Part 1.1 of The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux - sample

Published by Sites To Suit Limited 2013 - Copyright  ©  Stephen Molyneux 2013


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Stephen Molyneux has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, organisations and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, localities, organisations, or real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.



Peter spotted the marriage certificate. It was mounted in a clear plastic sleeve just above eye-level and was attached to a blue felt panel. The certificate was one of about fifty printed paper items displayed in similar fashion. These included an impressive gold embossed invitation to a luncheon for some long dissolved Victorian institution, a wartime ration book, a 1920s rates demand, a Post Office Telegram with news of someone having passed away, military service guides to various postings in the British Empire, and several interesting postcards. The display occupied the upper part of a wall within an alcove, the alcove itself being a small open unit in an antiques centre. A sign hung above: ‘Unit 14 – Ephemera’.

   Unit 14 specialised in interesting paper items from the 1960s and before, although postcards seemed to be the main offering. There were hundreds of them stored in recycled shoeboxes and displayed for sale at table height. Simple handwritten cardboard dividers separated the postcards into categories, which included cities, counties, foreign countries, churches, cathedrals, monuments, and miscellaneous attractions.

   Peter cast his eyes back to the marriage certificate … Essex, 1900, he noted, a bachelor and a spinster. It just seemed so sad that something like that should be displayed and offered for sale at five pounds. Placing a monetary value on it seemed inappropriate. Surely, there were family descendants out there, possibly even living children, but more probably grandchildren who ought to have it? How had something so personal come to be offered along with the bric-a-brac of life on a board in an antiques centre?

   He was aware that marriage certificates, like birth and death certificates, were documents of public record and that anyone could obtain a photocopy from the General Register Office. However, this was not a photocopy but one completed and given to the couple by the minister who married them. It was the actual certificate produced from the entries in the Marriage Register; the Register signed by the newly-weds and their two witnesses, who were presumably close friends or relatives, signed at St Martin’s Church in the parish of Leyton, Essex, on the fifteenth day of January, 1900. 

   ‘Marriage Solemnized at …’ the title stated in copperplate script. It didn’t seem particularly solemn, Peter thought, not in its present position; just a piece of paper, insignificant now perhaps, but once of huge importance to the two people, whose lives were legally combined into a single entity on that day. A piece of paper, slightly faded, but not worn, so presumably kept safe and secure until, along with other personal possessions, a house was cleared and the saleable items were traded and distributed to whatever niche or market might find them another home.

   He detached the plastic sleeve from the board and carefully extracted the certificate from its protective cover. He looked at the names of the couple. It might be interesting to trace their family, he thought. He studied it more closely and for the first time considered purchasing it.

   The blanks on the certificate had been completed in black ink and obviously written with a pen or quill. The handwriting had a scratchy, loopy, but quite learned late Victorian style, not at all like the handwriting taught in schools nowadays. It was by the hand of Thomas Walter, who had married the couple according to the ‘Rites and Ceremonies’ of the Established Church, in other words, the Church of England.

   The certificate had a slight odour to it, probably due to age, possibly dampness and he detected something else … mothballs, he thought … yes, definitely mothballs, and he recalled the distinctive smell of naphthalene in the school chemistry lab. He remembered too the master, who on leaving for another school told the assembled pupils a farewell joke about an American, so amazed at seeing some mothballs, he remarked, ‘Gee, you sure have some mighty big moths in England!’ 

   Back to the present, should he buy it? He deliberated … but why? What would he do with it? Was it some morbid curiosity, nosey interest, or was there a genuinely interesting story here just waiting to be discovered? 

   He glanced up and noticed the security camera mounted in the corner to his left. If somebody at the payment desk was monitoring him, they might think he was preparing to steal the certificate. Of course, he wasn’t, but he’d often experienced an irrational camera-induced guilt when he felt he was being watched remotely in a situation like this. He decided to put the certificate back and tried rather ineptly to reinsert it into the plastic sleeve. After several abortive attempts, the decision was made for him – he would buy it. He took the certificate to the payment desk.

   ‘I’d like to buy this certificate please. Sorry … I couldn’t seem to get it back into its sleeve.’

  A very elderly lady assistant smiled at his apology. ‘Let’s have a look,’ she said. ‘It was probably folded.’ Peter noticed that she had a sort of ‘Women’s Institute’ air to her manner and appearance, typical of a breed of ladies who inhabit the country towns and villages of England. Yet despite having shaky hands, she somehow deftly slid it back into its protective cover. From his wallet, he gave her a crisp five-pound note and in return received a simple brown paper bag, into which the assistant had popped the slightly faded certificate, thoughtfully taping over the opening.

   Out he went into the cold late afternoon in January 2011. The light was fading. He felt elated but was not quite sure why. Maybe it was because he had removed the certificate from public view. He was protecting its privacy, perhaps protecting the individuals whose lives were changed forever when they left the church on that Saturday in January 1900. They left with this certificate too, no doubt guarded safely, but surely not in a brown paper bag? What had happened afterwards? If the certificate could tell a story, what might that be? 

   As he walked to the car, he pondered the circumstances and events of more than 100 years ago. By the time he had turned on the ignition, Peter Sefton had decided to see if he could find out.


End of Part 1.1 - Sample


Paperback Version:  294 pages,  98,000 words,  ISBN: 9780957605909

Kindle Version:  File Size 807kb,  ISBN: 9780957605916


Here's a selection of the ★★★★★ Reviews!

★★★★★   Brilliant read! - This book draws you in and you become involved with the characters and their lives. I could not wait to see what happened at the end.

★★★★★  A must read! - Read it in a day it was great !! Could not put it down. A great read - a totally intriguing book.

★★★★★  Great Fun! - It's a rare, fair thing these days to find an author capable of producing a page-turner while managing to avoid at least one absurd chase featuring helicopters, submarines, and weapons of mass destruction. Happily, Stephen Molyneux has--without benefit of overkill--crafted a whooping good tale, engaging characters, an ending sure to produce a whoop of delight. More, please!

★★★★★  Intriguing and very well written - Ah, my favorite type of mystery. And I loved the author's style of writing. He did not add superfluous details that drive me crazy when reading other authors--like all the landscaping details along the way for example. This was very clean cut, to the point and full of surprises that kept my interest up. I highly recommend this book and this author.

★★★★★   What a wonderful story - I really enjoyed this book. The subject relates very much to the genealogical research work that I do so I could share the author's excitement with each new discovery. Although it was a fictional account it could have been real. The sources of information were well documented and it made for an entertaining read. Highly recommended for this who love history or genealogy or just enjoy a good read.

★★★★★  Great read - Interesting from beginning to end. Love the way it draws the reader into the lives of the characters.

★★★★★  I just finished this book and just loved it! - I just finished this book and just loved it! Very original plot---a genealogist buys a marriage certificate at a flea market for reasons even he can't answer. The treat is when he starts sorting out who the people were and then the author goes back in time and tells everyone's story and how their lives played out. I just couldn't put it down----had to keep going even until 3am! Definitely a terrific read!

★★★★★  Nothing in my house got done! - I purchased this in Kindle format simply because someone recommended it. I am so glad they did! The author has interwoven the present and the past so that it is easy to follow. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, I didn't! I would highly recommend it as an interesting read for people who love history, and as a great read for budding genealogists who want to learn how to not leave any stone unturned.

★★★★★  Great Mystery - Enjoyed the mystery of tracing a family tree and the interaction of the characters. I hope the author writes more books.

★★★★★  A Haunting Story - I loved the way Stephen wove the present day research into the way life was lived in the past. He captured the formality of life in 1900s, yet his writing relaxed into the easy way of life today, when necessary. I have been doing research for 40 years and love the clever way he described his research.  A great story, very easy to read ,very interesting, with no boring bits. Should be in every genealogical library, as well as municipal libraries.

★★★★★  Brilliant! - A Must Read for all committed genealogists with a delightful twist at the end. I could not put it down.

★★★★★  Great Genealogical mystery - Family historians would love this book. Well written and accurate genealogically. Loved and had trouble putting it down. Great read, good plot. Waiting for the next one!

★★★★★  Couldn't put it down - While I could see where the research was going and where wrong conclusions were made it kept me reading right to the ending which blew me away - certainly not what I was expecting. A great read.

★★★★★  Good read with a shock of a surprise ending - For the genealogist looking for a mystery in a genealogical setting, this is a spellbinding, complex, well written page turner- complete with cautionary tales.


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