30 January 2013

Book Review: Marriage Law for Genealogists

Title: Marriage Law for Genealogists
Author: Rebecca Probert
Paperback: 162 pages
Publisher: Takeaway (Publishing) (Sep 4 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0956384714
Cover Price: US$14.99

Open the cover of this slim volume and you'll read that Rebecca Probert is widely recognized as the leading authority on the history of marriage laws in England and Wales. That's an easy sentence for a PR agent to write. In this case the book is adequate witness to the author's billing.

Early on we read that many long-standing myths, repeated in various volumes, have been overturned by more recent research. "The simple but very clear findings are that the overwhelming majority of couples married in the Church of England, cohabitation was vanishingly rare, and informal marriage practices non-existent."
No matter how entertaining the mental image no marriage by jumping over a broomstick.
That's an example of one of the common mistakes at which the book takes aim about the law of marriage, repeated in well known books such as Who Do You Think You Are? The Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Ancestral Trails, .
The major chapter headings are:
Whether and Why, the likelihood a couple went through a valid marriage ceremony;
Who could marry;
How, the formalities of a valid marriage;
When, marriage partners ages and dates/hours for marriage;
Where, the location of marriages - near or far.
If there's a simple take home message it's that from 1600 until very recently most people followed the rules when it came to marriage and establishing a family.

That point may be made a bit too strongly. Even if most people did conform among the perhaps 4,000 partnerships in your ancestry back to 1600 some of them were likely to have been less conventional.

UPDATE: Rick Roberts from Global Genealogy informs me they have just received a shipment of this book.

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