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Lancashire from early times was divided into approximately 71 ancient parishes, making this county unique compared to the rest of England's counties, without exception. England's other counties, i.e. Cornwall were comprised of hundreds of parishes, including some of the lesser populated ones. By contrast, Lancashire was comprised ecclesiastically of a mere 71 parishes, but nearly 500 chapels of ease (sometimes called chapelries)--all attached to each ancient parish! On average, each Lancashire ancient parish, had at least 8 chapelries attached to it!
Due mostly to the Industrial Revolution, by the 19th Century, Lancashire had become one of England's most populated counties. To handle the dramatic population explosion within its county boundaries, the Established Church, that is the Church of England, created hundreds of chapels of ease (or chapelries) and district churches.
Note to all Lancashire Researchers:
The following list of Lancashire's parishes and chapels of ease (chapelries, district chapels, parochial chapelries,etc) is notyet a complete list. So to help you determine all chapelries within an ancient parish, see or view the "Lancashire Ancient Parishes" page or, click on any of the ancient parishes listed below (see double asterisked ["**"] names below); then click the "List of Parishes and Chapelries" link found at the top of each parish's main page.
Unlike other England counties (except Cheshire, parts of West Yorkshire, Greater London and most big cities), identifying, listing and then researching in Lancashire parishes requires you to identify all chapelries attached to each ancient parish. Until now, this was quite difficult to accomplish, and yet critical in order to conduct more thorough research in Lancashire. Each Lancashire parish averages close to 8 chapelries (additional separate churches with baptism and etc., registers) each. But no single reference aid, tool, or source is complete or accurate in identifying all chapels of ease within each ancient parish.
These "Comprehensive Lists", (see links found in each parish's Main page), are printable and provide as complete a listing of all chapels in each parish as may be compiled, with their beginning dates and links to their records availability--all critical for conducting thorough research within each parish. After completing a search in the original ancient parish registers, be certain to ask yourself if you have also searched in the church registers of each chapelry attached to the parish as listed in the "Comprehensive Lists" of parishes and chapels. To not follow this strategy in your research will result in less-than thorough searching, and failure to solve your research problems or objectives. These lists will greatly aid you as you attempt to progress your research into surrounding, contiguous parishes and their respective group of chapels, and so on. Incomplete lists of chapels and chapelries lying within an ancient parish is the major reason many researchers have decades-old 'brickwall' problems in tracing ancestral lines in Lancashire!
While the list (below) indicates most of Lancashire's churches including the 71 ancient parishes (**), it is in the "Comprehensive Lists" that you find as complete and thorough a list of all chapelries which are attached to that ancient parish:
Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project aims to extract and preserve the records from various parish and provide free online access to the transcriptions. To learn more visit their site.