Meet Bertram Merrell

Bertram Merrell was 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."

Bertram Merrell passed away on 14 April 2015. Thanks to his 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.

Kirstin Skankey, Project Lead

Kirstin was born in Pensacola, Florida to a Marine Corps family. From Virginia to Japan, her entire childhood was spent moving to wherever her father was stationed. Being the only daughter in her military family, her father and brothers made sure she never got too 'girly'. She initially went to school at Southern Utah University in Cedar City after her graduation from Cibola High School located in Yuma, Arizona, where she was studying Illustration. When she got her associates at SUU, she then transferred to BYU, where she fell in love with the Family History classes she took for her 'fun class'. She eventually changed her major to Family History, and still incorporates her love of art in everything she does. She loves spending her free time drawing, laughing, cooking yummy treats, singing, playing video games, biking, hiking, traveling, and (of course) doing family history.

Alexis Reid, Web Developer

Alexis is from the great state of Texas and isn't afraid to share it. She is part of the BYU Drumline and is currently majoring in Sociology with a minor in Computer Science. She has a passion for adventure, traveling, and learning new things. Alexis is a first generation American Citizen on her father's side and loves showing her Latina pride almost as much as her Texas pride!