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Marriage Settlements

Nature of Source

Records from deeds drawn up before or shortly after marriage that arranged for the future disposal of property and money. The mechanism was often used by wealthy and property owning women to safeguard their interests as, under common law, a married woman was legally owned by the husband. After the Married Woman's Property Act of 1882, women gained the right of property ownership.

Any family could use marriage settlements to protect something of value and occasionally the middle class made use of this arrangement. A marriage settlement might be the only surviving record of a marriage. Also look for Family Settlements which contain similar information.

See also
Fleet & other Irregular Marriage Registers
Marriage Duty Act/Registration Tax
Marriage Licence Records
Parish Registers-Marriages
Wills and Inheritance and Letters of Administration

Where Found

County Record Offices (Estate and family papers)

Period Covered

1300 - 1882

Genealogical Value

Names, occupations and places of residence of husband and wife, sometimes with details of their parents. Trustee names. Property or land description. Occasionally parent’s marriage settlement is included.

Further References

Bonfield, Llyod. Marriage Settlements, 1601–1740: The Adoption of the Strict Settlement: Cambridge University Press, 1983 (Preview view available at Google Books)  

Websites (GENUKI guide to marriage settlements) (Story and History blog article: Why Marriage Settlements were Important) (
FamilySearch Research Wiki: Marriage Settlements)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A]) (SoG Data Online: Marriage Banns, Agreements & Settlements for Northampton, 1654-56. Members of the Society of Genealogists are able to view these records for free via their existing membership. Non-members can carry out free surname searches but will need to join the society to view the full record details)