My 5th great grandfather Edward Chichester was buried at Leighland, Old Cleeve, Somerset, England on 4 May 1823, aged 89, which puts his birth year at about 1734, and I am trying to identify his birth family.

He married Constant/Constance Lyddon on 6 Jun 1765 at Leighland and they baptised all their children at Leighland/Old Cleeve: John (29 Sep 1765; which may be why he agreed to a 200 pound marriage bond), Robert (1767), Giles (1769), William (1773), Jane (1776), Charles (1777) and Thomas (1779).

With Edward naming his first son John, I would not be surprised to find that as the name of Edward's father, and there was a John Chichester baptised to Giles on 11 Sep 1703 at Old Cleeve.

John Chichester (presumably that one), and his wife Elizabeth baptised a son John on 11 Apr 1733 at Leighland, which I think makes a reasonable case for Edward having a brother named John (1733) and a father named John (1703).

Where Edward was born/baptised, and where and when John and Elizabeth (who may be his parents) were married is unknown, but I have found a candidate marriage that is a little unusual.

At Horton in Gloucestershire, which is about 75 miles from Old Cleeve, there is a marriage record on 17 Apr 1732 for John Chichester, Esq and Mrs Elizabeth Courtney/Courtnay. It appears in the parish register and again in a transcript which appears to be contemporary (both images below):

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There are several things that I find unusual about this record:

  • the naming of Elizabeth as Mrs Elizabeth Courtnay - I am used to seeing widow used as a way to signify that a woman has been married before but not Mrs.
  • the lack of any parish being named for either John or Elizabeth whereas other marriages on the same page seem to always name them - this makes me think that neither are local
  • the wording "married ... By Licence, as I was informed" which was transcribed as "married by Licence as I am credibly informed" - this says that the person who wrote the register was not present at the marriage.

Does the wording of this marriage record at a parish 75 miles from where he seems to have spent much of his life give credence to my theory that the John Chichester who married in 1732 at Horton could be the same John Chichester who baptised a son John a year later at Old Cleeve?

  • 1
    "which may be why he paid a 200 pound marriage bond": He did not pay £200, it was just a promise to pay that as a penalty if he broke the terms of the bond (i.e. there was an undisclosed legal impediment to the marriage).
    – Harry V.
    Jul 18, 2016 at 11:46
  • @HarryVervet I've changed paid to agreed - I thought it was a lot for a soon to be wed to come up with. Would marrying with a 5-6 month pregnant bride contribute to a bond being required?
    – PolyGeo
    Jul 18, 2016 at 11:57

2 Answers 2


Going through your list of unusual things about this record:

Mrs Elizabeth Courtnay

'Mrs' did not refer to a married woman in the 1730s. It was a title of status. In her journal article titled Mistresses and marriage: or, a short history of the Mrs, Amy Erickson puts it nicely:

Today the most common use of the word 'mistress' is in its abbreviated form as the title 'Mrs', used almost universally in the English-speaking world today to designate a married woman. 'Mrs' was pronounced 'mistress' until the eighteenth century. For Dr [Samuel] Johnson, one of the few female conditions not signified by 'mistress' was marriage. In the middle of the eighteenth century, 'Mrs' did not describe a married woman: it described a woman who governed subjects (that is, employees or servants or apprentices) or a woman who was skilled or who taught. It described a social, rather than a marital status – when it wasn't being used metaphorically...or contemptuously.

Therefore, it is not possible to conclude that Mrs Elizabeth Courtnay was a widow. It is certainly possible that she was a widow, but the 'Mrs' alone does not tell us that.

No parishes named

The fact that no parishes are named is not unusual. There was no formula to marriage register entries until Hardwicke's Marriage Act (1753), and the clerk wrote down whatever he knew or thought was needed.

It is likely that John Chichester Esq. and Mrs Elizabeth Courtnay were well-known in the community, and there was simply no need to include further information. I do not think you can make any inference about where they were from based on the absence of any parish named.

Furthermore, the marriage occurred by license rather than banns, so it made no difference what parish they were from. They had a license that said they could marry in the church. When people married by banns, banns had to be read on three Sundays in both home parishes. This would be one reason for including the parishes of both parties in the register, and obviously not applicable in this case.

"As I am credibly informed"

I suspect that whoever wrote in the register was simply not present or personally aware of the details about the wedding. The fact that it was marriage by license meant that it could have been a very quiet affair. No publication of banns for three consecutive weeks. A vicar from another parish could have come and performed the ceremony. It's difficult to say more, but I do not think this phrase is particularly significant.

Other notes

The second image came from the Bishop's Transcripts for Horton (reference GDR/V1/135), while the first was from the Parish Register (reference P182/IN/1/1). Keep in mind that the Parish Register may have been a copy of the Bishop's Transcript, or from another register, or off entries written on scraps of parchment. Bottom line, it is difficult to say whether the BT or PR was made first, so both should always be consulted.

I agree with your answer – I had my doubts when first reading the question. I think this marriage is unlikely to be the one you are looking for. For one thing, the titles Esquire and Mrs suggest these Chichesters were of a higher social standing than the couple who are later in Old Cleeve. I would expect John to still appear as Esq. in some later records, and as far as I can tell he does not.


This answer does not address the main part of the question about whether the marriage is in some way unusual in the wording of its record. However, I am posting it to try and shed light on whether the marriage record could "give credence to my theory that the John Chichester who married in 1732 at Horton could be the same John Chichester who baptised a son John a year later at Old Cleeve?"

As suggested to me in a personal communication from a Chichester cousin, it seems unlikely that the John and Elizabeth who married at Horton in 1732 were the same couple who baptised their son John at Old Cleeve in 1733. Although, I have found no children baptised to John and Elizabeth at Horton, there is a burial record there for Mrs Elizabeth Chichester on 18 May 1763.

There are also burial records at Old Cleeve for Elizabeth Chichester on 4 Mar 1769 and John on 11 Oct 1774.

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