Hope you have had a Merry Christmas and are looking forward to the new year.
I took advantage of the holiday time to take a look at the Plymouth and West Devon Parish Records on the Find My Past website. Here you can view the actual scanned documents from the archive in Plymouth if you have a subscription or buy some pay as you go credits.
Although I already have copies of the GRO certificates it is interesting to also look at the church registers and glean some extra information. I got several pieces of extra information on one set of ancestors that I had not got before, from carrying out this exercise. I’ll keep these for further article posts!
One of the interesting finds from looking at the scanned church register was that they were married according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Established Church “by Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate.
A while back, in my family history research, I came across a marriage “by certificate” in my family tree in Portsmouth.
In the year 1859 my 2x great grandfather, Henry Thorne married Ellen Malser in Portsea, Hampshire. By all accounts it was in a church of the Church of England and according to their rites, but I was mystified by the fact it was not either by banns or by licence.
My investigation at the time indicted that â€œby certificateâ€ usually meant that the ceremony was conducted by a Registrar. This being common in nonconformist church weddings and at registry offices.
I sought out what Mark Herber had to say in his book, Ancestral Trails, and found the line: â€œFrom 1837 marriages could also take place before civil registrars, or in chapels licensed under the Civil Registrations Acts. The law permitted the superintendent registrar to issue a certificate (similar to an Anglican licence) authorising marriages (without banns) in licensed places of worshipâ€.
So here it was again in the 1866 marriage of another branch of my family and this time in Plymouth.
I have now found out that a Superintendent Registrar of a civil Register Office may issue a Certificate to permit a marriage to take place in an Anglican church on the following conditions.
One of the parties must have the required seven days residence within the registration district and within the parish where the marriage is to take place before applying for the Certificate.
Or the church where they wish to marry must be the usual place of worship of one or both of the parties.
The Registrar enters the details of the parties in a book which is open to public inspection and also displays a notice at the Register Office for 15 days. If no impediments are shown within the period of 15 days, a Superintendent Registrarâ€™s Certificate can be issued and so it is similar to reading banns.
A clergyman, however, is under no obligation to marry people who have chosen this preliminary, and in practice clergy will recommend banns or a Common Licence.
I have found on Barbara Dixon’s site, a tutorial regarding marriages and she indicates that a marriage “by superintendent registrars certificate” is comparatively rare. http://home.clara.net/dixons/Certificates/marriages.htm
It’s used for a Church of England marriage but instead of the banns being read in the church, notice of marriage would have been given to the superintendent registrar.
A reason for so doing could be necessitated where services were held so infrequently such as in the case of a small chapel, that it was not possible to call the banns on three successive Sundays and get married all within the three months time limit.
In later periods it was sometimes used as an expedient if for some reason the vicar did not want to make the forthcoming marriage in the church public knowledge. Banns would have required the entry in the banns book, which was open for anyone to look at.
The types of problem that could have caused this course to be taken could have been where a bride and groom were of different faiths and the vicar either didn’t want the congregation in general to know, or even the bride/grooms family to be aware especially where he feared they might try to disrupt the ceremony!
Today it is sometimes used when one of the couple is divorced and the vicar does not want it generally known that he is marrying a divorcee in his church.
So, comparatively rare or not I find I have two sets of ancestors who took advantage of the Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate.