In the United Kingdom, it became mandatory by law to get official certificates of birth, marriage and death in the year 1837. This came about as a result of a law passed in 1834 called the "Births and Deaths Act 1874," which went into effect three years later. Thanks to this law, which made these documents both mandatory and public, you can now obtain an England or Wales birth, death or marriage certificate copy for your personal records or research.
What sort of information can you find in your marriage certificate?
Information included on a certificate of marriage will include the date of the marriage, the full names of the bride and groom, their ages (sometimes only approximate, since proof of age was not required) and information about their former marital status. In addition, the marriage certificate copy will include both the bride and groom's occupations and their place of residence. The certificate will also include both parties' father's names and occupations, as well as the names of the witnesses to the marriage.
From the wealth of information available on birth, death and marriage certificates, you or a genealogist can trace back your family history at least to the mid-1800s and very probably even further. Because these certificates are public records, you can trace anyone's history.
Genealogy is a fascinating subject for anyone with an interest in history in general or the personal history of someone you are interested in knowing more about. For example, you may be interested in knowing more about an historical figure of minor importance - the mistress of a famous politician, artist or industrialist, for instance. How did she come to be in a position to meet that man? What did she do before and after she met him?