Bristol, Gloucestershire Genealogy

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Guide to the City of Bristol, Gloucestershire ancestry, family history, and genealogy: parish registers, transcripts, census records, birth records, marriage records, and death records.

Records from this area are currently being indexed by volunteers. Come join the effort and help us index the Bristol Parish Registers 1837-1900
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Local Research Resources


BRISTOL, a city and county of itself, and a considerable port, situated near the mouth of the Bristol Channel, and between the counties of Gloucester and Somerset, into both of which the town extends, 34 miles (S. W. by S.) from Gloucester, 12 (N. W.) from Bath, and 118 (W.) from London; containing, in the old city, 64,266 inhabitants, exclusively of those in Clifton, Bedminster, and the out portions of the parishes of St. James, St. Paul, and St. Philip and St. Jacob, which form the suburbs. [1]

Bristol was created a county borough (a borough or a city independent of county council control). There were a considerable number of parishes and chapels associated and attached to it--some of which did not reside physically-speaking within the city proper, but lay outside of the city, but still within its jurisdictional boundaries. In 1888, it expanded by annexing some parts of south Gloucestershire in 1898 and 1904.

Bristol was included as part of the county of Avon along with Bath and large portions of Gloucestershire and Somerset when Avon was created in 1974. In 1996, the County of Avon was disbanded and split into four parts, namely:

1. The City and County of Bristol

2. South Gloucestershire – formed from the Kingswood and North Avon districts.

3. North Somerset – formed from the Woodspring district.

4. Bath and North East Somerset – formed from the Bath and Wansdyke districts. 

Maritime Connections

Bristol is favorably located on the wide river Severn estuary. This river estuary is known for its high tides, especially when the river contains much 'fresh water' from rains. Because of this, sailing ships could be warped out from the dock, and could then tack easily out to the Irish Sea.

Because of its location, by the 12th century Bristol was an important port, handling much of England's trade with Ireland, including slaves. In 1247 a new stone bridge was built, which was replaced by the current Bristol Bridge in the 1760s, and the town was extended to incorporate neighboring suburbs, becoming in 1373 a county in its own right.

In the 15th century, Bristol was the second most important port in the country. A number of intrepid sailing masters left from Bristol. culminating in John Cabot's 1497 voyage of exploration to North America and the subsequent expeditions undertaken by Bristol merchants to the new world up to 1508.

One of the most heinous aspects of British history was tied to Bristol. Along with Liverpool, it became a center for the Triangular trade between Britain, Africa, and North America. In the first stage of slavery triangle, manufactured goods were taken to West Africa and exchanged for Africans who were then, in the second stage or middle passage, transported across the Atlantic in brutal conditions. The third leg of the triangle brought plantation goods such as sugar, tobacco, rum, rice and cotton back across the Atlantic, along with small number of slaves, who were sold to the aristocracy of Britain as house servants.

During the 19th century Samuel Plimsoll, "the sailor's friend", campaigned to make the seas safer. He was shocked by the number of ships he saw with completely overloaded cargoes, and successfully fought for a compulsory load line on ships. This line is still known today as the "Plimsoll line."

Bristol remained the second port of Britain until the advent of steam driven vessels, obviating the need for a wide estuary to tack. Even today, however, Bristol is an important maritime location.



Memorial Inscriptions available online at Bristol and Avon Family History Society website - free.

  • Includes dozens of Bristol parish church and nonconformist burial grounds

Major civil cemeteries:

Church Records


Ancient Parishes

Ecclesiastical Parishes

Here's a "Comprehensive List of Bristol City Parishes and Episcopal Chapels". Print out this list as a guide to help you more thoroughly search all of these parish (chapel) registers.

Many of Bristol City's parish and chapel registers have been or are being indexed and made searchable online (Church of England Church Records): England, Bristol Parish Registers, 1538-1900 at FamilySearch Historical Collections. Description. Bristol has about 60-plus parishes and chapels within its boundary.



Society of Friends

Census Records

The Inhabitants of Bristol in 1696, by Elizabeth Ralph and Mary E. Williams, 1968, at Bristol and Avon Family History Society website - free.

Census records from 1841 to 1911 are available online. For access, see England Census Records and Indexes Online. Census records from 1841 to 1891 are also available on film through a Family History Center or at the Family History Library. The first film number is 288782.

Civil Registration

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Neil Dun's FreeBMD Church Cross-reference website helps researchers identify at which churches marriages listed on FreeBMD took place.

Court Records

Crime and Punishment


  • Hargreaves-Mawdsley, R. and N. Dermott Harding. Bristol and America, a Record of the First Settlers in the Colonies of North America, 1654-1685: Including the Names with Places of Origin of More than 10,000 Servants to Foreign Plantations Who Sailed from the Port of Bristol to Virginia, Maryland, and Other Parts of the Atlantic Coast, and Also to the West Indies from 1654 to 1685 (London: R.S. Glover, 1931). FHL Book 973 W3b; digital version at FamilySearch Books - free.
  • Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Bristol Registers of Servants Sent to Foreign Plantations, 1654-1686. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1988. FHL Book 942.41/B2 W2c; digital versions at Ancestry (£); Chronicle Barbados (free; Barbados entries only); Virtual Jamestown (free).
  • Bristol and Avon Strays, mainly 18th and 19th centuries, available online at Bristol & Avon Family History Society website - free.

Local Histories

Bristol Bridge

Marriage Licences

Military Records

Bristol suffered badly from Luftwaffe air raids in World War II, claiming some 1,300 lives of people living and working in the city, with nearly 100,000 buildings being damaged, at least 3,000 of them beyond repair. The original central shopping area, near the bridge and castle, is now a park containing two bombed out churches and some fragments of the castle, kept to remind the citizens of the havoc caused.


Here is a sampling of pre-1900 Bristol historical newspapers available online.

To learn how to access these newspapers, see: Richard Heaton's Index to Digitalised British and Irish Newspapers Online Beta (updated 12th September 2015).

  • 1716-1900 - Bristol Mercury
  • 1744 - Bristol Oracle and Country Advertiser
  • 1744 - Bristol Oracle and Country Intelligencer
  • 1782-1789 - Felix Farley's Bristol Journal
  • 1793 - Sarah Farley's Bristol Journal
  • 1808-1842 - Bristol Mirror
  • 1829-1831 - The Bristolian
  • 1839-1870, 1897 - Bristol Times and Mirror
  • 1858-1950 - Western Daily Press[2]

Current newspapers:



Middle Ages

Sixteenth Century

Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century

Nineteenth Century

Probate Records

Main article: Court of the Bishop of Bristol (Episcopal Consistory)

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Gloucestershire Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.


Maps and Gazetteers

Maps are a visual look at the locations in England. Gazetteers contain brief summaries about a place.

Online Maps



  1. Lewis, Samuel A.,A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848), pp. 379-389. Date accessed: 07 May 2013.
  2. 'Richard Heaton's Index to Digitalised British and Irish Newspapers Online Beta (updated 12th September 2015),'