It became legal to marry your 'Deceased Wife's Sister' in a Registry
Office in 1907. There were more Acts in 1921 and 1931 covering a
niece by marriage, a dead husband's brother, and a few others. All
these refer to marriages ended by death, not divorce. Such couples
couldn't legally get married in the Church of England until the
Convocation of the C of E amended its canon law in 1947. Even then
any clergy whose consciences were troubled by it could refuse. I
haven't any information on nonconformist churches. The Roman Catholic
Church had similar laws and also required special 'dispensation' for a
godparent to marry a godchild.
So it looks as if John and Elizabeth were not, strictly speaking,
legally married; but I think people were not always taking that law
very seriously before 1907!
----- Original Message -----
From: Lynda Pagett <Lynda.Pagett(a)btinternet.com>
Sent: Friday, June 30, 2000 9:47 PM
Subject: Marrying a sister in law
Does anyone know when it was legal to marry your dead wifes sister?
My gg grandad John Whicker married Mary Williams in Ottery St Mary in
1847 then married her sister Elizabeth in1856 after Mary's death. I
have got the Marriage Certificate for this. But in the 1881 Census
Elizabeth is the head of the household and mother of their children,
but John is described as her Brother in law. It seems like they have
something to hide, they are living in the London area at this time.
Can anyone throw any light on this