Suffolk Church Records

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England  Gotoarrow.png  Suffolk   Gotoarrow.png  Parishes

Church Records 1538 to 1900

Several types of document are classified under Church Records. There are parish registers and Bishop's Transcripts or register bills which record the baptisms, marriages, and burials in the parish. Additional records of parishioners and visitors were preserved in what is called the 'parish chest'. The archdeaconries kept other records of marriages, such as licence bonds and allegations. They also convened probate courts till 1858. The Church of England was the dominant religion. There were Baptist, Independent, Methodist, and Catholic chapels in the county as well. The England Church Records article provides a fuller overview.

Parish Records

  • Parish Registers - The parish registers can be viewed at the Suffolk Record Office, which also sells the registers of many parishes on microfiche.  There are numerous indexes and transcriptions that have been published by the Suffolk Family History Society.  Several other indexes have been filmed by the Utah Genealogical Society. Check the library catalog to see what is available for particular parishes.
    • Baptisms - From about 1790 to 1812 the mother's maiden name is often recorded; after 1813 the father's occupation is stated; sometimes the birthdate is included as well as the date of baptism.
    • Marriages - Most people married after banns were called; some married by licence.  Post-1754 the marriage register indicates whether the wedding was by banns or licence.  If a licence was issued, further details may be found in the affidavit or bond kept by the relevant ecclesiastical court, normally the Archdeaconry Court of Suffolk (for the eastern part of the county) or the Archdeaconry Court of Sudbury (for western Suffolk) but often the Consistory Court of Norwich, even when both bride and groom lived in the same archdeaconry.  Refer to England Church Records page
  • Churchyard - A small portion of the people had headstones.  There are inscriptions available for most parishes.  In larger towns, public cemeteries were established and churchyard burials were discontinued.  Ipswich Cemetery was opened in 1855.
    • Burials - Over one million burials have been published on CD by the Suffolk Family History Society.   They can be searched by surname or parish.  This large collection of records provides clues as to where families were living in the county

Suffolk Bishop's Transcripts

Copies of the past year's baptismal, marriage and burial entries in the parish registers were supposed to be submitted annually to the local archdeacon or (every seventh year and sometimes more frequently) to the Bishop of Norwich, during his visitations. They are commonly known as Bishop's Transcripts (BTs) or (more accurately in most cases for this county) register bills. Bishop Transcripts may pre-date the parish registers for some parishes.
The Suffolk Record Office (SRO) has all the BTs that have survived; however, if you live some distance from Ipswich you can consult the microfilmed collection of the Genealogical Society of Utah. Since very few of the parish registers are available outside of Suffolk, your only option may be to rely on parish register transcripts and Bishop Transcripts that have been filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. (of course you have the option of buying the parish register from the Suffolk Record Office)
It is advisable to check both the parish registers and the Bishop Transcripts since they are copies of each other. The time spent searching both the BTs and the parish registers is not wasted since it is possible that they may differ and additional details may be found about your ancestor. Perhaps only 10% of the time will they differ.
FamilySearch has indexed post 1813 entries from the Suffolk BTs. Search these entries through the Hugh Wallis website or FamilySearch. Most of the people from Suffolk found on FamilySearch come from the Bishop Transcripts.
Consult the sections below - Archdeaconry of Suffolk for Eastern Suffolk or Archdeaconry of Sudbury for Western Suffolk for additional details.

Extracted Records on FamilySearch

Over the years, the Genealogical Society of Utah has created indexes of various parish registers and Bishop Transcripts. The indexes are called batches. (see Hugh Wallis website) The batches give you an idea of what will be found on FamilySearch. The batch numbers for the Suffolk Bishop Transcripts are a combination of parishes and years and every parish is represented. The Hugh Wallis website is a research tool whereby you can determine whether your parish of interest will be found on FamilySearch; though, not every batch for Suffolk is listed. The batches should not be considered 100% complete.

Examples of documents found in the Parish Register

Archdeaconry of Suffolk

Deanries - Bosmere & Claydon, Carlford, Colneis, Dunwich, Hoxne, Ipswich, Loes, Lothingland, Orford, Samford, Southelmham, Wangford, Wilford.  After 1837 Stow and Hartismere were added.

  • Marriage License, Bonds, Allegations - Marriage license bonds and allegations, 1610-1900 
  • Probate - Court of Archdeaconry of Suffolk
  • Bishop's Transcripts  (see above) - From 1685 to the 1875 there are Bishop Transcripts for the Archdeaconry of Suffolk which have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah.   After 1813 the parishes are filmed in alphabetical order. Before 1813 they are filmed by Deanery. From 1813 to 1875 a considerable amount of the transcripts are on FamilySearch formerly called the IGI.

Keyword search of Archdeaconry of Suffolk shows records in the catalogue.

Archdeaconry of Sudbury

Deaneries - Blackbourn, Clare, Fordham, Hartismere, Stow, Sudbury, Thedwastre, Thingoe. After 1837 Archdeaconry of Sudbury was moved into the Diocese of Ely and Stow and Hartismere were added to the Archdeaconry of Suffolk.

 Keyword search of Archdeaconry of Sudbury shows records in the catalogue.

  • 1684-1754:Allegations for marriage licences in the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, in the County of Suffolk for Church of England (Volume 69), by W. Bruce Bannerman, G.G. Bruce Bannerman, Published by Harleian Society, London (1918). [Indexed in the next volume.] Available online through the Internet Archive.
  • 1755-1781: Allegations for marriage licences in the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, in the County of Suffolk for Church of England (Volume 70), by W. Bruce Bannerman, G.G. Bruce Bannerman, Published by Harleian Society, London (1919). [With index for 1684-1781.] Available online through the Internet Archive.
  • 1782-1814: Allegations for marriage licences in the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, in the County of Suffolk for Church of England (Volume 71), by W. Bruce Bannerman, G.G. Bruce Bannerman, Published by Harleian Society, London (1920). [Indexed in the next volume.] Available online through the Internet Archive.
  • 1815-1839: Allegations for marriage licences in the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, in the County of Suffolk for Church of England (Volume 72), by W. Bruce Bannerman, G.G. Bruce Bannerman, Published by Harleian Society, London (1921). [With index for 1782-1839.] Available online through the Internet Archive.


Number of Dissenting Chapels in Suffolk



The Congregational magazine [formerly The London Christian instructor], page 721. Free google ebook

'Nonconformist' is a term referring to religious denominations other than the established Church. See England Nonconformist Church Records article

Events affecting Church Records

  • 1531 Henry VIII recognized as head of the newly created Church of England. All ties with the Pope and the church in Rome severed.
  • 1538 Thomas Cromwell ordered all parish ministers to keep records of christenings, marriages, and burials. These records became known as parish registers.
  • 1598 Parish ministers were required to keep their registers on parchment, and previous registers were copied onto parchment. Parish ministers were also required to send copies of their registers to the bishop of the diocese. These became known as bishops' transcripts.
  • 1642-1660 Civil War took place in England. Charles I was executed in 1649. Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England. Bishop's courts were abolished. Civil war caused political and religious upheaval. Parish registers were poorly kept. Many other changes affected record keeping.
  • 1660 Charles II was restored as monarch, ending civil strife. Bishop's courts were restored.
  • 1695-1706 A tax was assessed on parish register entries. To avoid the tax, some people did not register events.
  • 1754 Lord Hardwicke's Act outlawed marriage outside the Church of England (except for Quakers and Jews) and required that separate registers for marriages be kept. Common law marriages were also outlawed.
  • 1778 Laws against Roman Catholics were repealed, and many priests started to keep records.
  • 1783-1794 The Stamp Duty Act again assessed a tax on parish register entries. Only paupers were exempt, so many people were recorded as paupers when they were not. Others did not have their children baptized until after the Act was repealed.
  • 1812 The George Rose Act required Church of England christening, marriage, and burial records to be kept in separate registers on pre-printed forms, starting 1 January 1813.

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

England Norfolk Marriage Bonds (FamilySearch Historical Records)