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Banns of marriage were the announcement in church of a couple’s intention to marry. They are an ancient legal tradition designed to provide an opportunity for anybody to state a reason why the marriage could not lawfully take place. Banns were read in the parish or parishes in which the couple lived and in the parish where they were to marry, on three Sundays in the three months before the wedding took place.

There are 202,000 records of banns in the Devon Collection. They tend to list the full names of the bride and groom, their places of residence, the date of banns, and the date of their marriage. In some later records there are also details of couple’s previous marital status, and the dates of the three Sundays on which the banns were published.