Parish residency in 19th century Cornwall?


In 18th and 19th century church parish marriage records in Cornwall, UK, the bride and groom's residences are indicated as one of three things:

  1. of the same parish as the marriage (usually just listing the name of the parish),
  2. sojourner, or
  3. "otp," (which I assume means 'outside the parish' but could mean 'of the parish').

In some cases, a person is indicated as being 'of' the same parish as the marriage (1), but I know that they were not born there or grew up there. What was the law/custom for changing/acquiring residency in another parish in 18th-19th century Cornwall?


Posted 2017-06-20T01:11:16.653

Reputation: 707

2otp is the standard abbreviation for "of this parish". Being of a parish does not mean that they were born there. – Harry Vervet – 2017-06-20T05:19:38.497

You may be interested in - it is Devon rather than Cornwall but the two counties are adjacent so the answers there should apply.

– PolyGeo – 2017-06-20T07:26:26.053

1@HarryVervet "Being of a parish does not mean that they were born there" or even that they had lived there longer than 3 weeks. – ColeValleyGirl – 2017-06-20T09:58:51.610

1The only civil laws around residency that I know of were applicable to Settlement for Poor Law purposes, as mentioned in the question referred to by @PolyGeo – AdrianB38 – 2017-06-20T11:11:09.983

2Residence on a marriage record would, in theory, be nothing to do with Settlement for Poor Law purposes. The nominal residence determines where the banns are called and (sort of?) where the marriage can take place. To save the expense of calling banns in 2 parishes - or even to escape to a parish where they are not known - it is clear that people would take temporary lodging in the banns parish. I don't know what church law says about residence, other than I believe it requires some current, short residence (weeks only?) in the banns parish.(NB - remember people lie!) – AdrianB38 – 2017-06-20T11:23:03.083

@HarryVervet these comments combined sound like an answer to me. By extension, if a person (or both) is listed as a 'sojourner' then, they were intentionally avoiding marrying in their home parish and/or just passing through and felt like getting married?! – user5836 – 2017-06-20T11:35:44.680

1No -- a sojourner is somebody without right of settlement who may still be resident in the parish. Per @AdrianB38 says, it's a concept associated with Settlement Law not Marriage Law. And somebody who was listed as 'otp' may only have been resident there a few weeks, for the purposes of getting the banns read cheaply in a single parish. To confuse matters further, lying about your residence when the banns were read/the marriage happened did NOT invalidate the marriage. contd. – ColeValleyGirl – 2017-06-20T16:08:58.177

1To quote Rebecca Probert in Marriage Laws for Genealogy the 1753 act directed that the marriage take place in the parish of residence of one of the parties, but it was directory rather than mandatory. – ColeValleyGirl – 2017-06-20T16:09:11.763

So it does seem like some parishes were careful to make a distinction between 'otp's and sojourners on marriage records, which does have implications for settlement. If a person could take up lodging in a parish for a few weeks to have the banns read, but not be listed as a sojourner, it seems that recording residency on marriage records was a bit loosy-goosey? – user5836 – 2017-06-21T22:47:46.310

" it seems that recording residency on marriage records was a bit loosy-goosey?" Yes. – ColeValleyGirl – 2017-06-22T11:43:45.690

@atiras I'm hoping you will take the opportunity to write up an answer on this. – PolyGeo – 2017-06-23T06:40:21.877



For the sake of clarity, I'll summarize the comments above and add a few anecdotes to answer this question:

Bottom line: there does not seem to be any consistency in how a person's residency was recorded in marriage records in late 18th & early 19th century Cornwall.

As per AdrianB38, PolyGeo, and atiras, marriage conventions and Settlement Poor Law were two different entities, and people were more 'fluid' in defining residency when it came to marriage in order to save on fees, avoid others contesting the marriage, etc. Per AdrianB38 and atiras, a person only had to be living in a parish for a few weeks while the banns were read in order for a curate or vicar to consider them 'otp' for recording purposes, and people did lie.

A quick read through the original records of the Parish of Davidstow, Cornwall, illustrates the fact that vicars and curates did make distinctions between otp, sojourner, and naming the specific parish the individual was from, but applied these distinctions rather willy-nilly:


1791: John Uglow & Jenny Chapman; of the Parish of Warbstow, and of this Parish; Wm Laskey, Curate.

1793: Pentacost Parsons & Mary Salter; of this Parish Labourer, of this Parish Spinster; Wm Laskey, Curate.

1795: Wm Fradd & Charity Pearce; Sojourners of this Parish; Wm Pitt Bray, Curate.

1797: William Salter & Phillippa Horril; of the Parish of Forrabury, and of this Parish; Wm Pitt Bray, Curate.

1799: William Broad & Mary Parsons; of this Parish, and Sojourner of this Parish; Lewis Marshall, Vicar.

1807: George Ford & Mary Brechenshire?; of the Parish of Forrabury, and of the Parish of Roach? Lewis Marshall, Vicar.

1809: Richard Mathews, Sojourner of this Parish & Catherine Pearce, of this Parish; Lewis Marshall, Vicar.

1810: William French & Frances Toms; of this Parish, and of this Parish Sojourner; Lewis Marshall, Vicar.

1811: Robert Cory & Alice French; of the Parish of St Juliot, and of this Parish; Lewis Marshall, Vicar.

From: England, Cornwall Parish Registers, 1538-2010," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 30 November 2016), Cornwall > Davidstow > Marriage banns, marriages, 1754-1811 > image 16 of 19; Cornwall Records Office, Truro.

In the 1790s, Wm Laskey, Curate of Davidstow recorded that John Uglow was from Warbstow, not just a sojourner, and in 1793 he added the occupations of Pentacost Parson & Mary Salter even though there was no official space for it in the marriage record form.

Curate Wm Pitt Bray recorded Wm Fradd & Charity Pearce as Sojourners of the Parish, and did not record where they were resident according to Poor Law Settlement. But in 1797 he specified that William Salter was from the Parish of Forrabury, marrying a woman 'from this Parish'.

Finally, Vicar Lewis Marshall applies every residence term to different individuals over a span of 12 years. He records both grooms and brides as Sojourners (1799, 1809, 1810, 1811), records the home parish of each (1807), and records both as of the Parish (not shown). It is possible that in Vicar Marshall's mind there was a clear distinction between each of these applications (did Sojourners declare an intent to stay in the parish, whereas those with home parishes listed did not?), or perhaps he just did not ask where the sojourners came from that day.


Posted 2017-06-20T01:11:16.653

Reputation: 707