Talk:England Church Records

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England, How to Use Church Records 1538-Present
Church records are an excellent source of information on births, marriages, and deaths. Most
people who lived in England have information recorded about them in church records. Since civil
registration of births, marriages, and deaths did not begin until July 1837, church records are the
best source of information before that date. Church records may contain baptism or christening,
birth, marriage, and burial information from 1538 to the present.
For more information about church records, see Background.
What You Are Looking For
Your ancestor's name in a church record of birth, christening or baptism, marriage, death, or
burial. The information you find varies from record to record. These records may include:
• Names.
• Dates.
• Places.
• Relationships.
• Occupations.
• Residence.
• Age.
These 4 steps will help you find a church record for your ancestor.
Step 1. Identify the place where your ancestor lived.
To search church records, you must know the name of the parish where your ancestor lived. If
you know only the name of a town or village, use a gazetteer or topographical dictionary for
England to find the name of the parish. If you cannot find the town name, try different spellings.
If you do not know the name of the town where your ancestor lived, go to How to Find the Name
of the Place Where Your Ancestor Lived.
England, How to Use Church Records 1538-Present
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 08/08/01
Step 2. Search indexes to church records first.
Indexes will save you time when searching church records of England. Many indexes have been
created. They include:
• The International Genealogical Index.
• The Vital Records Index: British Isles.
• Indexes created by family history societies.
• Indexes created by archives, libraries, and record offices.
To find indexes, see Where To Find It.
Step 3. Identify your ancestor's religion.
Before searching church records, you should know your ancestor's religion. The Church of
England (also known as the Established, Anglican, or Episcopalian Church) was the predominant
religion in England. Those who chose not to belong to or affiliate with it were known as
nonconformists. Nonconformist religions include:
• Presbyterians.
• Independents (or Congregationalists).
• Methodists.
• Baptists.
• Roman Catholics.
• Jews.
• Quakers.
For a list of sources that may help you identify your ancestor's religion, see Tips.
If you do not know your ancestor's religion, always search Church of England parish records first.
Step 4. Search church records.
If you think your ancestor belonged to the Church of England, select one of the following to
search Church of England church records:
• Christening or Baptism Records.
• Marriage Records.
• Burial Records.
If you think your ancestor was a nonconformist, search nonconformist church records.
In the 1530s King Henry VIII of Great Britain severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church and
formed a state church called the Church of England. This church has also been known as the
Established, Anglican, or Episcopal Church. Individual congregations are called parishes. Each
parish minister records baptisms or christenings, marriages, and burials performed within his
parish. From 1538, parish registers may provide you with important information about your
England, How to Use Church Records 1538-Present
Research Guidance

In time, some individuals and groups of people refused to conform to the rules and practices of
the Church of England and began to form other religions. These other religions, referred to as
nonconformists, include Independents, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, and others.
The Roman Catholic and Jewish churches, though they predate the Church of England, are also
categorized as nonconformists because their members do not conform to the Established church.
The records of these religions sometimes contain more information than those of the Church of
Tip 1. How can I tell what religion my ancestor belonged to?
The following sources may help you identify your ancestor's religion:
• Family histories, stories, and traditions.
• Biographies.
• Letters.
• Journals and diaries.
• Scrapbooks.
• Family bibles.
• Birth, baptism, marriage, or death certificates.
• Photographs.
• Military records.
• Obituaries and funeral cards.
• Newspaper articles.
• Wills and other probate records.
Where to Find It
Family History Centers
Most Family History Centers will not have microfilmed copies of church records for England in
their collections, but centers can borrow microfilms from the Family History Library. There is a
small fee to have a microfilm sent on loan to a center.
The International Genealogical Index is available at all Family History Centers. The Vital Records
Index: British Isles may also be available at centers.
Family History Centers are located throughout the United States and other areas of the world.
See Family History Centers for the address and phone number of the center nearest you.
Family History Library
The Family History Library has the largest collection in the world of microfilmed and printed
church records for England. The library also has indexes to church records, including the
International Genealogical Index, the Vital Records Index: British Isles, and others. There is no
fee for using the library's collection of records and indexes in person.
The Vital Records Index: British Isles on CD is also available to purchase for home computers.
England, How to Use Church Records 1538-Present
Research Guidance
Version of Data: 08/08/01
The records available at the Family History Library are listed in the Family History Library
Catalog. Go to What to Do Next. Select the catalog, and look for church records on the county
and parish or town levels. However, we suggest you look at the guides to using Church of
England records and nonconformist records before doing a catalog search for church records
(see step 4).
You may also request photocopies of church records and indexes from the library for a small fee.
You will need to fill out a Request for Photocopies form, which is available at the library and all
Family History Centers. Complete the form with the library call number for the record or index,
which you found in your search of the Family History Library Catalog (see What to Do Next).
Send the form and fee to the Family History Library.
See Library Services and Resources for more information about using the Family History Library
or a Family History Center.
Family History Societies
County and district family history societies in England extract and index many types of records of
genealogical value, including church records. Most indexes are available for purchase and may
be found in some libraries, including the Family History Library.
The Federation of Family History Societies publishes these guides to indexes:
• Specialist Indexes for Family Historians.
• [County:] A Genealogical Bibliography.
• Marriage and Census Indexes for Family Historians.
Many family history societies have Internet websites that list their indexes. You may access the
websites of the individual societies through the Federation of Family History Societies website.
Society of Genealogists
The Society of Genealogists in London has a large collection of transcribed church records and
indexes are located at:
14 Charterhouse Buildings
Goswell Road
London EC1M 7BA
Archives, Libraries, and Record Offices
County record offices in England are officially designated repositories for church records. Other
archives and libraries also have collections of church records, some of which are original.
Addresses for many archives, libraries, and record offices in England can be obtained on the
Internet at ARCHON. If you know the name of a repository, choose Repository Lists and search
by name. If you do not know the name of the repository but you do know what city or county it is
located in, choose Repository Search and search by city or county name.
Archives, libraries, and record offices may provide a service for brief searches of records in their
collections. You may write and request a specific search for information on your ancestor. Send
an International Reply Coupon for return postage (obtainable at most major post offices
worldwide) and your brief request giving specific information about your ancestor and the search
you want made. If an archive does not provide a search service, or if you need a more extensive
search made, they can send you a list of record agents who you can hire to do research for you.