Parish records are those made by the church after a law passed in 1538 in England and Wales that required all baptisms, marriages and burials to be recorded in the parish register. With religion being such an integral part of daily life during this period, they can offer a fascinating window into British life from the Tudor period onwards.
What you can find in parish records:
As our forebears moved around much less than we do today,, quite often you can find a family living in the same village for hundreds of years. This means you can use these registers to chart the growth of your family through time.
Often they also contain details including:
- Full names
- Cause of death
- Marriage witnesses and the signature of those married (you can tell here if your ancestors could read and write if they signed with an “X").
All of these extra details are vital in building your family tree and telling the whole story.
Most registers no longer reside at the church and are kept at local record offices. Many of them have been scanned onto microfiche or digitised and indexed, and viewed online. Findmypast, has the largest online collection of Parish records from England and Wales..
As official central government registration of births, marriages and deaths didn't begin until 1837, these records are the best place to find evidence of your ancestors and go further back in your family tree.
Remember that burials traditionally occurred a few days after death, and baptisms could take place anything up to eight days after birth, but frequently this was delayed, so not all registers show birth and baptism dates