Meet Bertram Merrell

Bertram Merrell is a native of England. He married his sweetheart, Vicky, in 1968 in England. She has been a great support to his work from the very beginning. Shorty after they were married Bertram started his work on the index. He said, "It was my daily thing to go to the Record Office, it was just a short distance away." Over the course of three years he diligently extracted and compiled information from Bishops’ transcripts, marriage licenses, banns, and allegations.

"I compiled the marriage index of Cheshire while I was in England. Then I started, at a later stage, to look at the marriage licenses. I thought, 'somebody needs to do this, somebody needs to carry on and put this index together!' I had no idea of the amount of it, or the depth of it, or the practical applications of it. Well I thought, 'I’ll do it!'"

He started recording his work on to note cards, then switched to bound composition books, and finally settled with looseleaf paper in large binders. His desire was to present his research in a form that others could easily access.

"I started doing the marriage index in 1968. In 1969, I felt a need to organize a society where people could get together and do it on a county basis. So I put this note in the newspaper and got 30 people to show up. We organized a family history society of Cheshire, which would be the first county-based family history society. Thereafter, because it was the first one, I got different counties and people asking, 'How do we go about doing the same thing for our county?' Consequently, over the years, we’ve now got a family history society for each county in England."

Thanks to Bertram's life-long dedication to family history research, people now have access to a high-quality index that will help them locate accurate information.


Project Background

St. Peter’s Church in Prestbury, Cheshire
Photo: Oliver Wood

Bertram Merrell created this index by correlating the information he extracted and transcribed during his visits to the Cheshire Record Office in Chester, England. Over the course of many years, Merrell cross-referenced the information he extracted from the marriage licenses, allegations, or bonds with the information he extracted from the Church of England’s parish registers or Bishop’s transcripts.

Lord Hardwick’s Marriage Act of 1753 mandated all couples, including Catholics and Nonconformists, to solemnize their marriages in the Anglican (Church of England) parish church or local chapelry. Jewish and Quaker couples were exempt and kept their own records. The Marriage Act was effective from 25 March 1754 through 1 July 1837. The majority of the records in the database span the timeframe of this Act.

The majority of the parish records in this index originate from Bishops' transcripts, which are copies of the parish registers. The Bishops' transcripts were sent to the Diocese by the minister at the end of each year. The copies may have been created a significant time after the marriage took place, thus it is crucial to locate and combine all available marriage sources. If the minister had not fully completed the transcripts by the annual deadline, the actual parish register may have been sent to the Diocese to avoid penalty. Consequentally, the transcript remained in the parish to replace the parish register.

Map of Great Britain, 1801
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

This map outlines the area of the parishes included in the index. Note that this area accounts only for where the marriages took place and not necessarilly for where the bride and groom were living.

Marriage Places Include:
  • 190 Lancashire parishes south of the River Ribble
  • 139 Cheshire parishes
  • Welsh parishes
    • Overton
    • Iscoyd
    • Holt
    • Bangor
    • Hanmer
  • Yorkshire parishes:
    • Whitewell
    • Saddleworth

For more information about the index, see the Help page.


Project Employees

Jill Crandell, Director

Jill Crandell is an instructor in the Department of History and the director of the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University. She received her B.A. in family history and M.A. in history from BYU, and she is an Accredited Genealogist™ in Midwestern U.S. research. Her areas of specialty are U.S. family history, with emphasis in the Midwestern States, and LDS history. She is married to Bill Crandell, and they have five children.

Paul Fiske, Web Developer

Paul Fiske is from the little town of Bow, New Hampshire. He served a two year full-time mission for the LDS Church in Spain. Currently, he is studying Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. He loves to play ultimate frisbee and tennis with his beautiful wife, Lindsey. He is an avid Red Sox fan. Paul is happy to be involved in a project that is benefiting so many people all over the world.

Liz Miller

Liz is a soon-to-graduate (Aug 2012) Family History major at Brigham Young University with a research emphasis Hispanic family history. A Pennsylvania native, her American and United Kingdom ancestry melds with Hispanic ancestry through her step-mother. Her research interests include Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Latin America, and Spain. Her other interests include spending time with loved ones, gardening, crocheting, and travel. She loves being part of a project that helps others discover their heritage.

Brandon Baird

Brandon Baird was born in Flagstaff, Arizona and was raised in Joseph City, Arizona. He is a Family History major. He served an LDS mission in the Spain Barcelona Mission. He plans to go to medical school where he can become a family practitioner. He enjoys hunting, fishing, and video games.

Julia Green

Julia Green is from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is majoring in History and minoring in Family History, and is excited to graduate at the end of this year. Julia loves family history and is excited about the Bertram Merrell Marriage Index. Her hobbies include playing the piano and baking. She is married to Nick Green and lives in Orem.

Sherry Measom

Sherry Measom was born in San Bernardino, California, moved to McMinnville, Oregon when she was three years old and lived there until she graduated from High School. After High school, She attended Brigham Young University for two years. She married in August of 1978. She has lived in the Orem-Provo, Utah area since then, with the exception of the two years she lived in Tahiti. She has six children, and five grand children. After a long absense, she has returned to BYU to finish her degree in Family History, currently she is a Junior. Her plans are to work for a professional family history company, preferable in document procurement and preservation. She enjoys traveling, hiking and camping, and spending time with her family. She loves the research aspect of family history, she says it is like being a detective, fitting all of the pieces of information together to make a complete picture. Her ancestors hail from Scotland, England, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Katy Barnes

Katy was born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in small-town north north Texas. She has been at BYU since 2009 and is studying Genealogy with a minor in global studies. Family history research has been a passion for Katy since high school, and she has always been drawn to the individuals and stories outside of the history books. She is of German and English decent, and intends to focus her genealogical research of the Southern United States. She hopes to travel the world and continue studying languages and people, past and present. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the French horn, travelling, football, cooking, studying Spanish, and snowboarding with her husband, Chase.

Paul Woodbury

Paul Woodbury was born and raised in Parker, Colorado. He is studying Genetics and Biotechnology at BYU with a minor in Family History. He hopes to pursue a career in genetic genealogy after graduation. He served an LDS mission in Rancagua, Chile and loves Spanish cultures. Paul enjoys singing, dancing, skiing, mountain climbing, balloon twisting and above all family history. He is excited to participate in this project to allow others to better understand their history and their identity.

Dustin Steinacker

Dustin Steinacker is from Elk Ridge, Utah. He is a Sociology major at BYU who is interested in pursuing a Masters of Public Administration after his undergraduate education. Dustin served in the Manila, Philippines mission from 2005-2007 and speaks Tagalog. He has long participated in family history work with his mom, who is an avid family historian and former stake family history specialist, and has worked for Ancestry.com performing technical support.

AmberLee Hansen

AmberLee was born and raised in Utah. She is studying Family History--Genealogy and editing at BYU and hopes to someday write and edit personal histories and historical fiction. AmberLee loves to spend time with her family, read thought-provoking books, play the piano, camp, hike, and learn new things. One day when she's a wealthy and successful author, editor, and researcher, AmberLee hope to travel around the world, stopping in all the places her family members lived.