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Marriage certificate versus parish register

It is an interesting situation when the information in a copy of a marriage certificate received from the GRO is slightly different to that in the parish register.

I have always believed that Edward Blake Beal (1806-1886) and Henry Ridley Beal were brothers. They were baptised in the same London parish and in each case the father’s name was spelt with a very small variation – one time as Beale and the other as Beals. Both Edward Blake and Henry Ridley always spelt their surname as BEAL.

Edward Blake Beal was baptised in St Paul Covent Garden on 6th April 1806 and his parents were shown as Mary and Edward Beals. Henry Ridley Beal was baptised in the same church, St Paul Covent Garden, on 25 December 1811 and his parents were shown as Mary and Edward Beale.  

The obvious next step was to get copies of the marriage certificates for both from the GRO. Much as expected the marriage certificate for Edward Blake Beal showed that he married Frances Moule on 12th April 1841 and his father was Edward Beal, a gentleman. However the marriage certificate (see below) for Henry Ridley Beal told a different story. He married Matilda Dorothy Clark on 17th October 1840 and his father was shown as Edmund Beal, a gentleman.

So was his baptism record wrong, or was the marriage certificate wrong? As I was now confused I left the matter for some time. Then, of course, all the London parish registers came on line via Ancestry, as they had been made available by the London Metropolitan Archives.

The parish register (see left and below) showed that the name of the groom’s father has been changed. Originally it was Edward Blake Beal, the “ward Blake” was crossed out and Edmund inserted over the top. Edward Blake Beal cannot be the father, but it does suggest that he was at the wedding, albeit not as a witness.

So were they brothers or not? I believe they were and that there is sufficient other evidence to substantiate this. The difference in the father’s first name in these two records, which should be identical, cannot be caused by illiteracy as Edward Blake Beal went on to become Secretary of the Sun Fire Insurance Company and Henry Ridley Beal was a solicitor.

The now unanswerable question is – on the original of the marriage certificate, the one that Henry Ridley Beal took away from the marriage ceremony, - what was his father’s first name?

I have a strong mental image of a very young and nervous new curate filling the records at the wedding and in trying to correct one mistake made another one. Possibly the original marriage certificate was correct, but the copy for the Register Office and the parish were erroneous. In 1840 marriage certificates were something very new and no-one would have thought that nearly 200 years later researchers would be puzzling over such details!


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