Marriage indexes can be extremely helpful for locating an ancestor's whereabouts in England. Some are now available on the Internet, and these indexes allow for quick searching. This article will discuss marriage indexes for pre-1974 counties in Southwestern England.
This article is not comprehensive, but I have tried to find the best indexes available (although it should be remembered that most indexes are not complete). I have tried to avoid listing subscription sites but have included some that contain useful indexes.
Marriages that took place in 1837 and later are found at www.freebmd.org.uk for all of England. This index is not complete, and the site includes graphs that show the percentage of coverage by year. This site also indexes births and deaths.
Pre-1837 marriages are most often found through records of the Church of England. Other church records and record types will not be discussed in this article. Available pre-1837 indexes are discussed below by county.
Berkshire: Most parishes are indexed 1538-1837 and a breakdown by parish and year can be found at www.berksfhs.org.uk/berkshire/BerkshireMarriageIndex.htm. The index is available at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah and at the Oxfordshire Record Office. It can also be searched at www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/BRKMarriageIndex.shtml (subscription site). Some microfiches of the index can be ordered at: www.berksfhs.org.uk/.
Cornwall: 1) Indexes 1538-1910 available at FHL. 2) About 250,000 entries indexed at www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/BRKMarriageIndex.shtml (subscription site). 3) About 280,000 entries through Boyd's Marriage Index, available at: www.englishorigins.com/help/bmi details.aspx (subscription site).
Devonshire: 1) 36% of the county is indexed in Boyd's Marriage Index; available at FHL and through www.englishorigins.com. 2) Marriages 1754-1837 indexed by the Devon Family History Society; available through a postal look-up service. See www.devonfhs.org.uk. 3) Marriage bonds and allegations partly indexed at www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/WIL_MLB.shtml.
Dorsetshire: 1) Indexed 1538-1837; search information found at www.sdfhs.org/Dormarr.htm. The site charges for look-ups, but this is the best available index I have found and is in the process of computerization. 2) Marriage bonds and allegations partly indexed at www.familyhistoryonline.net/database/WIL_MLB.shtml. 3) 30% of Dorset marriages indexed in Boyd's Marriage Index. 4) Over 60,000 marriages indexed in the British and Vital Records Index.
Gloucestershire: 1) About 65% of the county indexed in Boyd's Marriage Index. 2) Bristol and South Gloucester indexed 1754-1837, at FHL. 3) "Roe's Marriage Index," available in the Gloucester Record Office and at the Society of Genealogist's Library in London. 4) About 94,000 marriages indexed in the British and Vital Records Index.
Hampshire: 1) About 144,000 entries at www.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=5883 (subscription site), mainly taken from records of marriage licenses. 2) Full index of marriages available through the Hampshire Genealogical Society; see www.hgs online.org.uk/research.htm. 3) Index by Aubrey Mary Clench, available at FHL. 4) Over 40,000 marriages indexed in the British and Vital Records Index.
Isle of Wight: 1) Indexes covering 1539-1900 available at FHL. 2) 85% of marriages indexed in Boyd's Marriage Index.
Monmouth (Wales): 1) Index 1754-1812 available at FHL; 40% of this index available online at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~monfamilies/Monmarrindex.html.
Oxford: 1) Index 1538-1837 at FHL and at the Oxfordshire Record Office. 2) 65% of marriages indexed in Boyd's Marriage Index.
Somersetshire: 1) Northern Somerset, 1700s-1837, at FHL. 2) Index to Phillimore's Somerset Marriage Register Index, at FHL (incomplete). 3) Marriage bonds and allegations, 1756-1899, at FHL (partially indexed). 4) Many indexes available by parish; see www.genwed.com/UK/england.htm.
Wiltshire: 1) Complete index 1538-1837 (about 254,000 marriages). Look-ups must be requested; see www.redbreast.co.uk/nimrod/#MARRIAGE%20INDEX%20 (1538 1837). 2) About 123,000 marriages indexed in the British and Vital Records Index.
A few notes on the information above:
The International Genealogical Index, which is found at www.familysearch.org, includes extracted marriage record information for much of pre-20th century England. I advise searching this database before looking at the other indexes mentioned.
Those records available through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah can often be ordered for a small fee to Family History Centers located worldwide. Bibliographic and call number information for these items is found in their catalog, which can be accessed through www.familysearch.org.
Boyd's Marriage Index generally covers marriages 1538-1837 but is not complete. It is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and through www.englishorigins.com. A list of parishes and years covered for each county can be found at: http://www.englishorigins.com/help/bmi parishstats.asp?county. Boyd's Marriage Index includes records for nearly all English counties, but only those covering at least 30% of each Southwestern county were included in this article.
Copies of the British Vital Records Index on CD are inexpensive and can be ordered online at www.ldscatalog.com. This index includes records for all the parishes included in this article, although those with less than 15,000 entries in the index were not mentioned. Record collections include conformist and non-conformist (non-Church of England) records. The number of entries in the index by county can be found at www.genoot.com/downloads/BVRI2.
Indexes are continuously being updated, so don't forget to check for new material in the future!
See also, Northern England Marriage Indexes