England, Lancashire, Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.

Contents

Record Description

This collection covers records for the years 1530 through 1900.

Baptisms (christenings), marriages, and burials were recorded on blank pages in a bound book called a register. The events of baptism, marriage, and burial were all recorded in one volume until 1754, when a law required that marriages be recorded in a separate book. Banns, or proclamations of “an intent” to marry, were recorded in yet another book. Starting in 1812, preprinted registers were introduced, and then separate registers were kept for baptisms, marriages, and burials. Before 1812, bishops’ transcripts were usually recorded on loose pieces of paper. Following that year, the transcripts were recorded on the same preprinted forms as parish registers.

In 1537 the Church of England mandated that parishes begin keeping church registers by the next year (1538). These church registers continue to the present. Bishops’ transcripts, or copies of parish registers, were required beginning in 1598 and continued to the mid-1800s. The vast majority of the English population belonged to the Church of England. Only since the mid-19th century have other religious groups made headway.

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Record Content

Baptism records may contain the following information:

  • Baptism date
  • Name of the child
  • Sex of the child
  • Legitimacy of the child
  • Marital status of the parents
  • Social class of the parents
  • Name of the father and often mother’s given name
  • May list the residence of the parents, especially after 1812

Marriage records may contain the following information:

  • Marriage date
  • Name of the bride and groom
  • Age of the bride and groom
  • May list names of parents or other relatives
  • Residence of the bride and groom
  • Marital status of individuals and couples
  • Dates marriage was announced (bann records)
  • Names of witnesses (after 1754)
  • Names of bride and groom's fathers (after 1837)
  • Marital Status

Burial records may contain the following information:

  • Burial date
  • Name of the deceased.
  • Father's name (if deceased is a child)
  • Marital Status
  • Spouse's name
  • Age of the person
  • Residence of the deceased
  • May give the sex of the deceased
  • Residence of the deceased

How to Use the Record

As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor's given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence, age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.

Search the Collection

To search by index:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

Using the Information

Parish registers are one of the best sources for identifying individuals and connecting them to parents, spouses, and other generations. In July 1837 the government instituted the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. However, parish registers continue to play an important role because they are often more readily available than civil registers. Bishops’ transcripts are a backup source for parish registers that are missing or illegible. If possible, you may want to search both the parish registers and the bishops’ transcripts since one is a handwritten copy of the other and might contain differences.

Baptism or christening records list the parents’ names, making it possible for you to connect your ancestor to an earlier generation. You may find a birth date listed or be able to approximate a birth date. After 1812 the baptismal records list a place of residence, making it easier to identify your family by where they lived. The records also list the father’s occupation, which makes it easier to identify your ancestor's family when more than one family with the same name lived in the parish.

Marriage records sometimes state the residence for the bride and groom. You can use this information to look for their baptisms and to identify the children of this couple. Sometimes the groom’s occupation is listed, which could help you find more records about the groom. Marriage records after 1754 list the names of witnesses, who were often family members. These can help you identify your ancestor’s family. Signatures in the records might be used to identify a particular individual by the handwriting style. After 1812 and sometimes before, burial records include the age of the deceased. Use this age to approximate the person’s birth year and to find the baptismal record. If the deceased is a child, the parents’ names might be given. This information helps to extend your family another generation. The occupation of a deceased male might be given (especially after 1812) and can help identify your ancestor when there is more than one person by that name in the area. Knowing the occupation might also provide you the opportunity to find other records about your ancestor.

Banns indicate the parish of residence of the bride and groom. This information often leads to the records of another parish. You can search for the baptisms of the bride and groom in the parishes of residence since these might also be the parishes where they were born.

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Don't overlook FHL Place England, Lancashire items or FHL Keyword England, Lancashire items in the FamilySearch Library Catalog. For other libraries (local and national) or to gain access to items of interest, see England Archives and Libraries.

Record History

In 1530, King Henry VIII established the Church in England, also known as the Anglican Church, the State Church, or the Episcopal Church. A law passed in 1537 required ministers to record the baptisms, marriages, and burials that took place in their parishes. Priests recorded these events in registers and kept them at the parish level, which is the lowest level of authority in the Church of England. Within some parishes, chapelries were created to provide for the worship needs of the parishioner when the parish church was not easily accessible. Chapelries sometimes had the authority to perform baptisms, marriages, and burials, so they kept their own registers. Several parishes formed a deanery (presided over by a dean), several deaneries formed an archdeaconry (presided over by an archdeacon), and several archdeaconries formed a diocese (presided over by a bishop).

Beginning in 1598, ministers were required to send copies of their registers to an archdeacon or bishop annually. These copies are referred to as bishops’ transcripts, or sometimes archdeacon transcripts. As a result, two copies of many parish registers exist from 1598 to about the mid-1800s. After civil registration began in 1837, the value of keeping bishops’ transcripts diminished, so by 1870 most parishes had stopped making them.

Banns are proclamations of an intent to marry. After 1754 these banns were required to be read for three consecutive Sundays before a marriage so that anyone with reasons against the marriage could oppose it. Banns were read in both the bride’s parish and the groom’s parish.

Most bishops’ transcripts of Church of England parish registers have been preserved. Many have also been copied to microfilm or microfiche. The condition of the records is relatively good considering their age and their storage conditions over the centuries. In 1598 ministers were required to copy their registers onto parchment. If the minister failed to make such a copy, the register for that parish and its records did not survive. During the Commonwealth period, 1649–1660, many parish registers disappeared, and many transcripts were not kept because ministers were deposed from their parishes.

Why this Record Was Created

Parish registers were created to record church events of baptism or christening, marriage, and burial. Baptismal entries usually list the person’s birth date, and burial entries list the death date. In the Church of England, baptism, which was also called christening, was performed soon after the birth of a child. Marriage in the church legally united a man and a woman for civil legal reasons and for the purpose of founding a religiously sanctified family. Burial is a function of the church to inter the deceased soon after death.

Record Reliability

Church of England parish registers are the most reliable and accurate family history source until July 1837, when the government instituted the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Information in parish registers and Bishop's Transcripts can be verified against each other. There are often variations in Bishop's Transcripts of names and spellings. Bishop's Transcripts may also omit years or part of years and are incomplete according to Diocesan practice and preservation.

Transcription is a human process and can include error. If you are searching a computer data base which has been indexed exactly as viewed it may be necessary to search on variants of the given name and surname. The transcriber may have faithfully rendered Thos. or a Latin spelling like Xpher and your search for Thomas or Christopher may not produce a search result.

Parish register entries may not correspond with post 1837 Civil Registration certificates. The registration of Marriages involves a quarterly return from each authorised person  (Registrar General approved) to the local Registry Office and each Registry Office in turn to form a National Index. The transcription of information from the event may not correspond to the original entry.

Since Civil Birth registrations are only partial in the early decades of Civil registration parish registers may be the only source of record for infant birth and death in a period of high infant mortality rates.

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Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. Guidelines are available to help you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide. If you would like to get more involved join the WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Citations for This Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information; that is, cite your sources. This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection citation:

"England, Lancashire, Parish Registers 1538-1910." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2014. Citing Lancashire Record Office, Lancashire, United Kingdom.


Record citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for England, Lancashire, Parish Registers 1538-1910.



 

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  • This page was last modified on 24 September 2014, at 16:36.
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