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Marriage Law for Genealogists (England and Wales)


Do you suspect that your ancestors weren’t really married because you haven't yet traced a marriage for them? Have you found a marriage in a parish, where your ancestors had no known connection, and you think it may have been clandestine? Or have you been puzzled by how the marriage was recorded?

To help you interpret your findings, Rebecca Probert explains the law underpinning where and how couples could marry, from the 1700s to the Marriage Act 1949. She also describes the evidence that shows where and how couples actually married.

Every family tree has individuals whose lives do not appear to fit the regular pattern of just one marriage. To help you explore further and understand what might have happened, Rebecca discusses divorce, bigamy, bereavement and remarriage. She examines the laws and social practices from the 1700s through to the late 20th century.


About the speaker: Professor Rebecca Probert is a British legal historian and is the leading academic authority on the history of marriage law in England and Wales. She studied for an undergraduate degree in Jurisprudence at Oxford University and for an LLM at University College, London She taught at the University of Sussex, the University of Warwick for several years before joining Exeter Law School at the University of Exeter in 2017.

Professor Probert is the author of many scholarly articles and is also the author of ‘Marriage Law for Genealogists’ and ‘Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved?’ and her new book, ‘Tying the Knot: The Formation of Marriage, 1836-2020’.

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