Records of marriage licences are created when a couple chose to be married by licence, rather than by the calling of banns. Almost all marriages before 1837 were carried out within Church of England parish churches, and most of these were solemnised after the calling of banns within the church (repeated announcements within their parish churches of the couple's intention to marry, during the weeks preceding the actual marriage). However, couples could choose to marry after obtaining a licence from the bishop, either as a status symbol (because it required payment of the licence fee), or to avoid the delay caused by repeated calling of banns. The licence was usually issued not by the bishop in person, but by a senior clergyman acting as the bishop's surrogate within a particular part of the diocese.
Before a marriage licence could be granted, an affidavit (called the allegation) had to be sworn (usually by the groom), and until 1823 a bond was also required. These are the main records included within this series.
The Marriage Licence Bonds and Allegations relate to the whole diocese of Durham (County Durham and Northumberland until 1882, County Durham only thereafter). More information about the diocese of Durham is available under Church of England Records. But to summarise, records of Marriage Licences are available for the following areas:
*For later Marriage Licence allegations from Crayke, or earlier bonds and allegations from Hexhamshire and Thockrington, consult the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York. Later marriage licence allegations from all the Northumberland parishes and from Alston and Garrigill are at Northumberland Archives, Woodhorn.
**Post -1845 marriage licence allegations for these townships in Allertonshire (subject to the Bishop of Durham's jurisdiction) are within the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York (allegations for 1831-1845 have not been found). All bonds and allegations for the other townships in Allertonshire are at the Borthwick Institute for Archives (Brompton, Deighton, High Worsall, Kirby Sigston, Northallerton, Romanby and West Rounton: these townships were subject in other matters to the Dean and Chapter's jurisdiction).
The records of Marriage Licences date chiefly from 1664 (with some surviving from 1592) until 1882 (County Durham and Northumberland) or 1995 (County Durham only).
Background information on marriage licence applications within Durham is within our Administrative Histories guide to the Durham Diocesan Records. See also guide to marriage bonds and allegations from the Borthwick Institute for Archives, for general examples and guidance on marriage licence bonds and allegations.
For those aged 21 or over, the marriage licence allegation (sworn statement or affidavit) merely states the information about the bride and groom that should be recorded within the parish register or Bishop's Transcripts (BTs) marriage entry after 1812. For earlier marriages, the parishes of both parties are included within the allegation, but may not be recorded within the register/BTs. The allegations are mainly useful for those who are under 21, in which case parental consent is required and names of parents will be recorded on the allegation. For the family historian, the groom's signature may also be of interest.
Bonds (committing the signatories to pay a penalty if the allegation proves to be false) record slightly less information about the marriage itself, though they name an additional surety who took part in the bond, and who may be a close family member or acquaintance.
Note that the date of the marriage licence allegation is not the date of the marriage (it is usually a few days or week(s) before the actual marriage), and is not evidence that the marriage actually took place.
The lists of Marriage Licence records include details of the parties and (at most dates) other family history information held within the records.
Different lists or finding aids are available, according to date:
Digital images of almost all the Marriage Licence bonds and allegations for the period before 1900 are available at the familysearch website.
When using the images on familysearch, note:
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