What strategy can I adopt to locate an English marriage record for two ancestors?
Of course, they may not have married at all, but Rebecca Probert points out in Marriage Law for Genealogists the definitive guide that the peak illegitimacy rate in the 19th century is about 7% so the vast majority of children were born within wedlock. As the couple had at least three children, it's most likely that they did marry.
What I know:
My ancestors John Charles Wright and Caroline Ellen Brown had the following known children:
- Mary Agnes (or Agnes Mary) born 3 July 1859 in Hitchin, Hertfordshire (mother given as Ellen Wright formerly Brown)
- Stanley Reynolds born 27 May 1861 in Plumstead, Kent (mother given as Caroline Ellen Wright formerly Brown)
- George Wright born about 1864 -- no birth registration or certificate located yet; birth year from census records.
John Charles Wright was born between 1825 and 1835 in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, based on census records between 1851 and 1901 (he's not very consistent when reporting his age); in all sources in which I've found him (censuses, children's birth certificates, trade directories) he is named as John Charles/John Chas/J.C. Wright). His occupation from 1851 to 1871 is recorded as Painter and Glazier, Journeyman Grainer, Painter, and Photographer. In 1851 he is shown as Married (but his wife is not present) living in Marylebone. Thereafter, he is found in census in Kidderminster (1861, again without his wife), and Cheshunt (1871).
Ellen Brown was born around 1828 (from her age at death in 1871); no location is known as I have not found her definitively in any census. Her name is variously shown as Ellen (death, burial, birth of first child) and Caroline Ellen (birth of second child). She may also have appeared as Caroline Wright in the 1861 census, but I'm not confident enough that I've identified her correctly to use this data.
What I've assumed
Both partners would have been at least 18 at their marriage and most likely in their early-to-mid 20s (based on analysis in Marriage Law for Genealogists the definitive guide). This gives a time frame between 1844 and 1859 (allowing for a margin of error of 2 years on Ellen's birth).
As Ellen would both have been quite old to have their first child in 1859 (circa 30) either (1) there may have been other children born to the couple before 1859; or (2) this was a second marriage for her.
I'm making no assumption about where they married.
What I've tried
- A search in the marriage indices on FreeBMD for marriages between John Wright and Caroline Browne(e) or Ellen Brown(e). Result: no candidate marriage. (I've repeated the search on other transcriptions of the indices, and done it with just the surnames; I've also inspected the images of the relevant GRO index pages, all with no success).
- As we all know, errors and omissions crept in during the production of the GRO marriage indices, so I've also searched online parish registers for the same data, again with no success. Of course, not all parish registers are available online.
- In case this was Ellen's second marriage (in which case she would appear in the GRO indices with a surname other than Brown) I've searched for all marriages of Ellen or Caroline Brown(e) in the period, identified the possible surnames she might have acquired on her first marriage, and then search for marriages between her potential married names and John Wright. There were surprisingly few candidate marriages form this exercise, and most of those were easy to eliminate. Only two possibilities remain that I can't eliminate conclusively without buying the certificates: one in Wrexham, and one in Ormskirk. Both locations seem unlikely.
- Locating children of the couple born earlier than 1859 would narrow down the time window, but the common surname (Wright) and mother's maiden name (Brown) make this infeasible using the new GRO birth indices (that include mother's maiden name). I have still to search online baptismal records for children with the correct parents and a match on (one of) the father's occupations.
Are there any other searches I can make that would help directly or indirectly in locating the marriage I seek?