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on 1 April 2018
Very useful and easy to read. She corrects a number of extremely common but wrong ideas about marriage in the past (such as the idea that living together without marriage was common, or that marriages which did not comply in all respects with the 1753 Act were void, or that it was forbidden for Christians and Jews to marry each other). The book is divided into sections covering who could get married and who they could marry, what ages they were likely to be, when and if they needed parental consent, where they could marry (generally in a church but if you were one of the few people who could get a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury you could marry anywhere) and explains clearly and succinctly how the law changed at various times. There are special short sections on religious minorities and how the legal status of their marriages changed. If you find your ancestor seems to have married twice to the same person and the dates are close together one may be a legally invalid religious ceremony and the other a Church of England ceremony to make the marriage legal.

One interesting factor which I am still unclear about is that, surprisingly, only in 1929 was 16 set as the absolute minimum age for marriage, and any marriage contracted by someone under that age made automatically void. Previously the age was 12 for girls and 14 for boys, and in fact if a person was under those ages the marriage would not necessarily be invalid - it was voidable, but if the couple continued to live together after the girl was 12 and the boy 14 the marriage was valid. A case from as recently as 1894 of an 11 year old marrying a 22 year old is cited. Yet the age of sexual consent was raised to 16 in 1885. Were they supposed to wait until they were 16 to consummate their marriage? We do not know.
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on 21 December 2012
This book for genealogists, based on solid academic research, refutes several ideas that some genealogists seem to have taken on board, such as the idea of 'Common Law' marriage before 1754. Having spent many years in family history research myself, I have never found any evidence for common law marriage. Indeed, the power of the church courts, in which a woman, or both a man and a woman, could be punished for fornication, particularly if a child was begotten in the process, has always suggested otherwise, and I was therefore not surprised by the author's findings.

The world of our ancestors becomes more and more different to our own world the further back we go, and it is important to understand the conventions by which our ancestors lived, particularly regarding marriage, which is a central feature of family history research. This book fills a gap in the market that has been waiting to be filled for some time and I would recommend it to all serious family history researchers.
12 people found this helpful
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on 13 September 2012
This book is just what I needed to augment my Genealogical research.

Prof. Probert clearly knows her subject, as evidenced by the scope of Family Law publications listed on her Amazon Author's page. She is no stuffy academic. Extensively researched, the book is written in plain English, and is well ordered. It achieves that elusive balance of being both thorough and concise.

With chapter titles of Why, Who, How, When and Where, it dispels all the myths and mumbo jumbo about early marriages still to be found quoted in contemporary Genealogical publications. It is punctuated with "Key facts" that clarify the realities of marriage law in England and Wales since the early 17th century, which is as far back as most amateur genealogists can reasonably hope to reach.

It directly answers most of the questions about marriages that are likely to be raised by real family history researchers, as well as providing some very interesting (to me at least) statistics. Recognizing that these statistics were presented as samples to illustrate the specific points being made, this is an area that I personally feel might have been usefully extended.
19 people found this helpful
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on 15 December 2014
This is a really essential book for family historians. It is easy to read & gives very clear details of the numerous different laws through the ages concerning English marriages. Some laws were short lived & quickly repealed or replaced by new ones but it is useful to know just when this happened so as to relate the information to one's own ancestors. This guide explains why many people married well out of their home district for example. It is not always enough to search the local parish registers. The chapters are broken down into easy to find relevant parts. It does not include Scottish marriage laws however.
One person found this helpful
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on 21 July 2014
Rebecca Proberts volume is essential reading for anybody interested in Genealogy. It is comprehensive and surprisingly very readable. Helpful advice is provided for finding those missing marriages. Highly recommended.
2 people found this helpful
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on 27 December 2013
I was fortunate to go to a talk by the author about this subject and she held my attention throughout. She has obviously done copious amounts of research and she came across as really enthusiastic about this area of law. Consequently, even if you are not currently researching your own ancestor's marriages, this book is a real insight to the social history of the subject and an easy enjoyable read.
One person found this helpful
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on 16 December 2013
This is a book all genealogists should have for reference to clarify the true English laws on Marriage. The writer refutes several earlier similar books which have replicated several historic errors made by an earlier writer, by not going to the original documents for the truth. Tired of seeing repeated errors the author of this book herein corrects them and clarifies English Marriage Law up to recent times. But the very latest changes in marriage Laws can be seen online.
One person found this helpful
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on 21 March 2013
For the amateur genealogist, this is a 'must'. Often, research into one's family tree may lead to a number of questions about the marriage of one's ancestors - did they marry, was their marriage legal, why did they marry away from their home town? Rebecca answers these and many other questions in straight forward language, dispelling some of the myths and misunderstandings still perpetuated by people who should know better!
4 people found this helpful
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on 16 March 2013
A very handy reference book to have to hand for when you come across a difficult marriage to find, gives ideas on where to look
4 people found this helpful
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on 28 May 2015
This well written book should be on every genealogists bookshelf. Makes very interesting reading for those who are interested.
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