Did your ancestor receive a marriage licence from the ancient Anglican Diocese of Ely in Cambridgeshire? Explore more than 8,000 marriage licences and discover the date your ancestor was issued a marriage licence, your ancestor’s spouse’s name and the name of the bondsman for the licence. Many of the records also include the bride’s maiden name, an excellent find for family historians. However, keep in mind that the existence of a marriage licence does not mean that a marriage occurred.
Each record includes a transcript created by Avril Symonds from the original records held in the Suffolk Record Office and the Cambridge University Library. The amount of detail in each transcript can vary, but most will include the following information:
Marriage licence date – the marriage licence would have been issued only a short time before the intended marriage date.
Place – in some records, more than one place may be listed. The marriage licences were issued to the groom-to-be permitting him to marry his intended bride in a specific parish or in two or more qualifying parishes (for instance, if bride and groom were from, or had family connections with, different parishes).
County and country
The Cambridge University Library and the Suffolk Record Office hold the diocese’s marriage licenses, which have been transcribed by Avril Symonds.
A couple could request a marriage licence instead of the traditional banns. The licence was requested for various reasons, among them being a couple wanting to marry quickly or avoid the reading of the banns if, for example, the local community did not know them. In order to obtain a licence, the couple signed a marriage allegation. It stated that there was no legal or moral reason they could not be married. Additionally, a groom would pledge a bond, a monetary amount, to be forfeited in case the information in the allegation was proved to be incorrect. A bondsman, or a surety, would be named on the licence. Often the bondsman was a relative of the groom, but could also be a neighbour or friend. The bondsman would be responsible to forfeit a large sum of money if the signed allegation was false. After 1823, marriage bonds were no longer required.
Cambridgeshire lies in the southeast part of England. The Church of England’s Diocese of Ely was created in 1109. Its boundaries have been changed throughout the years. During the course of its history, the diocese has included the historic county of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. To understand what places are included in this collection, use the Cambridgeshire, Ely Diocese Marriage Licences Place List, available in the Useful Links and Resources. The Bishop of Ely leads the Diocese of Ely. The Bishop’s seat is at the cathedral in the city of Ely. In 1837, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire were added.
Ely’s first abbey was built in 673 AD but was destroyed during the Danish invasion in 870. A new abbey was built and dedicated to the Anglican Saint Etheldreda in 970 by the Bishop of Winchester. As the monastery grew and the city’s wealth expanded, the foundation for a new cathedral was laid in 1083.