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Parishes registers began 1538 for CoE in England and Wales, were c.1200 parishes. Until mid 19th century most people were baptised / married / buried in CoE.

Civil reg. began 1 July 1837 - then records were recorded by the Registry who were sent quarterly returns that were copied into a national register, from which an index was created. Not all parish registers were abandoned in 1837. Documents are now looked after in Record Offices but we are dealing mainly with copies and indexes.

Note - not every registration district is within one county.

General Registry Office is online, where you can search indexes. Mother's maiden name from 1837 and if no maiden name then probably illegitimate and the name is the same as the child's listed name / a pdf from here is not certified but it is cheaper / any crossing out on a certificate is done by the Registry.

George Rose's Act 1812: to better regulate and preserve parish and other registers. Instigated Jan 1813. Christenings and burial now separate, numbered, a common form, prescribed what should be recorded. Treat age on a burial record with caution. Before 1813 didn't have to note age at death.

Pre 1813 registrations varied, BMD often mixed together. Details depended on the vicar.

1750-51 there was a change of calendar, from Julian to Gregorian, and we 'lost' 11 days (Sep 3-13 1752). There may be double dating so check the Dec date to see if it's adhering to the old or new style year. If it says Dec 1750 and then Jan 1750 then it's the old style. In the old style the new year started 25th March so:


Jan 1750________Jan 1751

Feb 1750________Feb 1751

Mar 1750________Mar 1751

Dade syle registers: 177-1812, started in Yorkshire, mainly north England, show 3-4 generations of a family together.

Some registers with have notes at the front about annotations used within.

'P' can means pauper or having paid a tax.

Have to look for alternative and additional information - marriage by license or banns / other local parish records / Local directories / MIs.

Finding registers

Parish reg. are kept in local county record offices, with BTs in Diocesan record offices.

The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers (on Ancestry) helps define the parishes. "Parish boundaries have changed over the centuries, so how do you find the boundaries of your ancestor’s parish during the time your ancestor actually lived there? The Phillimore Atlas is the answer.

Check originals were you can.

Essex records are via Essex Council for a small charge. Index is free.

1640-1660, civil war period where records can be missing.

Births and Baptisms

Some milestones:

  • 1837 - up to the Registry to record events (BMD) and you could be fined if you didn't give your details.
  • Birth and Death Act 1874 - you had to register a birth within 42 days and a death within 5 days (for which you needed a death certificate).
  • After 1874 a father was only named on the record for an illegitimate birth if he was present.
  • Legitimacy Act 1926 - Once parents were married they could register children born to them before marriage.

Could be privately baptised and later received into the congregation. May mean the child was sickly and baptised by the nurse in case it died, but lived and later received by the church.

Chldren baptised together doesn't mean twins,eg: Grandma Norman and sibilings; Adults can be baptised eg: one of my ancestors with 'adult' noted in the record.

BT=Bishop's Transcripts, usually from 1597, registers were sent to the Bishop and copied. They supplement original reg. Recorded Lady Day to Lady Day (25th March - 24th March).Few London BT pre 1900. Also called 'Register bills' and in East Kent called 'Arch Deconary' and made at Middlemarch (ie: 6 months later).

Bastardry orders may help ID fathers' names.


Why did so many marriages take place on Chrsitmas Day? During the 18th and 19th centuries, getting married on Christmas Day itself was a popular tradition, with churches across the country holding festive nuptials every 25 December. Christmas Day weddings usually occurred out of necessity as Christmas and Boxing Day were often the only days of the year that young working-class couples were guaranteed to get off work. In the 1800s, most people worked six days a week and didn't get paid when they didn't work. It was only with the rise of the trade unions in the 20th century that working conditions and employee rights started to improve and the tradition began to die out.

Banns - the process to arrange a marriage involved readin of the banns on three consecutive Sundays being all that was required. An ancient legal tradition, banns are an announcement in church of a couple's intention to marry. The readings provided an opportunity for anybody to declare a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place.

Some milestones (England and Wales):

  • 1754 - the marriage laws were changed but the House of Lords stopped short of including civil registrations.
  • 1836 - there were two acts of Parliament, the Marriage Act and the Birth and Death Registration Act. Non-conformists did not want to marry in a CoE church, the parochial system was not able to cope with the numbers and the government wanted better statistics.
  • 1837 - there were now five types of marriages: CoE, Quakers, Jewish, Register Office, Non-conformist church.
  • 1898 - after this date record keeping was relaxed so non-conf. could have their own nominees and not have documents counter signed by the Registry Office.
  • 1929 - Age of Marriage Act, women raised from 12 to 16 and men from 14 to 16.

In Scotland registration stated in 1855 and in Ireland 18664(? or 1845).

Reocrds - each church made a quarterly return to the local Registry. Separate records for CoE, Registry Office and Non-conformists; up until 1910 and then after 1966, you get sendond names, not just the intials; from Q3 1911 you also got maiden names.

Hardwick's Marriage Act 1753: Weddings now in a separate register. 1754-1837 non-conf. still married in CoE (not Jews or Quakers). Had to note if a marriage was by license or banns, separate banns book. Still don't note father's name. Pre Hardwick a marriage was valid without banns or licence.


  • Called in both parishes so indicate were both lived,
  • Separate banns books from 1754.


3 documents were issued 1) bond 2) allegations 3) licence. 1 and 2 held by the Court and 3 by the couple.

Entitled you to marry but do not prove the marriage took place.

Was issued by CoE to allow marriage without banns, valid for 3 months.

Named 2 or 3 parishes where the couple could marry.

Used for privacy, social status (fee was paid), non-conformist, speed (soldiers/sailors/single pregnant women), could marry away from home parish (eg: some parishes were trendy to marry in)

Courts that issued licences were parish, rural deaneries, Archdeaconry, Diocese, Province of York or Canterbury.

Where did they live?

  • If both in the diocese in which marriage takes place then issued by the surrogate of that diocese or the Vicar General of the Province.
  • If living in different provinces, and the marriage to take place in the diocese which is not one to which the applicant belongs, licence issued by Vicar General of the appropriate Province.
  • Parties living in different Provinces then licence issued by the Faculty Office of the Archbiship of Canterbury/York
  • Eg: if marriage to take place in Soham, Cambridgeshire, then look Archdeaconry Court of Sudbury / Diocese of Norwich / bordering peculiars of the Diocese of Ely / Vicar General of Canterbury / Faculty Office
  • Start local and work up

SoG has marriage licence abstracts and typescript indexes, card indexes, unpublished calendars on film or fiche, film of Faculty Office (ArchB. Cant.) and Vicar General (ArchB. Cant.) Allegations.

Marriages at Sea

Before the General register Office was established in 1836, there was no obligation to keep records of births, marriages or deaths at sea and, no marriage formalised aboard a british vessel was legally valid.

From 1854, ships logs were required for recording births, marriages and deaths at sea.

FMP to search surviving registers of births, marriages, and deaths at sea. The records are taken from various record series at The National archives and from the General register Office.

TheGenealogist for images of surviving registers of births, marriages, and deaths at sea on registered ships.


After 1812 ages are added to burial records but they are the least accurate record, written by the Registrar and not the dead person.

Look in newspapers for death notices.

Ancestors who have been buried or cremated in Greater London:

  • Begin by establishing where your ancestor was living at time of death. Check which cemeteries and crematoria were active in the area then.
  • Establish which london borough your ancestor is likely to have been buried/cremated and check the bereavement services page on their website for further details, such as online indexes, search availability, maps of burial sites etc.
  • Deceased online has a good collection of london burial and cremation records on its website
  • FMP hosts the Greater london Burial index,,
  • Ancestry has digitised the City of london and Tower hamlets Cemetery registers (1841-1966),
  • If you are unable to find your ancestor’s burial or cremation record, through any of the above means, try searching for an obituary or

funeral notice in a local newspaper.


Marriage Locator. Guild of One Name Studies / Lancashire is done / the GRO in index will tell you the church / need year, quarter, vol & page no.

Marriage Law in the UK.

The history of marriage in the UK. This site focuses on marriage records.

UKBMD. Note : the Lancashire records include maiden names.

FreeBMD. Hosted by Ancestry.

The Gentleman's Magazine. Various indexes have been published.

Wikipedia to see a list. From 1731-1868 the magazine included listings of births, marriages, and deaths. Ancestry includes an abstract of the "chief contents of The Gentleman’s Magazine from 1731 to 1868" (published by George L. Gomme in 1891).

Parish Registers online. Try here for East End of London registers.

Ancestry card catalogue

TNA Find an Archive


FamilySearch Historical Maps - England 1851 jurisdictions

Free Reg

Go to Local Council websites to see where archives are kept

FMP / The Genealogist / SoG

Find a Grave

National burial index on FMP


'The history of parish registers in England' by John Sutherland Burn.

'National Index of parish registers: vol. 1' by J.D. Steel.

'Tracing your ancestor's parish records' by Stuart Raymond.

'Bishop's Transcripts and Marriage Licences, bonds and allegations' compiled by Jeremy Gibson.

'The Parish Chest' by W.E. Tate