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PARISH REGISTERS AND BISHOPS TRANSCRIPTS
 
  General

The Anglican Church has been recording baptisms, marriages and burials in England and Wales since 1538. It was then that Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII, ordered each parish to keep records of these events. These parish registers provide the key source of information on births, marriages and deaths prior to July 1837 when general registration started. The further back in time you are researching the higher the probability your English or Welsh ancestors attended the Anglican Church. Before 1700 around 95% of the population are found in Anglican records.

Until 1597 these parish records of baptisms, marriages and burials were kept on loose sheets and many of these were lost. Since 1597 these records have been bound in volumes with copies sent to the Bishop's office. These copies are referred to as Bishops Transcripts and sometimes you will find that a Bishops Transcript still exists when its associated original register has disappeared.

See Non Parochial Registers for guidance on researching religious records relating to Nonconformists, Roman Catholics and Jews.

     
   
     
  Information Provided

Baptisms before 1812

 
  • Varies considerably from parish register to parish register
  • Minimum: name of the child being baptised, date of baptism
  • Generally: name of father
  • Sometimes: name of mother, father's occupation, date of birth, names of grandparents
    Baptisms from 1812
   
  • Date and place of baptism
  • Child: forenames
  • Father: forenames, surname, occupation, address
  • Mother: forenames
  • In the case of an illegitimate child usually the father's name was omitted and the full name of the mother was provided instead
   

Marriages

   
  • Date and place of marriage
  • Groom: forename, surname, parish, occupation
  • Bride: forenames, maiden surname, parish
    Burials before 1813
   
  • Usually: name of deceased only
    Burials from 1813
   
  • Forenames, surname, address and age of deceased
     
   
     
  Caution

Baptism Date

   
  • Baptisms did not always take place immediately after birth. Often the two events could be years apart with parents having several of their children baptised together. This means that a baptism date is not always a reliable guide to age
    Name Spelling
   
  • Names in earlier parish registers may have been spelled phonetically and it is possible for the same person to have his or her name spelt differently in the same register.
    Year Overlap
   
  • Before 1752, the new year began on 25 March (Lady Day). This means that parish register entries continue beyond 31 December into the next year up until 24 March. However if working from a transcription, check first that the year has not already been modernised.
    Use of Latin
   
  • Many early parish registers are written in Latin. You will find Latin versions of forenames (e.g. Edwardus for Edward) and the use of baptizatus erat for baptised, nupti erat for married and sepultus erat for buried.
     
   
     
  Access Locating Parish Registers
 
  • Original, transcribed and microfilmed copies of parish registers and bishops transcripts constitute a widely scattered archive
  • To check out where you can find the parish register you are interested in, you are well advised to consult Phillimore: 'Atlas and Index of Parish Registers'. This very useful publication details for each parish in England and Wales where the original parish registers are deposited (with the year range covered), if copies are held at the Society of Genealogists (with the year range copied) and if included within the International Genealogical Index (with the year range covered).
   
  Original Documents
 
  • Most original parish registers are now held locally at Record Offices. If a microfilm/fiche copy exists at the County Record Office, you are likely to be directed to using the copy rather than the original.
   
  Internet
 
  • Over 15 million entries of baptisms, marriages and burials transcribed from mainly parish records in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland can be searched online on a subscription basis at ancestry.co.uk
  • A growing database of parish registers can also be searched and viewed at the Find My Past subscription site
  • The Genealogist subscription site has a fast growing number of parish registers (covering over 1,100 parishes at the last count) that can be viewed online
  • Over 3 million baptism, marriage and burial entries transcribed from parish registers can be freely searched at the FreeREG web site - this is very much a work-in-progress project - check out the Parishes Included page to see if the parish you are interested in has been included yet
   
  CD-ROMs
 
  • CD-ROM coverage is patchy from county to county and you are recommended to check the advertisements in the genealogical magazines to see what is currently available for purchase
   
  Microfilm/microfiche Copies
 
   
  Printed Publications
 
   
   
 
This page last updated: 12 February 2013