England Jurisdictions

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Interactive England Jurisdiction Map 1851[edit | edit source]

FamilySearch has an interactive map of the 1851 Jurisdictions of England. This map allows the user to choose a jurisdiction (such as a county, parish, or diocese) then choose different nearby jurisdictions (like hundred, rural deanery, or province) to see where vital records were housed. A table pops up showing what years parish registers exist, the names of other associated jurisdictions, and other similar search tools.

Jurisdictions[edit | edit source]

A jurisdiction is an area governed by a system of laws. Each jurisdiction has a geographic boundary with some type of authority (i.e., manor, parish, town, county). This authority has the power to apply and enforce the laws. In England birth, marriage, death, census, and other genealogical records are organized and stored in different governmental levels such as parish, town, and county.

Jurisdictions Pre-1974[edit | edit source]

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Ancient Parish[edit | edit source]

Parish, the smallest unit of ecclesiastical and administrative organization in England. During the 7th and 8th centuries, groups of priests organized large church areas to better serve their parishioners. Throughout the 10th and 12th centuries these large areas were divided into smaller areas by landowners who built more local churches to serve the needs of their families, tenants, and servants. These smaller area developed into the formal parish system.

Ecclesiastical Parish[edit | edit source]

Ecclesiastical parishes originated in the Medieval period when tithes were paid by the local parishioners to support the Church. These units were distinguished from the Civil Parishes after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1866. This act also led to many subordinate areas, such as chapelries, being raised to parochial rank and the creation of many new parishes.

Chapelry[edit | edit source]

A secondary place of worship working and reporting to the main parish church. A chapelry also had a role in civil government, being a subdivision of a parish, which was used as a basis for the Poor Law until the establishment of England and Wales Poor Law Records 1834-1948.

Civil Parish[edit | edit source]

A civil parish is used in local government jurisdictions. Civil and ecclesiastical parishes were formally split into two types in the 1860s. These two types of parishes are now entirely separate. Civil parishes are governed by a parish council or parish meeting, which exercises a limited number of functions. There are currently no civil parishes in Greater London area and in a few other England locations.

County[edit | edit source]

The counties of England are areas used for different purposes, which include administrative, geographical, cultural, and political boundaries. The county was the basic unit of regional mapping from the mid-16th to the mid-19th centuries. FamilySearch uses England county historic boundaries pre-1974. The records dating before 1974 are located within the information found in the historic counties. This practice better assists our patrons who are researching their ancestors before the modern time period (post-1974).

Civil Registration District[edit | edit source]

A registration district in England is an administrative region which exists for the purpose of civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths and civil partnerships. It has also been used as the basis for the collation of census information. The British Parliament recognized the need to keep accurate records for voting, planning, taxation, and defense purposes. Legislation was passed to create a civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. England and Wales registration began on 1 July 1837, for births, marriages, divorces, and deaths. However, this new law did not have universal coverage until tougher laws were passed in 1874.

Diocese[edit | edit source]

The diocese is the basic geographical division of the church from the earliest times. The Medieval Church of England was organized into 17 dioceses. The diocese system was established by the Normans, in the eleventh century remained until the nineteenth century, altered only slightly in the sixteenth century.

Rural Deanery[edit | edit source]

Rural deaneries are very ancient and originally corresponded with the hundreds (see Hundreds definition below). From the twelfth and thirteenth centuries dioceses were divided into archdeaconries, and these were in turn divided into rural deaneries. Deaneries originally comprised about ten parishes.

Poor Law Union[edit | edit source]

The Poor Law Unions, enacted in 1834, brought neighboring parishes together for the purpose of relieving the burden of administrating relief to the poor. The Poor Law Unions and their workhouses took over this responsibility from the Church of England parishes. These unions were considered a type of government unit which were managed by a board of guardians.

Hundred[edit | edit source]

A hundred was a division of a shire (county) which was used for administrative, military, and judicial purposes. A hundred was introduced by the Saxons before the 12th century and was used until the 19th century. Originally, a hundred had enough land to sustain approximately one hundred households headed by a hundred-man or hundred eolder (elder). Within each hundred there was a meeting place where the men of the hundred discussed local issues, and judicial trials were enacted.

Hundreds were further divided. Larger or more populous hundreds were split into divisions (or in Sussex, half hundreds). All hundreds were divided into tithings, which contained ten households. Below that, the basic unit of land was called the hide, which was enough land to support one family and varied in size from 60 to 120 old acres, or 15 to 30 modern acres (6 to 12 ha) depending on the quality and fertility of the land. Compare with township.

Before the Local Government Act 1894 when the district was introduced, the hundred was the sole assessment unit (size) between parish and county. Hundred boundaries were independent of both parish and county boundaries, although often aligned, meaning that a hundred could be split between counties (usually only a fraction), or a parish could be split between hundreds. The system of hundreds was not as stable as the system of counties being established at the time.

Ecclesiastical Province[edit | edit source]

The Church of England has divided England into two ecclesiastical provinces, namely the Province of York (the Northern Province) and the Province of Canterbury (the Southern Province).

Division[edit | edit source]

Some of England’s counties have major subdivisions. The most significant divisions are listed below.

Yorkshire Yorkshire’s ridings were established as geographical terms:

  • East Riding
  • North Riding
  • West Riding

Lincolnshire Lincolnshire, was divided into three historic "parts":

  • Parts of Holland
  • Parts of Kesteven
  • Parts of Lindsey


  • Tower Hamlets


  • East Sussex
  • West Sussex


  • East Suffolk
  • West Suffolk

Kent: The ancient division of lathe originating in the Anglo-Saxon period, was the administrative division of Kent until it became obsolete in the early 20th century.
West Kent:

  • Lathe of Aylesford
  • Lathe of Milton
  • Lathe of Sutton

East Kent:

  • Lathe of Borough
  • Lathe of Eastry
  • Lathe of Lympne
  • Lathe of Wye

Jurisdictions Post-1974[edit | edit source]

  • Most family history research is for the years preceding 1974. This section is information only. For more details on England's current jurisdictions see Subdivisions of England

The current jurisdictional system began with reformation laws enacted 1965 and 1972. England is currently divided into 9 regions and 48 ceremonial counties, which have a limited role in public policy.

Regions[edit | edit source]

England’s nine regions are:

  • East of England
  • East Midlands
  • London
  • North East
  • North West
  • South East
  • South West
  • West Midlands
  • Yorkshire and the Humber

Ceremonial counties[edit | edit source]

From 1974 onwards, ceremonial counties have become an important unit of subdivision in England. England now has a two-tier system of counties and districts(sometimes boroughs or Royal Boroughs). These ceremonial counties correspond roughly to the old counties, with the exceptions that Manchester, Birmingham and London now have their own counties. These ceremonial counties do not necessarily have any administrative purposes today, for in many of the counties the County Council has been abolished and all local governance is now on managed on the district level.

  • Bedfordshire
  • Berkshire
  • Bristol
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Cheshire
  • City of London
  • Cornwall
  • Cumbria
  • Derbyshire
  • Devon
  • Dorset
  • Durham
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • East Sussex
  • Essex
  • Gloucestershire
  • Greater London
  • Greater Manchester
  • Hampshire
  • Herefordshire
  • Hertfordshire
  • Isle of Wight
  • Kent
  • Lancashire
  • Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Merseyside
  • Norfolk
  • North Yorkshire
  • Northamptonshire
  • Northumberland
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Rutland
  • Shropshire
  • Somerset
  • South Yorkshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Suffolk
  • Surrey
  • Tyne and Wear
  • Warwickshire
  • West Midlands
  • West Sussex
  • West Yorkshire
  • Wiltshire
  • Worcestershire

County Abbreviations[edit | edit source]

County Abbreviations and Chapman Code[edit | edit source]

The two types of county abbreviations used for England originated from the ISO 3166-2:GB (The ISO 3166-2:GB and establishes an international standard of short and unique alphanumeric codes to represent the subdivisions of countries worldwide) and BS 6879 (The BS 6879 is the code used for the British counties.) systems, which was created in 1974.
In the late 1970s, a historian, Dr. Colin R. Chapman, used the ISO 3166-2:GB and BS 6879 systems created a 3-letter code of the United Kingdom for genealogical purposes of counties existing in the 19th and 20th centuries. For more information see the following articles: