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Legal age to marry - 1800's

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


Amy Report 31 Mar 2005 20:02

I have just looked up what the legal age to marry was in the 1800's. It was 14 for boys and 12 for girls. I know this has been talked about on threads in the past but how common were these marriages?


Dianne Report 31 Mar 2005 20:12

Hi Amy In my experience I have still found that it was like it is these days, the majority of people marrying in their twenties. Out of all the trees I have done, I have still only found one case where my husbands grandfather (I can't remember how many greats off the top of my head) got married at 15, and that was to a girl of 19. Dianne


Debby Report 31 Mar 2005 20:14

AMy I haven't come across any yet - the youngest I have so far is 18. Haven't been much help have I?! Debby


Amy Report 31 Mar 2005 20:16

Thanks Diane & Debby. Ive got a boy who married at 15 to a girl who married at 11/12 but im trying to decide whether ive got the right girl or made a mistake somewhere. Amy


Jeanette Report 31 Mar 2005 20:16

I thought it was 21 or if younger permision from parents thats why I thought 21 key of the door special birthday


Dianne Report 31 Mar 2005 20:22

Hi Jeanette Yes you are right, the legal age of consent was always 21 so they did need permission to marry before that. With permission a girl could marry at 12 and a boy at 14. This was changed early last century, I don't know the exact date but 1920's or 1930's it changed to 16 for both sexes with permission, 21 without. Later again last century it changed to 18 without permission 16 with permission. Dianne


Amy Report 31 Mar 2005 20:22

Yes i think you had to have parents permission at a younger age.


Dianne Report 31 Mar 2005 20:23

Must find my book with all relevant dates. The house is so full of genealogy stuff it could be anywhere by now LOL Dianne

Shirley~I,m getting the hang of it

Shirley~I,m getting the hang of it Report 31 Mar 2005 20:41

My Great grandmother was fifteen when she married in 1877. her bridegroom was 21.. Shirley


Irene Report 31 Mar 2005 20:44

In 1840 my husbands gg grandmother married and she was 16 her husband gg grandfather was 40. Irene

Joe ex Bexleyheath

Joe ex Bexleyheath Report 1 Apr 2005 00:31

Marriage age was 14 for a male and 12 for a female providing that the consent of parents or guardians was obtained for those below the age of 21. By an Act in 1929 this was changed and 16 became the age for both parties still with parents etc., consent if under 21. This was all changed again in 1969 when the marriageable age was lowered to 18.


Sheila Report 21 Jul 2014 17:47

You didn't need parental permission in Scotland though...still don't!


Bob Report 21 Jul 2014 19:37

I may be wrong, but I think the minimum age for marriage for a girl in the Republic of Ireland was 12 years right up until the 1950s Bob


mgnv Report 22 Jul 2014 03:14

The earliest I've seen a breakdown of marr ages for in England & Wales was 1851. It's in

Fourteenth annual report of the registrar-general Page 6

Although there's a col in the m.cert for age, it was entered as "full" or "minor" in most cases.
This is an examination of the 35% of marrs that actually gave ages.
There were no spouses aged under 15, 0/18 males/females aged 15, 1/116 aged 16, etc.
Prior to 1851, the RG had only said the proportion of minors was abt 5%/14% for males/females - the RG gives precise figures for each year - the "abt" is my rough averaging.

Also of interest
3rd Report p 8 (1839-1840) Abt 33% of grooms & 50% of brides signed with an X

5th Report p ix
1 in 16 births is illegitimate.
Put another way, if you write down your family tree back to g grandparents, showing only direct antecedents (no sibs), then there's an average of one illeg birth there.
There's a fair amount of variation from place to place in the UK - the extreme is probably Aberdeenshire (outside of the scope of this report), where the rate is abt 1 in 7, so if my dad writes down his tree back to his grandparents, he should expect 1 illeg birth - he got 2 - both his grans.

Incidentally, there were 6 widows under 20 who remarried in 1851. They didn't need parental permission - there's a quote from Blackstone, the noted law commentator, roughly saying "Once you're emancipated, you can't be un-emancipated" - as you can tell I'm not good with quotes, but that's the gist of it.