Parish Registers are records of baptisms, marriages, and burials made by the Church. Parish Registers are an invaluable resource for researching your family tree because the census and official records of birth, marriage and death do not go back further than 1837.
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in England & Wales commenced on the 1st July 1837. Parish records can considerably extend your research because most records go back to the 17th century, and some even go back as far as the 1500s. They are a vast, important but widely scattered archive that often prove essential to the genealogist and family historian, by providing the only written record of the vast majority of our ancestors who left but three brief mentions – a baptism, a marriage and a burial.
A good starting point is The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers by Cecil R. Humphery-Smith. Now in its third edition, and covering England, Scotland and Wales, this invaluable guide to parish registers is a vital, time-saving tool that has become universally known as ‘the genealogist’s bible’.
The Atlas includes the famous county ‘parish’ maps, which show pre-1832 parochial boundaries, colour-coded probate jurisdictions, starting dates of surviving registers, and churches and chapels, where relevant. Topographical maps face each ‘parish’ map, and show the contemporary road system and other local features, to help deduce the likely movement of people beyond the searcher’s starting point. The Index lists the parishes, with grid references to the county maps. It indicates the present whereabouts of original registers and copies, and whether a parish is included in other indexes. It also gives registration districts and census information.
In addition, a number of transcriptions of Parish Registers are available to purchase online.