What are the reasons people from the same parish may have married by license?


My ancestor William Ward married Margaret Powell in 1706. They both resided in the parish of Overton, Flintshire (in Wales) and married by license.

I have heard that typically the purpose of marriage licenses was so that the couple could marry in a church away from their home parish, though this is clearly not the case here. I've heard marriage licenses could also be a status symbol but since these were people from an agricultural background that doesn't seem likely either.

Are there any other reasons for marriage by license that might make sense?


Posted 2019-11-12T13:06:43.063

Reputation: 1 523



According to Rebecca Probert in Marriage Law for Genealogists the definitive guide

Key fact: before 25th March, 1754, neither the Church nor the secular courts regarded as valid any marriage that had not been celebrated before an ordained Anglican clergyman.

If your ancestors were not Anglican (e.g. Catholic or non-conformist) they may have wished to avoid attending an Anglican church three Sundays in a row to hear the banns read, which a licence would enable them to do.

A licence would also speed up the marriage process, avoiding a three week delay -- which might be useful if the the couple had 'anticipated the marriage' and didn't want it obvious when they presented themselves to the incumbent.

Prompted by AdrianB38: Furthermore, marriages were not supposed to take place at certain times of the year. For instance, not during Lent. If the couple needed or wanted to marry during one of those periods, they would need a license to do so. And, if I'm reading Probert correctly, marriages were allowed from 13 January, and then at various intervals until the start of Advent (4th Sunday before Christmas). So 6th January was indeed a prohibited date, which is probably your solution. (Why they chose to marry then rather than a week later is worthy of investigation.)


Posted 2019-11-12T13:06:43.063

Reputation: 6 063

1Also part of the time element is that marriages were not supposed to take place at certain times of the year. For instance, not during Lent. If the couple needed or wanted to marry during one of those periods, they would need a license to do so. – AdrianB38 – 2019-11-12T14:17:51.763

@AdrianB38 -- thanks -- incorporated in answer. – ColeValleyGirl – 2019-11-12T14:22:42.643

They were married on the 6th of Jan, so don't think the time element would have applied. The non-comformist idea seems likely though, as I have heard non-conformity was fairly common in Wales at the time. However, what makes this more interesting is his son was a parish clerk and so a very active Anglican! – Charlie – 2019-11-12T14:28:25.197

1@Charlie, Parish clerk or parish warden? I've a warden in Pembrokeshire in my records who was a dyed-in-the-wool Baptist, but lived in a parish where there were almost no member of the Church of Wales; unluckily he lived in a property that was one of those which 'the honour' of being made clerk rotated around. TL; DR. You didn't need to be an Anglican to be church warden. (Until 1964, if the parish selected you, you had to serve or be heavily fined). – ColeValleyGirl – 2019-11-12T14:47:24.107

Interesting. 3 generations of the Ward family were parish clerks, so perhaps the responsibility was simply passed on involuntarily – Charlie – 2019-11-12T15:00:31.590

Charlie, Worth investigating if the all lived in the same property. Also, was it on glebe land? – ColeValleyGirl – 2019-11-12T15:30:09.817

@ColeValleyGirl nothing in the parish records or their wills that mention their address as far as I can find, and this is way before Census Records. I will see if I can find any records pertaining to addresses during this time – Charlie – 2019-11-12T15:45:43.187

@Charlies, lease might help, especially leases for 3 lives which identify 3 generations of a family. Tend not to be online, unfortunately. – ColeValleyGirl – 2019-11-12T15:51:20.147

26 Jan would have been the Feast of Epiphany, if that makes a difference. – shoover – 2019-11-12T22:01:56.643

1@ColeValleyGirl - I just took far to long to locate Professor Probert's calendar of prohibited dates (p.130 in her first edition) having been prompted by shoover naming the date. And I agree that 6 January was indeed prohibited under the normal course of events, so needed a licence. – AdrianB38 – 2019-11-12T22:44:39.037