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Marriage Law for Genealogists

Whether you are tracing your family tree, or are simply interested in the fascinating history of the marriage laws and practices of England and Wales, welcome!

This website accompanies my new book, Marriage Law for Genealogists: The Definitive Guide ...what everyone tracing their family history needs to know about where, when, who and how their English and Welsh ancestors married.

Written as a guide for all family historians tracing the marriages of their English and Welsh ancestors between 1600 and the twentieth century, Marriage Law for Genealogists is based on many years of research and thoroughly rewrites how family historians should understand their ancestors’ lives in this most personal and universal of areas. Family historians just starting out will find advice on where ‘missing’ marriages are most likely to be found, while those who are already well advanced in tracing their family tree will be able to interpret their discoveries to better understand their ancestors’ motivations.

If you are wondering whether you need to read the book, try this short quiz to see how much you already know about the marriage laws and practices of England and Wales, or look inside the book on its Amazon page.

If you would like to buy a copy, it is available on Amazon.

If you have read the book and would like to comment on any aspect of it or share any puzzling or unexpected stories about how your ancestors married, you are welcome to email me at Rebecca dot Probert at warwick dot ac dot uk. Alternatively, for more resources relevant to marriage law, please click here.


'a phenomenal new book ... which proves that much of the assumptions and assertions that have been made about marriage and related topics such as illegitimacy are plain wrong!' (Lost Cousins Newsletter)

'systematically explains the history of this subject during the period since 1600, along with reasons for and the nature of changes affecting it. Conclusions are backed up by statistical evidence from a variety of sources, with a sympathetic understanding of why the institution of marriage appealed almost universally to members of all major groups in society until well after the Second World War. The author exposes the inaccuracy of some commonly held views on subjects such as “common law marriage”, the extent of unmarried cohabitation and the proportion of births taking place out of wedlock at various stages in the past four centuries....The book lives up to its subtitle “a definitive guide”.' (Federation of Family History Societies)

'A must for amateur and professional genealogists alike. Debunks some myths about early marriages. Brilliant.' (Amazon)