No, I’m not talking about burly Welsh coal-face workers! Nor, for that matter, adolescents (necessarily). But I am talking “under-age”.
Many of you have probably already discovered via a marriage certificate the phrase “full age”. Whilst searching parish records you will almost certainly at some point come across the phrase “minor”.
Our ancestors considered “full age”, and thus anyone marrying at the age of 20, 19, 18, … could be considered a “minor”. Full age means they reached the age of majority i.e. they have become an adult. This used to be 21 but is now 18. That’s not to say, of course, that they weren’t adolescent:
“Before Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 there was no lower legal age of marriage, except during the 1650′s when it was 16 for men and 14 for women. In 1753 it was fixed at 14 for men and 12 for women and remained at that until the Age of Marriage Act 1929 when it was raised to 16 for both.”
Minors tend to be recorded alongside the consenting guardian/father(s).
Also, never forget that some people claimed to be of full age when in fact they were not!
Of course, this also differs from “age of consent” for matrimonial contracts and for sexual intercourse.
Check out the thread at http://www.british-genealogy.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-1969.html for example. Much more information can be found from other sources too.