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English Parish Registers.

Church of England parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials, sometimes as early as 1538. From 1598 copies of the entries from many registers were sent to bishops and archdeacons: these copies are known as Bishop's Transcripts.

In 1538 Thomas Cromwell ordered that each parish priest should keep registers of the baptisms, marriages and burials taking place in his parish. Very few parishes have surviving registers that are complete since 1538: despite the order many parishes did not start to keep registers until some years later, and many of the early registers have been lost or destroyed. In 1598 it was ordered that registers should be kept on parchment because the paper in the books that had been in use since 1538 was of poor quality and many entries were already illegible. The order stated that existing entries in the registers were to be copied on to parchment, especially those entries for the period since Queen Elizabeth's accession in 1558. Unfortunately some priests decided only to copy those entries since 1558 and the earlier records are lost.

Registers of the 16th and 17th centuries were often written in Latin and can be difficult to read. A statute of 1812, known as Rose's Act, required parish incumbents to use specially printed registers, with separate books for baptisms, marriages and burials, and this generally made the entries easier to read and greatly improved the amount of detail recorded.

Dates before 1752 can cause confusion. From about 1190 until 1 January 1752 the Julian calendar was used in England and each year began officially on Lady Day (25 March) rather than on 1 January. The entry for 10 February 1730 for example was actually in what we would now regard as 1731, and for clarity the date is often now written as 10 February 1730/31. An act of Parliament, Lord Chesterfield's Act of 1751, replaced this calendar with the Gregorian calendar that was already in use in Scotland and most of Europe. The year 1751 commenced as in previous years on 25 March but ended on 31 December 1751 so that 1752 and subsequent years then started on 1 January.

(Sourced from "Ancestral Trails", 2nd Edition by Mark D Herber, Sutton Publishing 2000)

Glossary of terms

1) (x) in a marriage entry means the person just made their mark rather than signing the register.
2) botp is "both of this parish": singly it would be otp "of this parish", the parish of the other person is then usually given. Of this parish only means living there at the time of the marriage and does not indicate that they were born there.
3) bachelor is given as "bac" in most registers but just as "b" in others. Spinster is "sp" or "s"
etc etc etc

 

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