The SoG’s famous marriage index compiled by Percival Boyd comprising some 7million names is now available on Genesreunited
Boyd’s obituary published in the Genealogists’ Magazine Vol 12 p61 (June 1955) says he was born in 1866 but he was actually born on 29th June 1868 at St Paul’s, Haggerston, into a family of London merchants and warehousemen. He was educated at Sutton Valence Grammar School, Uppingham School and Clare College, Cambridge, where he received his MA in 1894. After leaving university he became a partner, chairman and managing director of the family firm in Friday Street, off Queen Victoria Street, in London. He became a liveryman of the Drapers Company in 1893, Master in 1926 and senior member of the Court of Assistants. In his spare time he was a member of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, the Royal Philatelic Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
Boyd joined the Society of Genealogists in 1922 and was made a Fellow in 1926. He served on the Executive Committee for 22 years from 1927-49, with a one-year gap in 1932 due to ill health, and was its Chairman from 1929-31 and 1938-40 and Vice-President from 1949 until his death.
Boyd’s Marriage Index
The Marriage Index was first announced to members in the Genealogists’ Magazine for September 1925 in an article entitled “An index to marriages”. It covers the period 1538 to 1837 with a few events dated earlier and one or two parishes continued later. Sources were transcripts of marriage registers – some borrowed from the transcriber for the purpose and then returned – bishop’s transcripts, marriage licences and banns registers.
After Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, all nonconformist marriages from 1754 to 1837, except those of Quakers and Jews, should have taken place in a parish church of the Church of England. In all, the index includes marriages from parts of over 4,320 parish registers and some Quaker marriages.
Theoretically, the index only covers England but there are some irregular marriages in Scotland relating to people from Holy Island 1776-1812 in the Northumberland and some marriages further afield in the extracts from the Gentleman’s Magazine 1731-1768. Entries taken from the Faculty Office Marriage Licences could also extend beyond England.
The information given for each entry is standardised and consists only of the year of marriage, names of partners and place of marriage or source of information such as ML or Gents. Mag. Where one partner is a long way from home Boyd indicates this and makes an entry in the home volume.
Entries for 16 of the best-covered English counties were typed into the Main series and entries for other counties and those taken from marriage licences were bound into a Miscellaneous series. At Boyd’s death in 1955 he had amassed approximately a further 1/4 million slips which he bequeathed to the Genealogical Society of Utah. They covered the full period from 1538-1837 and all English counties, including information compiled from marriage licences such as those at Wells. The GSU put this series of slips into strict alphabetical order and typed them up and this became the Second miscellaneous series which is NOT available online.
All told, there are approximately seven million entries in the index as a whole and it is estimated that this covers between ten and 15 per cent of pre-1837 English marriages. The best coverage is for the earlier period up to 1754 or 1812. Although the index bears Boyd’s name and he himself did, or paid to have done, most of the work, other members were involved in the project – both at the time and since his death.
Cambridgeshire – most of the marriage registers in the county before 1812, including BTs from Ely, were transcribed by the Reverend Evelyn Young. Writing in Nov 1935, the year before his death, he said that he had then “copied approx 130,00 Cambs marriages”. Those supplementing his work for the period 1801-37 were compiled by Thomas Peter Roysse Layng in 1977.
Durham and Northumberland were largely the work of Herbert Maxwell Wood, FSA. Very few of the index entries go beyond 1812. In Durham two go down to 1826 and three to 1837 and in Northumberland three parishes are covered to 1814 and one to 1818. Herbert Wood died in 1929.
Gloucestershire was indexed by Eric Arthur Roe, TSG, and includes entries from BTs as well as registers. Many of the entries for Bristol parishes and one or two other places are extracts only but half a dozen or so parishes are included down to 1875. From 1876-1926 only marriages for Great Rissington are indexed. Roe’s slips were typed up by the GSU in 1958.
Yorkshire – all of the indexing for Yorkshire was done by Norman Hindsley before he emigrated to Calgary in Canada.
Since Boyd’s death a number of other genealogists and family history societies have indexed marriages in their own counties by using unpublished original as well transcribed registers but his amazing pioneering work is still one of the largest and most impressive indexes of its kind.