View Full Version : Was the vicar allowed to be a marriage witness?

09-09-09, 14:00
I came across an interesting marriage entry while transcribing Worksop Priory marriages for FreeREG:

1 Jan 1834 Thomas Turner of this parish and Ann Dukes of this parish married by Banns by John F Colls, curate. Witnesses John F Colls and George Parkin. The signature matched where he had written his name above, so it wasn't two people of the same name. Was this allowed? I wonder whether all the usual witnesses were hungover after a good New Years Eve!

09-09-09, 15:39
I'm sure he wasn't, otherwise it would always have been happening. But someone else has said, provided there were witnesses a marriage would be valid. I wonder if his signature as a witness was put in at the time, or after everyone else had gone home?!

I wish I knew what marriage actually entailed for most of my ancestors. If you read Dickens, witnesses were scraped together from pew-openers and odd-bods hanging about. My ancestor, the sexton's wife, has more than her fair share of being a witness, and best mate's grandparents grabbed a couple of small boys off the street for theirs.

Mandy in Wiltshire
09-09-09, 16:25
The registrar was a witness at my wedding :confused:

We were married in church but not one of the main denominations (Salvation Army) so marriages conducted there had to have a registrar present as well. Our witnesses were the best man and the chief bridesmaid, who both signed the register and their names were duly filled in on the marriage certificate by the registrar.

Then the registrar realised that my chief bridesmaid was under 18 and therefore wasn't eligible to be a witness, so the registrar counter-signed the register as a witness himself. He didn't alter the marriage certificate, though, so perhaps we're not legally married :eek:

09-09-09, 16:44
My cousin married in a church a few years ago and hubbies 15 year old brother was the witness. We did check before hand that this was okay and vicar didn't really know so she said just to go ahead anyway.

Wonder if they're legally married too....

Jennifer Eccles
09-09-09, 18:07
right just asked dad this, ( he is a vicar) and under no terms was the curate allowed to be the second witness, it was/is against the law, even more so in the 1800's. they had to have two independant witnesses and in addition the curates.

09-09-09, 18:23
Many parishes had serial witnesses, often the parish clerk. One Bucks parish had a chap with the splendid name Wildsmith Badger!

They don't need to sign anything either - the marriage is valid once the vows have been taken.

It's only recently we've got obsessed with bits of paper as "proof" though a lie is a lie whether it is spoken or written.

09-09-09, 22:10
Thanks for confirming that, Jen, that's what I thought. And thanks to your dad too!

Olde Crone
09-09-09, 23:57
There is probably a legal minimum age for witnesses NOW, but there wasn't before!

A witness had to be old enough to understand what they were witnessing, that's all.


Lancashire Lady
10-09-09, 13:18
the very first marriage certificate I got from the GRO had no witnesses, nor was it signed by the vicar!

Its dated 1840.

Having received the first certificate I did at least know where the alleged marriage was supposed to have occurred, so I contacted the local register office. They were able to confirm that the cert they had - the original church register - did actually show the required 2 witnesses & the vicar's signature. So we know the copies sent to the GRO can have mistakes, I suppose its just as easy for an original to have mistakes too. Aren't TWO certs written out when someone gets married? He could just have got carried away & wrote his own name down twice on one of them. I'd love to be able to see the other copy (given to the bride & groom) to see if its the same.

10-09-09, 14:42
I have a certificate for a similar period where the vicar did not note fathers' names. How I hoped & prayed that he had not been so remiss on the original. Alack, alack, he clealry thought all that nonsense was just for his very young parisioners, & it would be far too intrusive to ask a widower who his father was!

I have also seen a register where frankly I suspect the vicar of taking his duties somewhat less than seriously, with witnesses not signing, parents' names being swapped etc etc and have been tempted to order the certificate to see whether he amended his errors for the GRO.

Jennifer Eccles
10-09-09, 14:43
Dad said he only ever made one mistake on a marriage cert, and there was a strict procedure to follow in such circumstances.
he had put the following days date on the cert, and after the brides father pointing this out at the reception, dad said to wait until the couple came back off honeymoon, then they, along with the witnesses had to come back to the church with the original cert. have that blacklined through and cancelled written through it, then a new cert written out.
you are not allowed to amend the cert in any way. dad then crossed out the date in the parish register and wrote substute (and the correct date) and have that witnessed.

so all in all, mistakes are rarely made and if so the CoE has strict guidelines to follow, even back in the 1800's, when dad said they were far more rigid than now.

10-09-09, 17:27
Jennifer - that only works if someone notices there's an error!

Jennifer Eccles
10-09-09, 17:37
Yes i agree with you there, just relaying what i was told, that should be in practice :)