It is often quite difficult to understand why Local Register Offices cannot always find and issue copy marriage certificates, when you have been careful enough to give them the correct year and quarter and GRO (General Register Office) Reference Number.
The GRO Reference Number is compiled from quarterly returns from local offices, and so the marriage record at the General Register Office will be found in alphabetical order together with all those that took place nationally in that particular quarter.
Local Register Offices, however, index their records according the individual church where the marriage took place. The reference numbers to these marriages are prefixed with the letters CE (Church of England).
Civil Registration gave non-conformists a choice of venue for marriages for the first time since 1754. Register Offices were established where marriages could take place (Civil Marriages). In addition, non-conformists could have their chapels approved for marriages, according to their own rites and ceremonies, provided the ceremony took place in the presence of the Registrar. He took his marriage register along to the ceremony and then took it back to the register office. These are called Registrar Attended marriages and they are recorded along with Civil Marriages. The reference numbers for these marriages are prefixed RM (Registrar Marriage).
Bob Kirk and his team in Tameside Register Office have recently been going over these early Registrar Marriages checking for any errors and ommisions, and have also been listing the various venues where the Registrar went to conduct these marriages. He has produced a list downloadable here in PDF format. This list is very much worth reading to understand the sheer diversity of venues. The very early registers also include some chapels in Oldham since Ashton and Oldham Registration Districts were combined until 1848. Regrettably there are no Hyde venues listed, since these came under Stockport Civil Registration district.
The Marriage Act of 1898 now allowed these non-conformist churches and chapels to appoint Authorised Persons to conduct and record marriages in their chapels. The reference numbers for marriages in these churches and chapels are prefixed AP (Approved Person).
Local Register Offices index their marriages on a chronological basis within each venue. Therefore GRO references are virtually useless when trying to find a marriage in local offices. To indicate how difficult it was for Local Registrars to find a marriage record click here to see a full list of:
And so, when applying for marriage certificates from local offices, it is important to give the staff as much information as possible to ensure a successful search.
The Cheshire BMD Project has put an end to this problem in Tameside for family history researchers by putting all the local indexes on-line up to 1974. Keep checking the coverage of these indexes for other areas. So the Cheshire BMD website is the first place to look. Clicking on the reference number in the top right-hand corner will take you to an intermediate search page, clicking again for a partially completed application form to send off for your certificate.
To see how this tremendously successful project, which was pioneered by the Family History Society of Cheshire, is spreading to surrounding counties, visit the UK BMD website and click on Local BMD. A useful feature of the UKBMD site is their cross county search feature where you can search for events across all regions involved.
Good Luck!! with your search.