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Marriage Duty Act/Registration Tax (Parish Records & Tax Records)

Nature of Source

Records from an Act of Parliament that imposed a tax on births (not baptisms), marriages and burials as well as on childless widowers and bachelors over the age of 25. The Marriage Duty Act or Registration Tax was used as a revenue raising mechanism for war on France and as a means of ensuring that registering vital events were carried out by an Anglican vicar and not a nonconformist minister. The Act also stipulated that couples must marry by banns or licence and that clergymen failing to observe these measures would be penalised. The intention of these measures was to stop the widespread occurrences of irregular marriages taking place in unlicensed and clandestine places.

The cost to parishioners for registering a birth was 2s. for a birth, 2s.6d for a marriage and 4s. for a burial. Those designated a pauper were exempt from any charges. The tax having failed to raise the sums envisaged was abandoned in 1706.

The clergy were responsible for collecting the tax and often compiled lists of existing parishioners to help them with the administration of the tax. The lists were intended to contain the names of every resident including their social standing/occupation, marital status and property ownership. The survival rate of the actual assessments is very poor, however the lists of parishioners have survived in greater numbers. They are often found amongst other parish records in the parish chest and now archived with County Record Offices.

A missing entry in the baptism register could be explained by the parent's decision to not register the birth and so avoid the tax. Some chose to register the baptism following the abolition of the tax, so a search for such an event after 1706 might prove worthwhile. Between 1783 and 1794 the government introduced the Stamp Duty Tax which was similar in scope to the Marriage Duty Act but did not generate much of genealogical interest. Inevitably many chose to leave a baptism unregistered which could explain the non-appearance of a supposed birth. Therefore a search of later registers after 1794 should be carried out for missing entries.

See also
Fleet & other Irregular Marriage Registers
Marriage Licence Records
Parish Registers-Marriages

Where Found

Period Covered

1695 - 1706

Genealogical Value

Names of head of household, wife and children; Details of burials, births and marriages; occasionally the occupation; Marital status, whether a bachelor or widower;
Address of every resident (parishioner lists)

Further References

Boulton, Jeremy. The Marriage Duty Act and Parochial Registration in London, 1695–1706. in Schürer, Kevin and Arkell, Tom (eds). Surveying the People: The Interpretation and Use of Document Sources for the Study of Population in the Later Seventeenth Century: Leopard's Head Press, 1992  
Gibson, Jeremy. The Hearth Tax, Other Later Stuart Tax Lists, and the Association Oath Rolls: FFHS, 1996  

Websites (Fleet Marriages of Hertfordshire People to 1754)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A]) (London Lives: Marriage Duty Assessments for St Botolph Aldgate, 1695) (London Inhabitants Within the City Walls 1695, indexed assessments originally published by the London Record Society) (London Marriage Duty assessment 1695: Transcribed assessments for the Marriage Duty of 1695, for the City of London parishes of St Botolph Aldgate, St Mary le Bow, St Martin Ironmonger Lane, All Hallows Honey Lane and St Mary Colechurch. Produced by the IHR/Birkbeck/Cambridge 'People in Place' project (2003-6) (Marriage Duty Tax return: Transcription by Jeremy Hutson of the returns for Tudhoe, Durham) (A 1696 Census of Sowton, Devon, Transcribed by Diana Ingram)