Marriage Licence Bonds

Marriage Licence Bonds

The Wiltshire FHS transcription of Sarum Diocese Marriage Licence Bonds 1609-1837 is now complete and the results are available on CD. This collection of bonds comprises the jurisdictions of the Bishop of Salisbury in Wiltshire and Berkshire and the Dean of Sarum in those counties together with Dorset and Uffculme, Devon. Also included are those of minor jurisdictions within Wiltshire and Berkshire.

Before 1837, most English marriages took place in the parish church, following the publication of banns, or by licence. Banns were an announcement in the local church of both persons on three successive Sundays. But in certain circumstances the couple could obtain a marriage licence from one of the ecclesiastical offices, and banns were not required. Licences were obtained for many reasons, most commonly to avoid the wait through the reading of the banns or to avoid the publicity of the announcement.

The total number of bonds transcribed is well over 70,000, and they include many strays from other parts of the country, most commonly from the surrounding counties but also from much further afield.

Marriage Licence Bonds normally include:

  • The name of the bridegroom, his age, occupation, place of residence, marital state (bachelor or widower);
  • The name of bride, age, place of residence and marital state;
  • The name of the bondsman or bondsmen, one of whom might be the groom or in a few cases the bride, with occupations and place of residence;
  • And, in many cases, the parish church or churches where the marriage could take place.

The fact that a licence was issued does not necessarily mean that a marriage took place - some may have had second thoughts, but also, it is believed, that in some cases, having got the licence, the couple thought it not necessary to get married.

If a marriage did take place, it may not be in the parish named in the bond, or the register and bishops transcript may be missing.

These bonds may well be the only record of a marriage.

The CD is fully searchable by groom, bride, bondsman, place and individual words. 

For details of cost and availability see our Publications leaflet.

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