Illegal marriage plot thickensPosted: 07 Jan 2010
Since my post in December on my great-grandparents illegal marriage (Charles Bertram Jones and Mary Louisa Wilson), which occurred in 1902, I have since visited Birmingham Central Library and found more information.
First, I checked 1890, 1904 and 1918 maps of Ladywood for St Mary Street. I quickly found it on all three maps as St Mary Street formed a T junction with Wood Street opposite St John’s, the church were the marriage took place. I was correct in thinking that St Mary Street no longer exists; the area in which it lay now has a completely different street layout. Back in December I failed to find this address on the 1901 and 1911 censuses using search facility at www.findmypast.com but when I compiled my website, I thought I had found it. My confusion arose from the similarity between St Mary Street (address on marriage certificate) and St Marys Road (1901 census address for the groom and his 1st wife). Searching for St Mary Street yields a Birmingham result, but searching for St Marys Street does not.
It is possible that Charles and Frances really did move between these two addresses, but I still can’t help finding them suspiciously similar. Apart from the consistency of the address given on Frances death certificate and the illegal marriage certificate, I have no evidence to independently support this claim (recorded by someone other than Charles). The next step is to search for other evidence of who lived at 73 St Mary Street in 1902, perhaps electoral roll or surviving tenancy documents. Should my suspicions prove to be founded, it would suggest considerable premeditation on the part of Charles to deceive.
Next, I examined the original parish register for the marriage and to find an important discrepancy with the copy of the marriage certificate I had previously obtained from the General Register Office. The original indicates that the marriage was by license, but on the GRO copy this has been overwritten with “banns”.
The procedure for a Church of England marriage registration is as follows: At the wedding 2 registers are signed by the groom, bride and witnesses. One register was retained by the local parish church (St John’s) and the other was sent to the district (which?) superintendent registrar when full. Either or both of these could subsequently be lodged with the county or other archive (Birmingham Central Library in this case). I am not sure which one of the original registers I examined. Clarifying this and locating the other original register is needed. A third register, copied from the originals, was submitted quarterly to the General Register Office (London).
I did a quick survey of the marriages recorded in the register in 1902. Of the 84 marriages only 1 was by license, 4 had left the banns/license space blank and the rest were by banns. The presiding clergyman, O E Meatyard, performed 21 of the marriages. Other presiding clergy were Euston J Nurse, who performed most of the marriages and A R Moss who performed on 6. No other marriages took place on the same day.
As the only marriage by license in 1902, I think it is unlikely that the register was filled in carelessly. The presiding clergyman certainly had enough familiarity with the procedure. The first few pages in this register give detailed instructions on how to complete the entries with emphasis on the accuracy of records, including counter-signing amendments to errors.
Enquiries revealed that Birmingham Central Library does not hold marriage license records for this date, which are most likely to be held by either the Lichfield or Birmingham diocese. Marriage banns were not included in the catalogue, so may not exist, or be held elsewhere.