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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Catholic Missions and Parishes

The Catholic church was organized from about 1700 in local missions, not parishes, with the priest being known as the missionary apostolic. Until after 1791 there were no public chapels and just a few legal private ones in embassies, officially to serve the diplomatic community. Gandy ( Catholic Missions and Registers, 1994) has published six indispensable handlists of Catholic missions and surviving registers 1700-1880 for England, Wales and Scotland. The Catholic Directory also lists them and gives the dates of foundation.

The English Catholic system of Dioceses and Archdioceses was set up in 1850 and, with the modifications that have occurred with time in 1960 stood as in the chart below. Catholics chose their own chapel to attend since there were no official Catholic parish boundaries until the parish system was set up after WWI. Gandy’s Atlas (Catholic Parishes in England, Wales and Scotland. An Atlas. Self-published, 2001-3) contains maps showing all parishes having regular Sunday mass in 1960.

Although it was illegal for most residents of England to be Catholic between 1581 and 1778 there were some Londoners who were exempt from these laws. The 17th century Queens of England were all Catholic and their right to freedom of worship was written into their marriage contracts. There was therefore always a Royal Catholic chapel, firstly in St. James’ Palace, and later in Somerset House.
The other group were the diplomats associated with the London embassies from European Catholic countries. The embassies each had their private chapels which were allowed open services with music and ceremonies to serve their large staffs since they were technically on foreign soil. They attracted many other Catholics, as evidenced by the registers which mostly record English and Irish people both from the city and in from the country, not foreign nationals.

Chart: English Catholic Dioceses and Archdioceses (denoted by *)
[Abstracted from Gandy 2001-3]

NAME COUNTIES
PROVINCE OF BIRMINGHAM
Birmingham * Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire
Clifton Gloucestershire, Somerset,. Wiltshire
Plymouth Cornwall, Devon, Dorset
Shrewsbury Cheshire, Shropshire
PROVINCE OF CARDIFF
Cardiff * Glamorgan, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire
Menevia All Wales except Glamorgan and Monmouthshire
PROVINCE OF LIVERPOOL
Hexham and Newcastle Durham, Northumberland
Lancaster Cumberland, N. Lancashire, Westmorland
Leeds Yorkshire (West Riding)
Liverpool * Isle of Man, SW Lancashire
Middlesbrough Yorkshire (East and North Ridings)
Salford SE Lancashire
PROVINCE OF WESTMINSTER
Brentwood Essex
Northampton Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Suffolk
Nottingham Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland
Portsmouth Berkshire, Channel Islands, Hampshire
Southwark Kent, Surrey, Sussex
Westminster * Hertfordshire, London N of Thames Middlesex



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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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