Parishes are renowned for keeping detailed records of congregation members, including baptismal, marriage and funeral records. Findmypast.com has more than 45 million parish records including those from Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland that date all the way back to 1538.

“Parish records offer a wealth of information for genealogists," said D. Joshua Taylor, findmypast.com lead genealogist. “Stretching back hundreds of years, they offer a glimpse into some of the most important moments in the lives of your ancestors.

  • Baptismal Records – Infants are usually baptized soon after birth, and these records often include the names of the child's parents and the baptism date. Some records include the child's date of birth and the father's occupation.

In the findmypast.com collection Westminster parish records encompassing 50 Westminster churches and covering the years 1538 to 1945, a unique entry details the baptism of William Banting on Dec. 11, 1796. William Banting is widely considered the father of the low carb diet movement due to a pamphlet he wrote in 1863 entitled A Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. The pamphlet detailed the diet that Banting used to help him lose weight, which consisted of him cutting out bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, soup, potatoes and beans, and replacing them with meat and fish. The term banting or to bant began to be used when people referred to diets, and is still used today in some languages.

  • Marriage Records – Records of marriages and marriage banns (proclamations of marriage) issued by a parish are helpful to all genealogists. Listings of marriages can include the name of the bride and groom, the date of the marriage and residence of each. Many times the record will include the occupation or status of the bride and groom and the names of witnesses. Records of banns include the date the proclamation was presented.
  • Burial Records – Parish records also highlight the names of those buried within the parish. Burial records commonly include the date of burial and age at death. In some cases and especially for the burials of young children, further identification is identified. The following record transcription is from the burial of Hannah Benfield, a young victim of the London Beer Flood of 1814, when 323,000 gallons of beer burst out of the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road and killed eight people.

Beyond the basic information contained in the records, parish records can lead to more discoveries. In celebration of our extensive record collection, findmypast.com has outlined ideas for continuing your research with the help of this unique and exciting record set.

1 – Search the Parish for Other Events

Let's presume you've traced one of your ancestors back to a marriage license. Marriage licenses typically list the minister who oversaw the ceremony. Using this information, you can identify which parish records to check for more records. As most families attended the same church for extended periods of time, this parish may contain records for other family events such as baptisms and burials. This can be used to extend your existing tree, or to verify the records you already have found.

2 – Surrounding Parishes

Because the parish is one of the smallest record jurisdictions within many areas of the United Kingdom, it is important to check the records of surrounding parishes, especially if you are trying to locate a couple's marriage (if the bride and groom are from a different parish, couples might be married in the bride's home parish).

3 – Non-conformist records

Because While the Church of England (Anglican Church) served as the state church for the United Kingdom for many centuries, it is likely that many baptisms, marriages, and burials are recorded there. However in many cases, other denominations, such as Catholic, Methodist, and Quaker (Society of Friends), and Baptist congregations also created their own church records. These collections, often referred to as “non-conformist records" are also important to examine.

4 – Different Dates

While parish records are immensely valuable resources, you shouldn't be too surprised if the recorded date of an event conflicts with another record you have discovered. When recording and comparing dates found in parish registers, it is important to ensure you record the precise type of date. Some parish registers only record the date of baptism or burial, rather than the precise date of birth or death.

5 – Same names

When a child died young, parents might often preserve the namesake by using that the name of the deceased child when naming one of their other children. In this case, a family could often have two children with the same name, though one would have died at a young age. If you find an entry with the same given name, but a few years apart, check the burial records for the death of the first child.

Findmypast.com's expertise at digitizing historical records and uniting communities provides the tools to help people connect with their past and present.

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