After reading about the idea that Massachusetts couples timed their marriages to avoid paying the Stamp Tax after 1 Nov 1765, I started to think about how to test whether that report was accurate.
I decided to go to Familysearch.org, the genealogy site built by the Latter-Day Saints, and run numbers there. Since the Boston Gazette item on couples marrying before the law took effect mentioned Marblehead, I asked to see all 1765 marriages in Marblehead in that database without regard for names. Then I asked for the same information about every other year in the 1760s. I recorded the number of listings that popped up each time.
That’s a crude way of estimating the number of marriages in each year. For one thing, each marriage is listed twice, once for the bride and once for the groom. The database is bound to have even more duplicates because of spelling oddities, couples hailing from different towns, and other factors. But I figure that the same problems affect every year of data about equally, so the relative numbers should be reliable. (Unless there’s some strange shift in the measurements I don’t know about.)
Then I mapped the numbers across the decade and graphed the results:
I then looked at the number of listings in a couple of other towns by the same method. In the smaller, inland town of Newton, there was a similar jump in listings in 1765, but it wasn’t quite as pronounced.
Out west in Springfield, the number of listings was only a little higher than the previous year and remained at the same level the next year.