Genealogy Chat

Top tip - using the Genes Reunited community

Welcome to the Genes Reunited community boards!

  • The Genes Reunited community is made up of millions of people with similar interests. Discover your family history and make life long friends along the way.
  • You will find a close knit but welcoming group of keen genealogists all prepared to offer advice and help to new members.
  • And it's not all serious business. The boards are often a place to relax and be entertained by all kinds of subjects.
  • The Genes community will go out of their way to help you, so don’t be shy about asking for help.

Quick Search

Single word search

Gift subscriptions

Genes Reunited gift subscription

Do you know someone interested in discovering their family history?

You can now buy a gift subscription to Genes Reunited so they can research their family tree.

Buy gift or redeem gift


  • New posts
  • No new posts
  • Thread closed
  • Stickied, new posts
  • Stickied, no new posts

Legal Age for Marriage in the UK

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


Aileen Report 6 Jan 2013 19:31

Slightly different in Scotland

Before 1929, Scots law followed Roman law in allowing a girl to marry at twelve years of age and a boy at fourteen, without any requirement for parental consent. However, according to one early 20th-century source*, marriage in Scotland at such young ages was in practice almost unknown. No doubt if marriages between children had become common, there would have been public pressure to raise the legal minimum age of marriage earlier than 1929. The Age of Marriage Act 1929 (applying in Scotland, England & Wales but not in Northern Ireland) made void any marriage between persons either of whom was under the age of sixteen. Sixteen remains the lower age-limit today, contained in the current legislation, the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977. Scots law still has no requirement for parental consent.


Potty Report 6 Jan 2013 14:28

From this site -

• Prior to Hardwicke’s Marriage Act in 1754, the age of consent was 14 for boys and 12 for girls, so many couples did not take kindly to the new government requirement to wait until the age of 21 to get married. People could still get married under the age of 21, but they required parental consent, which was often not forthcoming. As well, some couples who were close to 21 simply lied about their age to avoid the parental consent issue.


MarieCeleste Report 6 Jan 2013 13:31

The ages without parental consent would have been 21 (whereas it's 18 now).

An exception would be if the bride was a widow - having been married once she didn't need consent again.

There's a lot of info on the internet, try googling.


Alan Report 6 Jan 2013 13:27

I did not know that ...
Thank you Jonesey


Jonesey Report 6 Jan 2013 12:55

Remember that in the 1841 census enumerators were instructed to reduce the age of anyone aged over 15 to the nearest "0" or "5" below. Thus if shown as age 30 in the census the individual might have been aged anywhere between 30 and 34.

Use the 1851 or later census records as being likely to be more accurate.


Alan Report 6 Jan 2013 12:48

Many thanks,
I got her 1811 birth from the 1841 census when her age is given as 30 (so around 1811 give or take a few years).

Are the 12 and 14 ages for marriage (with parental consent) consistent across a long period of time or has this varied?
Any idea what the ages without parental consent would have been?


MarieCeleste Report 6 Jan 2013 12:23

I believe the minimum age for marriage was 12 for girls and 14 for boys, although the marriage should not be consummated until the age of 16.

I think it was the 1920s when the age of 16 became the legal minimum.

However, how do you know your ancestor was born 1811? If it's from a baptism then bear in mind that they may have been a few years old when baptised (or even older).


Jonesey Report 6 Jan 2013 12:19

At that time the legal age for females was 12 years old and for males it was 14 years old.

Shirley~I,m getting the hang of it

Shirley~I,m getting the hang of it Report 6 Jan 2013 12:19

Girls could marry at 12 and boys at 14 with parental consent . My grt x 4 grandmother married aged 14 years and 9 months in 1870 and she wasnt pregnant!! her husband was 24.


Alan Report 6 Jan 2013 12:11

Does anyone know how long has there been a legal minimum age for marriages in the UK and if the age has varied across the centuries?

From what I've found in census, birth and marriage records I have an ancestor born around 1811 who apparently married in 1824 ... making her around 13 when she married.

Would this have been legal / typical / unusual but acceptable ?