Getting hitched provides plenty of clues for a family historian

As I said earlier there are three main legal certificates which you will find useful when it comes to researching your family: birth certificate; marriage certificate; and death certificate.

In my time as a young reporter we used to refer to births, marriages and deaths as: hatch, match, and despatch.

We have covered the birth certificate and the information it provides now we will move on to the marriage certificate.

The marriage certificate not only names the two people getting married but also gives their addresses, ages, occupations, father’s names and occupation of fathers. This gives a lot of information to cross check with other certificates, ensuring you have the right certificate for the family you are following.

Across the top you will find the year of the marriage and the place, ie. the church or register office, where it took place.

The box on the extreme left is a purely archival reference so we will start with the next box as:


This is the full date of the marriage.


This provides the full name of the bridegroom and the bride.


This gives the ages of the couple getting married and can be an early indication as to whether or not you have the right couple. If the ages don’t match what you already know, for example if the couple are boith aged in their thirties yet you know one is a teenager you might need ti doiuble check the details.


Defines the marital status of the couple. In this case naither have been married before. If one or other has been married but is now divorced this will be indicated, or if the partner of one or the other is dead it would be marked as widower or widow.


This is where the occupations of the couple will be noted. Bearing in mind the date of the marriage it is not surprising that the bridegroom is in the armed forces, in this case as a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps.


This gives you the residence of bridegroom and bride at the time of marriage. Sometimes this might have the same address for both but this does not necessarily mean they were cohabiting. It might just be a bed and breakfast property where the couple stayed, separately, or at such a time as the outbreak of war, the bridegroom might have been on a very brief leave of absence and might have stayed overnight in the home of the bride’s parents.


This is where you will find the names of the fathers of the couple. Again this can be a major identifier as to the family links. A middle name for a father, for instance. In this case Edward has a middle name beginning with V (Vernon). As it happens this is a mistake on this particular certificate as the registrar in this case misheard the Welsh name Vyrnwy and wrote Vernon instead.

The name Vyrnwy appears on all other documentation.


The last numbered box gives the rank or profession of the two fathers.

In this case the groom’s father is listed as an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, an important reference during further research.

The bride’s father is listed as a lance corporal in the National Defence Corps. This immediately tells you the person served in the British Army during World War One, as this was the criteria for being called up.

Finally the information on the lower part of the form offers further clues.

First, bride and bridegroom both signed the register showing they had a reasonable education in that they could write. Even early in the 20th century one, or even both, of the couple might just have made their marks.

Finally there are names of witnesses. In this case two of the witnesses are close friends of the couple, whose names and photographs are referred to in later documentation.

The third witness was the father of the bridegroom.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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