England Hertfordshire Church of England Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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

Contents

Record Description

These records cover the years 1538 through 1974.

Parish registers were created to record church events of baptism or christening, marriage, and burial. 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.

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 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.

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. However, parish registers continue to play an important role because they are often more readily available than civil registers. Information in parish registers and bishops’ transcripts can be verified against each other.

Record Content

Baptism records from the Church of England usually contain:

  • Name of the child
  • Baptism date
  • Place of baptism
  • Officiant of the baptism
  • Birth date
  • Sex of the child
  • Legitimacy of the child
  • Mother’s name
  • Father’s name and occupation
  • May list the residence of the parents, especially after 1812

Marriage records from the Church of England usually contain:

  • Marriage date
  • Name of the bride and groom
  • Age of the bride and groom
  • Place of the marriage
  • Parents (or other relatives) of the bride and groom
  • Residence of the bride and groom
  • Marital status of bride and groom
  • Occupation of bride and groom
  • Name of marriage officiant
  • May list the dates that the marriage was announced (also called “banns published”). This normally took place on three separate occasions prior to the marriage and gave anyone with a valid reason a chance to object to the marriage.
  • After 1754, the full names of witnesses
  • After 1837, the full names of the fathers

Burial records from the Church of England usually contain:

  • Burial date
  • Name of the deceased (If the deceased is a child, the father’s name might be given. If the deceased is a married woman, the husband’s name might be given.)
  • Age of the deceased
  • Place of burial
  • Officiant of the ceremony
  • Residence of the deceased

How to Use the Records

Parish registers are one of the best sources for identifying individuals and connecting them to parents, spouses, and other generations. 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.

To search for a person in a Church of England parish register, you must know the following:

  • Where the person lived and the corresponding parish
  • When the person lived (If you do not know the time period, you must estimate it from what you know of more recent generations.)

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.

Tips to Keep in Mind

You are able to connect your ancestor to an earlier generation anytime their parents’ names are given in a record. Use occupation information to help distinguish between your ancestor’s family and another family in the area with the same name. Knowing the occupation might also provide you the opportunity to find other records about your ancestor. You can use the listed ages at certain events (such as marriage and death) to approximate a birth date for your ancestor. This can also help you look for a baptism record. Use the residence information from each type of record to see the migration of your ancestor throughout their life. For instance, you can use the residence information from marriage records to look for their baptisms and to identify the children of this couple. Marriage records after 1754 also 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.

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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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).

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 their transcripts were not kept because ministers were deposed from their parishes.

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.

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:

"Hertfordshire Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1974." Index. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2014. Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies, Hertford.


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 Hertfordshire Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1974.



 

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  • This page was last modified on 2 October 2014, at 16:41.
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