Under the Marriage Act of 1753 (also known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act), clandestine or common-law marriages in England were made illegal. All marriages were required to have an official ceremony performed by a Church of England priest, unless the couple was Jewish or Quaker. The Act also required parental consent for parties under 21 years old and enforced the publication of Banns. This Act also applied in Wales. However, it did not apply to Scotland or Ireland, as they were under their own legal systems.
Couples wanting to get around these laws (for example because of no parental consent or personal objections to marrying in a church) often fled to Scottish border villages in order to get married where the English laws did not apply. Gretna Green, Scotland was one such destination. Located just over the border, it was one of the first villages encountered by elopers heading north. To this day, Gretna Green is still a very popular wedding destination.
About this Collection:
This data collection contains what has become known as the Lang Collection of Gretna Green Marriage Registers, being named after David and Simon Lang, a father and son duo who were “priests” and performed many marriages in Gretna Green between 1794 and 1828.
The entire collection covers the years 1794 to 1895, with a few earlier references. Since Gretna Green marriages were not exactly formal, the record keeping was not regulated, nor was it centralized. The Lang Registers make up approximately 50% of all Gretna Green marriages performed during the specified time period. The Lang Registers is the largest single collection of Gretna Green marriage registers and includes over 10,000 records.
Sometimes marriages were recorded on scraps of pieces of paper. Other times they were kept more formally and recorded in a book. The amount of information recorded could vary as well. However, you’ll generally be able to find the following information:
- Names of bride and groom
- Their counties of residence
- Marriage date
- Witnesses’ names