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Parish Registers


  • Since Medieval times an ecclesiastical parish has been that area committed to the charge of a clergyman
  • 1538+ (Henry VIII) – each parish priest ordered to keep registers of baptisms, marriages and burials.
  • Civil War 17th Century (1642-1660) Attempt to set up Civil Registration under the Commonwealth – births and deaths not baptisms and burials – most of these records have not survived.

What do Parish Registers contain:

  • Baptisms – sometimes adults, illegitimate children
  • Marriages – some give abode, occupation, the Elder
  • Burials – some give age, wife of, widow, son/daughter of etc
  • 1598+
  • Annual copy of bapt, marriage and burials in a parish
  • Some BTs have survived where registers have not
  • Entries may vary – sometimes additional information is contained
  • Both entries should be checked where possible


ORIGINAL REGISTERS: Most original registers are deposited in the County Archives, eg Glamorgan Archives.

DIGITAL COPIES: Some registers have now been digitised and copies are available online eg. Welsh parish registers on Find My Past.

INDEXES: Many registers have been indexed -

Printed copies of early registers, some available online, eg Google Books and Open Library.

Family Search: LDS (Latter Day Saints/GSU) began filming parish registers in the 1980s/1990s, also produced the IGI on microfiche - mainly baptisms and marriages.   Copies can be ordered for viewing at local centres eg at Rhiwbina. Also now digitizing some of the microfilms and making available on their website:   www.familysearch.org.

Indexes produced by family history societies: available in booklet format on CD and more recently as downloads and on websites.

Online Parish Clerk (OPC): Many counties now have groups of volunteers creating web pages for individual parishes, eg Wiltshire, Cornwall.

www.freereg.org.uk: Free website with indexes to parish registers.

Other websites: Google Search for the parish where your ancestor lived - many websites run by individual researchers eg Somerset.

Ancestry.co.uk: Digital copies of original registers eg London, Dorset, Manchester and Gloucestershire counties included. Indexes to other registers.

Findmypast.co.uk: Digital copies of Welsh registers plus indexes.

  • Until 1752 new year began on 25 March so that before that any dates in Jan, Feb and March are at the end of a year. You may see these dates written 23 Feb 1750/51.
  • 1754 Hardwicke’s Marriage Act – Marriage entries kept separate from Baptisms and Burials

1812 Printed Registers used so information recorded standardised - if you have an ancestor baptised before 1812 find siblings after this date for more information about father's occupation and abode etc.

  • 1837-1875 Civil Registration but PR/BTs still useful for baptisms and where place of residence is known and it is difficult to trace in GRO Indexes or the birth was not registered.
  • Digital copies of Anglican marriage registers show the original signatures whereas purchased copies do not!