. Marriage licences could be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, bishops, and archdeacons or their surrogates within their respective jurisdictions. The original allegations and bonds were held by the various church officials. Most were later transferred to county record offices. Many of the records are now published by the respective dioceses. The majority of English people would have been married by banns, not by licence, and so would not have a marriage allegation. However, from the early 16th century, those able to pay the fee would avoid the reading of public banns and obtain a licence, since many families did not like the thought of public objection to their intended marriage. Dissenters (other faiths) were obliged to marry in the Church of England but obtained a licence to marry.

For further information, see Marriage Allegations, Bonds and Licences in England and Wales.

The Durham collection represent allegations or applications made to the diocesan chancellor or surrogate application may have been made to the Archbishop's of York or Canterbury as the two provinces within the Church of England. In the case of Canterbury allegations, the licence issued was valid throughout England.

Two people made the allegation (application) to designated officers of either the diocesan chancellor or surrogate or the Archbishop’s of York or Canterbury. Bridegrooms may make an allegation or have two friends do so on their behalf. Each allegation requires two bondsmen who would stand as surety in case any impediment to marriage is later discovered. Underage spouses required parental consent as part of the allegation.

The licences were issued to the bridegroom and have generally not survived. The allegations and bonds are found at diocesan or record office and here, forming this collection.

Both the Canterbury Vicar-General's and Faculty Office records are held at the Lambeth Palace library, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and can be seen by appointment with the librarian. Printed indexes of these were published by the Harleian Society. The Society of Genealogists also owns a collection of abstracts and indexes and has published a guide to them.

Records in this collection cover the years 1692 to 1900. 

These records were created as part of the ecclesiastical process of ensuring that no lawful impediment to marriage existed, that persons of other faiths required to marry in the Church of England had a system to do so, and that an alternative was offered to those who did wish public banns to be read. The licence was normally obtained from the chancellor or surrogate of the diocese in which one of the parties lived and in which the marriage was intended to be celebrated, but application could be made to the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of the province. If the parties lived in different diocese, they had to apply to the Vicar-General. If they lived in different provinces they had to apply to the Master of Faculties of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The record was used by the marriage official as evidence that the bride and groom were eligible to be married.

The information included in a marriage allegation is sometimes unreliable; fictitious names are not unknown! Generally if the bridegroom and a friend made the allegation the information is reliable; in the case of application by two "friends" a degree of caution may be indicated. It was often the case that families of nobility would have others handle the license application on their behalf. The use of fictitious bondsmen names is encountered but usually the parties to the marriage are accurate unless secretive marriage was being sought for pregnancy or another reason.

The Allegation or application is only an intention to marry and just as a banns book entry may not result in actual marriage the license does not imply actual marriage.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

England, Durham Diocese, marriage bonds and allegations. Durham University Library, Durham, England.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

The key genealogical facts found in the Marriage Allegation Records may include the following information:

England Marriage Allegation (09-0343) (09-0346) (09-0347) DGS 4087987 75.jpg
  • Names of the marriage partners
  • Ages of the marriage partners
  • Occupations of the marriage partners
  • Marital statuses (whether single or widowed)
  • Parish of residence
  • Sometimes where the marriage was to take place
  • Sometimes a parent’s name or signature
  • If either of the marriage partners was a minor, the name of the parent or guardian who was consenting to the marriage

How to Use the Record

To search the collection, select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page ⇒ Select the Year ⇒ Select the Durham University Reference Number which takes you to the images.

Look at the images one by one comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.

For people whose ancestors married by license, the allegation could be a valuable research tool. The allegation can help define family relationships and residences as well as personal information such as age and occupation. You can use the residence information for the bride and groom to look for their baptisms and to identify the children of this couple. The ages can help you calculate an approximate year of birth.

To begin your search, you must know the name of a marriage partner. If no index is available, you must know the jurisdiction where the allegation was filed and an approximate marriage date.

The following suggestions can help you find marriage allegation records for your ancestors:

  • Make sure you are searching in the right jurisdiction.
  • Check for indexes that will make your search easier.
  • When searching through the records, look for others with the same surname; they may be related.
  • Look for allegations of parents and earlier generations in the same jurisdiction.
  • Look for allegations of children in the same jurisdiction.

Related Website

England, Durham Diocese Calendar of Marriage Bonds Allegations

Related Wiki Articles

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A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection

"England, Durham Diocese, Marriage Bonds Allegations, 1692-1900." images FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 27 March, 2012), 1896 > DDR EJ MLA 1 1896 > image 15 of 303, Henry Robert Tomlin and Anne Elizabeth Dodds, January 1896; citing Marriage Bonds, Durham County Record Office Durham, England.