England Bishop's Transcripts (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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England in the United Kingdom
Record Description
Record Type Bishop's Transcripts
Language: England Language and Languages
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What Are Bishop's Transcripts?

In its most basic sense, a bishop's transcript is a copy of a parish register. As bishop’s transcripts generally contain more or less the same information as parish registers, they are an invaluable resource when a parish register has been damaged, destroyed, or otherwise lost. Bishop's transcripts are often of value even when parish registers exist, as priests often recorded either additional or different information in their transcripts than they did in the original registers.

History and Format

Shortly after the establishment of the Church of England, a law passed which required parish priests to record all the baptisms, marriages, and burials that they officiated each year. These records, called registers, were supposed to have started in 1538.

Beginning in 1598, every parish priest of the Church of England was supposed to make a copy of his parish register and send it to send to the archdeacon or bishop every year. Termed either archdeacon’s or bishop’s transcripts, these copies were generally produced in the same form as a regular parish register. Thus, most bishop's transcripts before 1812 were recorded on blank sheets, and then on pre-printed forms afterward. Many priests stopped producing these transcripts with the beginning of civil registration in 1837, but some persisted even into the twentieth century.

It should be noted that many bishop's transcripts may not be available during the Interregnum, 1642-1660. During this period, the hierarchy of the Church of England was disrupted, leading to a lapse in record-keeping and communication in some dioceses.

Recorded Events

Baptism: Baptism, often called "christening" in Anglican usage, is the initial rite by which an individual is received into the community of faith within the Church of England. This rite is normally undertaken shortly after birth, though it may follow weeks or even months later.

Marriage: Bishop's transcripts sometimes list these as "weddings". From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, couples typically married in the bride's parish when they were in their early twenties.

Burial: Burial has historically occurred within a few days of death. Until the late nineteenth century, burial registers record many nonconformists, as nonconformists were often buried in Anglican churchyards when cemeteries belonging to their sects were not available.

Information in Bishop's Transcripts

What Information Do Bishop's Transcripts Contain?

The following lists indicate the normal information given in each type of bishop's transcript record. Many records may provide more information than is listed, as parish priests often provided additional information in their transcripts, as can be seen in the examples below.

Baptismal Records may include:

  • Parish of Baptism
  • Date of baptism
  • Given name of child
  • Full names of parents
  • Name and office of minister
  • After 1812, residence of parents
  • After 1812, Occupations of parents

Marriage Records may include:

  • Parish of marriage
  • Date of marriage
  • Full names of bride and groom
  • Name and office of minister
  • After 1754, marriage by banns or license
  • After 1754, full names of witnesses

Burial Records may include:

  • Parish of burial
  • Date of burial
  • Name of deceased
  • Name and office of minister
  • After 1812, age at death
  • After 1812, residence of deceased
 

Click on any sample image to view a larger version

Reading the Records

  • Many bishop's transcripts are written in Latin rather than English. For help with this language, see the Latin Genealogical Word List.
  • In addition, many bishop's transcripts are written in an old script that can be challenging to read. Refer to BYU’s Script Tutorial for palaeographic assistance.

Calendar Modifications

Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, calendar reforms took place in Europe which can cause difficulty when attempting to date records from that period.

From ancient times through the Middle Ages, the Julian Calendar was the standard system of keeping dates throughout Europe. By 1582, though, this calendar had come out of sync with the seasons, so Pope Gregory XIII approved a new calendar which fixed this issue by correcting the method of calculating the year and removing eleven days from the calendar. However, the new Gregorian Calendar was not accepted in England until 1752, at which point the eleven days were taken from the month of September to bring the English calendar into accordance with that of other locations in Europe. Thus, register dates for 1752 go immediately from 2 September to 14 September.

1752 also saw the official transition of the beginning of the calendar year from 25 March to 1 January, which also had been mandated by Pope Gregory XIII. Some parish priests had recognized the new calendar before the official transition, and as a result, some register entries from 1582-1751 show dual entries for dates between 1 January and 24 March (e.g., 2 February 1740 may be shown as 2 February 1740/41). Dual entry format is also used in most modern citations for this period to help avoid confusion.

Further information: Julian and Gregorian Calendars

Related Records

Parish Registers

In its most basic sense, a parish register is a record of the baptisms, marriages, and burials performed in a local congregation or parish of the Church of England. These records have been kept relatively consistently and universally across England since the mid-sixteenth century, and due to this long and stable tradition, these records are central to English genealogical research. Often, they are one of the only sources for finding families and individuals before the start of civil registration in 1837.

Further information: England Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Nonconformist Records

From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, English or Welsh Christians who belonged to a denomination other than the Church of England were referred to as “nonconformists”. By 1850, many different groups fell into the nonconformist category, including Reformed Christians (Presbyterians and Congregationalists), Baptists, and Methodists. Indeed, by the end of the nineteenth century, approximately fifteen percent of the population of England and eighty percent of the population of Wales were considered nonconformists.

While not the most universal source for English genealogical research, nonconformist church registers are often the most informative and accurate source available for English family history until the start of civil registration in 1837. Nonconformist birth and baptismal registers are fairly common, and they generally contain more information than those of the Church of England. Except for the Quakers and Jews, nonconformist denominations generally did not keep marriage records, especially after 1754. Nonconformist burial records are also less common, as nonconformist individuals were buried in Anglican churchyards if a churchyard belonging to their sect was not locally available.

Further information: England Nonconformist Church Records

FamilySearch Historical Record Collections

Bishop's Transcript Collections

These articles describe collections of bishop's transcripts held by FamilySearch:

Parish Register Collections

Due to the relationship of bishop's transcripts to parish registers, many collections of parish registers may contain some bishop's transcripts. For a list of articles describing collections of parish registers on FamilySearch, see the parish registers page.

Other Collections

These articles describe other collections which may contain bishop's transcripts: