England, Devon, Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Devon,  England
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Location of Devon, England
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Record Description
Record Type Parish Registers
Collection years 1538-1912
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Find My Past

What is in the Collection?

This collection contains church records from parishes in the western part of the county of Devon for the years 1538-1912. This collection was done in cooperation with FindMyPast, and a full version of the index can be found at their website.

In its most basic sense, a parish register is a record of religious ordinances performed in the Church of England. Beginning in 1538, every parish priest was required to write down certain information about every baptism (officially termed “christening” in Anglican use), marriage, and burial that took place in his parish over the course of each year. He was then supposed to bind these pages into a single volume, thereby annually producing a comprehensive history of his ministerial efforts. After 1754, a new law required that marriages be recorded in a separate book, and banns—public proclamations of a couple’s intent to marry—were to be recorded in yet another book. Starting in 1812, pre-printed registers were introduced, and separate registers were then kept for baptisms, marriages, and burials. It should also be noted that many parish records were not kept during the Interregnum, 1649-1660, due to temporary changes in the hierarchy of the Church of England.

Due to this long and relatively stable tradition, parish registers are central to English genealogical research as they are often one of the only sources for finding families and individuals in England before the start of civil registration in 1837.

Further information: Church of England Parish Registers

One of the 39 historic counties of England, Devon, known in the period of this collection as Devonshire, is a coastal county located on the southwestern peninsula of Britain, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. For a list of parishes which historically made up this county, see the Devon Parishes page.

Collection Content

The index to this collection refers to baptism, marriage, and burial records. Baptismal record entries are the most common in the index, followed by burial records, with marriage records constituting the smallest portion.

Coverage Table

This table gives more specific information on the parishes represented in this collection, as well as the types of records which pertain to them, and the years in which those records were kept.

Parish Baptisms Marriages Burials
Plymouth St Andrew 1822-1826 (4634281)
Stoke Damerel

1581-1618 (4634280)
1689-1706/7 (4634096)
1707-1719/20 (4634098)
1719/20-1745 (4634099)
1746-1758 (4634100)
1759-1772 (4634101)
1776-1789 (4634103)
1789-1791 (4634104)
1791-1801 (4634106)
1801-1812 (4634107)
1814-1816 (4634084)
1818-1820 (4634085)
1824-1825 (4634086)
1825-1831 (4634088)
1832-1834 (4634089)
1834-1840 (4634090)
1841-1846 (4634091)
1847-1852 (4634092)
1847-1859 (4634093)
1859-1866 (4634094)
1866-1878 (4634095)
1878-1895 (4634097)
1896-1927 (4634108)
1929-1954 (4634219)

1581-1618 (4634280)
1689-1706/7 (4634096)
1707-1734 (4634098)
1735-1745 (4634099)
1754-1763 (4634109)
1763-1765 (4634110)
1765-1774 (4634111)
1774-1779 (4634112)
1780-1782 (4634113)
1783-1786 (4634114)
1786-1793 (4634115)
1793-1797 (4634117)
1797-1800 (4634118)
1801-1805 (4634119)
1805-1808 (4634121)
1808-1811 (4634122)
1811-1812 (4634123)
1813-1814 (4634124)
1814-1816 (4634204)
1816-1821 (4634205)
1821-1825 (4634206)
1826-1829 (4634207)
1829-1832 (4634208)
1832-1834 (4634209)
1834-1835 (4634210)
1835-1836 (4634211)
1836-1837 (4634212)
1837-1838 (4634224)
1838-1840 (4634225)
1840-1841 (4634226)
1841-1842 (4634227)
1842-1843 (4634228)
1843-1844 (4634229)
1844-1845 (4634230)
1845-1846 (4634231)
1846-1847 (4634232)
1847-1848 (4634233)
1848-1849 (4634234)
1849-1850 (4634235)
1850-1852 (4634236)
1852-1853 (4634237)
1853-1855 (4634238)
1855-1857 (4634259)
1857-1859 (4634260)
1859-1861 (4634261)
1861-1862 (4634262)
1862-1864 (4634263)
1864-1866 (4634264)
1866-1868 (4634265)
1870-1872 (4634267)
1872-1874 (4634268)
1874-1875 (4634269)
1875-1877 (4634270)
1877-1880 (4634271)
1880-1884 (4634272)
1884-1890 (4634273)
1890-1896 (4634274)
1896-1901 (4634275)
1901-1908 (4634276)
1908-1916 (4634277)
1916-1923 (4634278)
1923-1931 (4634279)
1858-1877 certificates (4634221)
1927-1931 banns (4634220)
1581-1618 (4634280)
1689-1706/7 (4634096)
1732-1745/6 (4634099)
1746-1758 (4634100)
1759-1761 (4634101)
1761-1775 (4634102)
1776-1786 (4634104)
1786-1796 (4634105)
1797-1799 (4634106)
1807-1812 (4634213)
1813-1815 (4634214)
1815-1819 (4634215)
1819-1823 (4634216)
1824-1828 (4634217)
1828-1832 (4634218)
1832-1835 (4634239)
1835-1837 (4634240)
1837-1842 (4634241)
1842-1847 (4634243)
1847-1850 (4634244)
1850-1852 (4634245)
1852-1855 (4634246)
1855-1858 (4634247)
1858-1860 (4634248)
1860-1864 (4634250)
1864-1868 (4634251)
1868-1878 (4634252)
1878-1882 (4634253)
1882-1885 (4634254)
1885-1889 (4634255)
1889-1893 (4634256)
1893-1897 (4634257)
1897-1929 (4634258)

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

The following lists indicate potential information given in each type of record. It must be remembered that every record may not provide all the listed information, as the procedures for keeping parish records evolved considerably over the centuries after 1538. It must also be noted that individual parishes often developed record-keeping traditions unique to themselves.

Baptismal Records may include:
Before 1812

  • Date and place of baptism
  • Full name of child
  • Sex of child

Included after 1812

  • Legitimacy of child
  • Full names of parents
  • Residence of parents
  • Marital status of parents
  • Occupations of parents
  • Names of godparents
  • Names, ages, occupations, and residences of witnesses
  • Name of minister

Marriage Records may include:
Before 1754

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Full names of bride and groom
  • Dates of the proclamation of banns
  • Residences of bride and groom

Included after 1754

  • Full names of witnesses
  • Name of minister

Included after 1837

  • Ages of bride and groom
  • Previous marital statuses of bride and groom
  • Full names of parents
  • Occupation of groom

Burial Records may include:
Before 1812

  • Date and place of burial
  • Date and place of death
  • Name of deceased
  • Marital status of deceased
  • Name of spouse

Included after 1812

  • Age at death
  • Residence of deceased
  • Name of father, esp. if infant
  • Sex of deceased, esp. if infant

How Do I Search the Collection?

Before beginning a search in these records, it is best to know the full name of the individual in question, as well as an approximate time range for the desired record. When entered into the search engine on the Collection Page, this information provides the quickest, most reliable path to finding the correct person. Of course, other information can be substituted as necessary.

Search by Name by Visiting the Collection Page

Fill in the requested information in the initial search page to return a list of possible matches. Compare the individuals on the list with what is already known to find the correct family or person. This step may require examining multiple individuals before a match is located.

Image Visibility

Whenever possible, FamilySearch makes images available for all users. However, ultimate rights to view images on our website are granted by the record custodians. The England, Plymouth and West Devon, Parish Registers collection is available to the Family History Library, FamilySearch Centers, and to members of the supporting organization. The images can be viewed at a FamilySearch Center near you.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking for, What Now?

  • Make sure to fully transcribe and cite the index entry for future reference; see below for assistance in citing this collection.
  • Look at an image of the original record, if possible. The index entry generally lists only the most basic identifying information for an individual; the original record may contain further information which was not indexed. Save or print a copy of the image if possible.
  • Use the information which has been discovered to find more. For instance, use the age listed in the record to estimate a year of birth, if that is yet undetermined.
  • If in the appropriate period, use the information which has been discovered to find the individual in civil records. Particularly useful for research in nineteenth-century England are the England Census and the England Civil Registration records.
  • Continue to search the index to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives. Note that family members often appear on an individual's vital records, such as in the role of witnesses to a marriage.

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking for, What Now?

  • If possible, look at an image of the actual record to verify the information listed in the index entry.
  • When looking for a person with a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which individual is correct. Use other information, such as place of birth, age, occupation, or names of parents, to determine which candidate is the correct person. If listed, a personal title may be a clue to property ownership or occupation, either of which might be noted in other records.
  • Check for variants of given names and surnames. An individual might appear under a different name in a record for a variety of reasons:
    • Spelling was not standardized for much of the period of this collection, so the name was written according to its pronunciation. Pay special attention to how the name should have been pronounced and try other spelling variations that could have that pronunciation.
    • Individuals might have been listed under a middle name, nickname, or abbreviation of their given name.
    • For women, it was not uncommon to revert to a maiden name after the death of a husband.
    • Simple clerical errors were always possible.
  • Vary the search terms. For example, search by either the given name or surname to return broader list of possible candidates which can then be examined for matches. Alternatively, try expanding the date range; this is especially useful in searching baptismal records, as it was not unusual for a child to be baptized weeks or even months after birth.
  • Search the records of nearby parishes. While it was uncommon for an individual in this period to move more than about 20 miles from their place of birth, smaller relocations were not uncommon. For this particular collection, this step may require finding records in the bordering English counties of Cornwall to the west or Somerset and Dorset to the east. Note that marriages usually took place in the parish where the bride resided.
  • Some parish records might have been lost over time. If possible, use Bishop's Transcripts as a substitute. See the Devon Bishops' Transcripts page for more information.
  • The individual in question may not have records in the Church of England at all, but rather might have belonged to a nonconformist denomination. See England Nonconformist Church Records for more information.

For additional help searching online collections see FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing this Collection

Citing sources correctly makes it easier to refer to information which has already been discovered; proper citations are therefore key to keeping track of genealogical research. Following established citation formats also allows others to verify completed research by helping them find and examine records for themselves.

To be of use, citations must include information such as the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records, if available. The following examples demonstrate how to present this information for both this particular collection as well as individual records and images within the collection:

Collection Citation:

"England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912."Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. From "Church of England parish registers 1538-1911." Database and images. findmypast. http://www.findmypast.com : n.d. Citing images provided by FamilySearch International.

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, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.