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Wedding witnesses

Discussion in 'Comments on the latest newsletter' started by SarahLC, Oct 15, 2020.

  1. SarahLC

    SarahLC Genealogy in the Sunshine 2015

    In the latest newsletter, Peter says, "Have you ever seen as many marriage witnesses as this?" All I can say is, you have never looked at a Quaker marriage!! Typically, everyone attending the marriage signed as a witness. If I can upload this correctly, you will see the marriage of my 7th great grandmother Pleasant Pawlin/Paulin with her third and final husband George Clough in 1712, just over a year after the death of her second husband, my ancestor Francis Hague. The poor woman still had 9 living children from her first two marriages to cope with and I'm grateful that George stepped in to help!

    Well, I gave up on that one which, when it was made small enough to post, was not of good enough quality to read. But it was two pages long and there were 59 witness signatures.

    Here's another clearer one of the marriage of my 4x great grandparents Francis Hague and Ruth Ratekin in 1786 with "only" 33 signatures besides those of the happy couple.

    Attached Files:

  2. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Megastar

    Quaker marriages immediately came to my mind when I was reading this bit in the latest newsletter. I haven't usually counted the witnesses beyond registering that there were a lot of them. Sometimes the list of witnesses was separated into relatives and others, which is useful but can prove challenging - who were all these people, which of the couple were they related to, and how?
  3. SarahLC

    SarahLC Genealogy in the Sunshine 2015

    In most of the ones I have seen, the immediate family members were in the righthand column, below the signatures of the couple. It has been extremely helpful to try to figure out the relationship of all the witnesses and builds a better idea of the community as a whole.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  4. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Megastar

    Yes, looking at two of the Quaker marriages I have with lots of signatures, the relatives do seem to be on the right as you say, though indicated as such with a heading. Since several of the surnames appear among both the relatives and the others, maybe the heading was thought necessary!
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  5. Puddles

    Puddles LostCousins Member

    It gets very confusing when there are 4 men of the same name and 3 of the men have wives with the same name as well - and all are witnesses! I have four Thomases. Two known as "Thomas the elder" and the other two as "Thomas the younger". Three of the four are married to Elizabeths and all four had children named Elizabeth (and Agnes and Ann and William and Joseph).
  6. Puddles

    Puddles LostCousins Member

    As Quakers tended to marry within the Society they could all be related to some degree or another. I have given up trying to fond out who is who and how they are related except that the closer relatives do tend to be nearer the top of the list.
  7. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    This isn't actually related to numbers of witnesses, more to the numbers of names.
    I have one man who was married 3 times, each wife was Elizabeth.
    One branch of my ancestors has couples with the names of William and Elizabeth and that does get confusing.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  8. TerryM

    TerryM LostCousins Member

    Not just Quaker marriages, many of the early American marriages in small towns in the late 17th and early 18th century have all the attendees on the record. I have an ancestor who married in Cape May in 1708 with 24 names on the list and amazingly only 3 left 'their mark' instead of their signature.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  9. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I should have explained that I was referring to marriages under the provisions of the 1753 Act, which requires just 2 witnesses. So far nobody has come forward with any comparable examples - the most I have seen in my own family is 4.
  10. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Megastar

    I have found one with 5 witnesses. Most have just 2, but I also have some with 3 or 4. It seems to be mostly non-conformist families who opted for more than the required 2.

    I have found the occasional marriage with just 1 witness - before 1837 but after 1754.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  11. Puddles

    Puddles LostCousins Member

    I have now found a marriage in Christ Church, Lancaster (CofE) with four witnesses.

    William Nelson (my relative - a widower) married Elizabeth Tilly and the witnesses were Wm Tilly, James Tilly, Catherine Tilly and Jane Tilly - I have not checked how all these Tillys were related.

    William gives his rank or profession as "Gentleman".
  12. jorghes

    jorghes LostCousins Superstar

    The marriage certificate of my maternal grandparents in Newport in 1941 has five witnesses. They were not non-conformist that I know of.

    Their witnesses included both of their fathers, an aunt, a sister and a name that I'm not completely sure where it belongs.

    All five of the names are squeezed onto the standard two lines in the marriage register copy.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  13. pjd

    pjd LostCousins Star

    I have 9 instances of 3 or 4 witnesses (4 C of E, 5 non-conformist) & 1 of 6 witnesses (C of E). The latter was in 1943 & the 6 were both parents of both bride & groom + best man & bridesmaid)
    • Useful Useful x 1
  14. Katie Bee

    Katie Bee LostCousins Member

    I have 2 marriages with 3 witnesses both CofE and one before civil registration (1824) and one after (1880).
    All the others are only 2 witnesses
  15. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Looking though the marriage register for Evercreech in Somerset I came across an 1876 marriage where there were 5 witnesses. The groom was a Captain in the 53rd Regiment, and one of the witnesses was the Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  16. A. Muse

    A. Muse LostCousins Member

    I wonder if he was there to make sure the wedding took place to ensure the honour of the regiment?
    Any sign of a child shortly after the wedding?
  17. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I doubt it.
    I had no reason to research the family, but feel free to take a look.
  18. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Megastar

    One of the certificates I have with 4 witness signatures (from 1847) shows the residence of those witnesses as well as their names. I don't know how common that was.

    And changing the subject slightly, another thing which I have noticed a couple of times in post-1837 marriage registers is the inclusion of a mother's name instead of a father's for someone who was illegitimate. I haven't seen yet seen this on a certificate, though.
  19. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I've never seen this - have you been able to look at other marriages in the same church/register office?
    I've not seen it on a certificate either, but then I only have a couple of hundred marriage certificates, whereas I've looked at tens of thousands of marriage register entries. The examples I've seen weren't for my family. so I don't know whether the people concerned were illegitimate, but I certainly didn't make that assumption - it could be that it was a person under the age of 21 who needed their mother's permission to marry (because their father was deceased). A less likely scenario is that there were two people in the parish with the same name, and whose fathers had the same name and occupation (quite common in parts of Wales, I would imagine).

    But also bear in mind that some forenames we now regard as girl's names, such as Hilary or Frances, were also used for boys.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  20. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Megastar

    Unfortunately not. It was a Baptist church and I haven't seen the original register to browse it, nor do I have certificates for other marriages there around that time.
    The two examples I was thinking of were members of my extended family and not only do I know that they were illegitimate, I know that their mothers were as shown in the marriage register.

    One of those marriages - which annoyingly I can't find at the moment - was accompanied in the register by a letter from the Registrar General pointing out that a mother's name must not be recorded at a marriage, and that this one should be struck from the record and not entered on any certificate issued. Presumably the letter was sent to the clergyman after the quarterly returns were received.

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