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Archiver > LONDON > 2006-01 > 1136377557

From: Eve McLaughlin <>
Subject: Re: [Lon] Question on marriage witnesses?
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2006 12:25:57 +0000
In-Reply-To: <>

In message <>, writes
>Hi Everyone
>I have always been a teensy bit obsessive about trying to find out who the
>witnesses were to my ancestors marriages.
>I have noticed in most cases, with a few exceptions, that they were usually
>a man and a women.
>In some cases at least one of them would be a family member. In others they
>were a none related married couple such as friends or neighbours, and in yet
>others they appeared to be neither relatives of the bride or groom nor
>related to each other.
Preferred witnesses in country weddings where the couple belonged to the
parish were one from each side, usually siblings of the two parties. A
'nonmatching ' name may be a married sister, for instance.
Only in the marriages of upper class couples, where the alliance may
be dynastic rather than for love, and it is a merger of two rich
families, it is very likely that the fathers of the couple will sign.
In some parishes, the parish clerk will sign more or less every
wedding, because he was there with his pen and the couple did not push
forward more than one witness of their own. Local custom will apply.

>I am assuming the man acted as bestman for the groom and the woman as
>bridesmaid or maid of honour for the bride for at least the duration of the
That is an interesting assumption which looks very reasonable.

In towns, the scene may be different - the couple were often far from
their homes, with no family members to hand. The witnesses might be
(e..g.) fellow servants or workers. In London churches, especially those
which married anyone to anyone, the witnesses are often church officials
- not churchwardens, but pew openers, sextons, dog catchers, cleaners
even, who were ready to earn a few extra coppers by signing their names
or marks for anyone. All it needed was two persons to stand there while
the ceremony took place and sign the register afterwards.
In either case, if you get the same witnesses coming up time after
time, suspect they qare provided by the management.
Eve McLaughlin

Author of the McLaughlin Guides for family historians
Secretary Bucks Genealogical Society

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