Manuscripts and Special Collections

Certificate of acknowledgment of a deed by a married woman

These parchment certificates can sometimes be found attached to conveyances, or occasionally on their own, having become detached from the relevant deed.

The earliest certificates date from 1833. They were brought in thanks to a clause in the Fines and Recoveries Act of that year. A married woman selling or mortgaging property jointly with her husband had to be interviewed separately by a public official to certify that she was 'of full age and competent understanding', to confirm that she was not being forced into agreeing to the sale.

The background to this procedure was that any land or property owned by a woman became the property of her husband on their marriage. Therefore, if she had inherited a house from her parents, her husband could sell it. However, under common law she was required to be a party to the deed. The acknowledgments represented an attempt to prevent husbands from abusing their position as owners of property which had come to them through their wives.

The Married Women's Property Act of 1882 gave married women the same rights over their own property as single or widowed women, and did away with the need for acknowledgments.


Confirmation that a married woman was fully consenting to the sale of property.


Pl E12/6/18/8/14 - Certificate of the acknowledgment of a deed by Rebecca Coleman; 23 Sep. 1841

Deed Pl E12/6/18/8/14

View this deed

This example relates to an assignment of term of years and further mortgage of a close of land called The Acres in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, belonging to Timothy Coleman, of the same date (Pl E12/6/18/8/13). The assignment has Rebecca Coleman's acknowledgment written onto it. This separate certificate is an examined copy, rather than an original. It was perhaps tucked into the deed, as there is no evidence of any pinning or sewing.


These are to Certify, that on the twenty third day of September in the Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty one before us Richard Parsons and George Walkden Two of the perpetual Comissioners appointed for the County of Nottingham for taking the acknowledgments of Deeds by Married Women, pursuant to an Act passed in the Third and Fourth Years of the Reign of His late Majesty King William the Fourth, intituled, "An Act for the Abolition of Fines and Recoveries, and for the Substitution of more simple modes of Assurance", appeared personally Rebecca the wife of Timothy Coleman and produced a certain Indenture marked A bearing date the twenty third day of September instant and made between the said Timothy Coleman and Rebecca his wife of the first part Hannah Sharpley of the second part William Thompson of the third part and Richard Wiliam Benn of the fourth part and acknowledged the same to be her Act and Deed And WE DO HEREBY CERTIFY that the said Rebecca Coleman was at the time of acknowledging the said deed of full age and competent understanding, and that she was examined by us apart from her Husband touching her knowledge of the contents of the said deed and that she freely and voluntarily consented to the same.

Richd Parsons

Geo. Walkden



[Signature of Thos Sherwood]

Clerk of the Enrolment of Certificates, &c.



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