Why would Consent of Parents be needed for 1815 marriage between 26 and 33 year olds in Menheniot, Cornwall?


My 3rd great grandparents Joseph Sleep and Ann Geach were married on 26 Jan 1815 at Menheniot, Cornwall, England (see below) “by Banns with Consent of Parents”.

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I have found baptism records that seem to belong to the couple:

  • Joseph on 3 Jun 1781 at Menheniot as the son (Base Child) of Mary Sleep
  • Ann on 20 Jul 1788 at Menheniot as the daughter of Edwd and Mary Geach.

I thought "with Consent of Parents" usually implied one or both people getting married were under age but it seems like Joseph was 33 and Ann was 26 years old.

Is there another reason why the consent of parents may have been needed (perhaps Joseph's illegitimate birth), or is this evidence enough to cast doubt on my identifying the correct baptism records when no others seem likely from my searches so far?

"England Marriages, 1538–1973 ," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NFLJ-6Q2 : accessed 11 November 2015), Joseph Sleep and Ann Geach, 26 Jan 1815; citing Menheniot, Cornwall, England, reference item 26 p 5; FHL microfilm 1,596,053.

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N5D8-K98 : accessed 11 November 2015), Joseph Sleep, 03 Jun 1781; citing MENHENIOT,CORNWALL,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 916,950.

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J3X5-QZ1 : accessed 11 November 2015), Ann Geach, 20 Jul 1788; citing MENHENIOT,CORNWALL,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 916,950.


Posted 2015-11-11T08:15:58.800

Reputation: 10 741

1I believe that, although consent was not mandatory, obtaining it was considered to be a courtesy. – Chenmunka – 2015-11-11T13:19:29.477

Could there have been mental impairment of one of them thereby needing the parental consent? – None – 2015-11-13T04:26:30.393

Welcome to G&FH SE! As far as I know that was not the case, and I think the fact that virtually all marriages in that parish at that time had the same "with Consent of Parents" written means that nothing special needs to be read into it. Your "answer" is written in the form of a question, and probably more intended as a comment, and so I am going to convert it to one. If there are any family history questions you would like answered I hope you will ask them. – PolyGeo – 2015-11-13T04:50:23.207

1@Pamela Do you have any evidence in law or practice that someone with "mental impairment" might need different consent than any other person? – Harry Vervet – 2015-11-13T05:06:55.430



The main marriage law in force from 1754 until 1823 was the Marriage Act 1753, also known as Hardwicke's Act (26 Geo. II. c. 33).

An important thing to note in your case is that the marriage was by banns.

The only instance where a marriage at this time would be invalid if solemnized without consent of parents would be if it was by licence and one or both parties was under 21, or if a parent had actively objected during the publication of banns.

For a marriage by banns, section III of the Act states:

Provided always, and be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That no Parson, Minister, Vicar or Curate solemnizing Marriages...between Persons, both or one of whom shall be under the Age of twenty-one Years, after Banns published, shall be punishable by Ecclesiastical Censures for solemnizing such Marriages without Consent of Parents or Guardians, whose Consent is required by Law, unless such Parson, Minister, Vicar or Curate shall have Notice of the Dissent of such Parents or Guardians; and in case such Parents or Guardians, or one of them, shall openly and publickly declare, or cause to be declared in the Church or Chapel where the Banns shall be so published, at the Time of such Publication, his, her or their Dissent to such Marriages such Publication of Banns shall be absolutely void.

In other words, if the parents did not object to the marriage, the marriage was perfectly valid. This means that underage people sometimes got around getting parental consent by going to a parish where they were not known, and since their parents were not there to object, the marriage was legal and valid.

For these reasons, for a marriage by banns it was only strictly necessary to add "with consent of parents/guardians" if one or both parties were under 21. Therefore, in the absence of other evidence, the most likely explanation for the inclusion of this statement is that one or both of them were underage. However, is is also very possible that the vicar or minister may have filled this in for everyone who had parental consent whether or not they needed it. A quick way to assess this is by looking at adjacent entries for marriage by banns that were solemnized by the same minister. If a large number of other entries also contain this phrase, then you probably need not read too much into it. If, on the other hand, they are the only entry to have this written, you may want to re-assess the baptisms you have located and try to confirm their age better through other records before proceeding with research on these lines of ancestry.

Harry Vervet

Posted 2015-11-11T08:15:58.800

Reputation: 17 763

I looked at adjacent marriages on this image as well as the two preceding and two following pages and found: 22 instances of Banns with Consent of Parents, 3 of License with Consent of Parents, 1 with Consent of crossed out and 1 with Consent of crossed out and No Parents or Guardian written in. There were no other variations amongst the marriages on those pages so it certainly looks like "the vicar or minister may have filled this in for everyone who had parental consent whether or not they needed it". – PolyGeo – 2015-11-11T22:24:59.507