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Witnesses at weddings
published by Paul Tracey on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 11:04

This is a longshot but I know members have a wealth of knowledge! 

Whilst going through one of Graham Payne's excellent church transcripts (Easton in Gordano to be exact)  I could not help noticing that the same people seemed to be witnesses at weddings time and time again.  In fact one gentleman witnessed some 64 weddings in 20 years.  May be Graham Payne has noticed this too when transcribing.  Just wondering if churches 'kept' people to witness weddings - or may be they were the ones who could write their name!!  Just wondered if anyone had observed this before or had any knowledge about these regular witnesses? 

Admin: Submitted by RosieW on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 19:39

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Submitted by Pat Hase on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 12:55

An interesting observation.  The witnesses at weddings since 1754 are an important part of the ceremony.  Since Civil Registration began in 1837 it is more likely, like today, that the witnesses are friends or relations of the bride and groom.  However before that it is not uncommon for the Parish Clerk to be one of the witnesses.  He would be able to sign his name and would have been at the Church in order to fill in the details on the register.  It was not necessary to have the ability to sign - it was allowed to make a mark. Other regular members of the church can also appear as witnesses.

Witnesses can be a tremendous help in identifying relationships - don't overlook their importance. 

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Submitted by Jude on Sat, 10/10/2020 - 14:39

Like you I have also noticed the recurrent names listed as witnesses at marriages in two other parishes. JOHN ISGAR is a witness at the marriage of JOHN PALMER and SARAH BERRIMAN in 1778 at Churchill and on previous records back to 1762. From 24.12.1778 JACOB ISGAR's name appears instead as a witness.

At Yatton JOSEPH LUKINS similarly is listed in numerous marriage records. In the Monumental Inscriptions for that parish JOSEPH LUKINS who died 26.6.1785 is described as "Clerk of Parish". It seems possible that The ISGARS were also Parish Clerks and that acting as a witness at marriages was part of that role.

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