England, Manchester, Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: England, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Parish Registers, 1603-1910 .

Record Description

This collection will include records from 1603 to 1910.

This collection consists of records from the Diocese of Manchester held by Manchester Archives and Local Studies. The parishes are mainly from the historic county of Lancashire, with a few parishes from Cheshire and Yorkshire. Individual parish wiki pages are being created to support the collection, which at present is an image-only collection.

Non-Lancashire parishes included in the collection
Parish name Notes
Staleybridge, St Paul, Cheshire Town built on both sides of the River Tame, the historical boundary between Lancashire and Cheshire. Stalybridge Old St George and Stalybridge New St George are on the Lancashire side.
Dobcross, Holy Trinity, Yorkshire Created in 1797 from the ancient parish of Rochdale part of the West Riding of Yorkshire
Lydgate, St Anne, Yorkshire A chapelry in the parochial chapelry of Saddleworth, both of which were in the ancient parish of Rochdale, Lancashire 
Saddleworth, St Chad, Yorkshire Saddleworth lies on the very western edge of Yorkshire, alongside the Lancashire border. In many ways it is physically separated from the rest of Yorkshire by the Pennine range which form the parish's eastern border
Saddleworth, St Thomas, Yorkshire

FamilySearch operates within both international and national privacy laws concerning online publication; image only collections will only contain information 100 years after a birth date, 75 years after a marriage date, and 25 years after a burial date.

The Diocese of Manchester was formed in 1847 from the Diocese of Chester. It is useful to explore Cheshire Parishes and Lancashire Parishes, and to use the England Jurisdictions 1851 to locate the pre-1851 ecclesiastical jurisdictions.

The historical reasons for the Ancient Parish of Manchester lack of local parish due to the Collegiate Church Manchester Our Lady, St George and St Denys, Lancashire practice are explained in the wiki page. The subsequent Manchester Diocesan building program has been followed to create parish pages. Town and City parish creations post-1851 are being added to the FamilySearch wiki, but the number of Non-Conformist churches and chapels is large.

There have been administrative changes to the historic county boundaries of Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire in several civil parish and local authority creations and reorganizations. The collection is offered as an initial phase of publication of further collections (including index collections) for the Diocese of Manchester and other Mancunian records.

(Email: archiveslocalstudies@manchester.gov.uk)

Baptisms (christenings), marriages, and burials were recorded on blank pages in a bound book called a register. The events of baptism, marriage, and burial were all recorded in one volume until 1754, when a law required that marriages be recorded in a separate book. Banns, or proclamations of “an intent” to marry, were recorded in yet another book. Starting in 1812, preprinted registers were introduced and separate registers were kept for baptisms, marriages, and burials. Before 1812, bishops’ transcripts were usually recorded on loose pieces of paper. Following that year, the transcripts were recorded on the same preprinted forms as parish registers.

In 1537, the Church of England mandated that parishes begin keeping church registers by the next year (1538). These church registers continue to the present. Bishops’ transcripts, or copies of parish registers, were required beginning in 1598 and continued to the mid-1800s.

The vast majority of the English population belonged to the Church of England. Only since the mid-19th century have other religious groups made headway.

In 1530, King Henry VIII established the Church in England, also known as the Anglican Church, the State Church, or the Episcopal Church. A law passed in 1537 required ministers to record the baptisms, marriages, and burials that took place in their parishes. Priests recorded these events in registers and kept them at the parish level, which is the lowest level of authority in the Church of England. Within some parishes, chapelries were created to provide for the worship needs of the parishioner when the parish church was not easily accessible. Chapelries sometimes had the authority to perform baptisms, marriages, and burials, so they kept their own registers. Several parishes formed a deanery (presided over by a dean), several deaneries formed an archdeaconry (presided over by an archdeacon), and several archdeaconries formed a diocese (presided over by a bishop).

Beginning in 1598, ministers were required to send copies of their registers to an archdeacon or bishop annually. These copies are referred to as bishops’ transcripts, or sometimes archdeacon transcripts. As a result, two copies of many parish registers exist from 1598 to about the mid-1800s. After civil registration began in 1837, the value of keeping bishops’ transcripts diminished, so by 1870 most parishes had stopped making them.

Banns are proclamations of an intent to marry. After 1754, these banns were required to be read for three consecutive Sundays before a marriage so that anyone with reasons against the marriage could oppose it. Banns were read in both the bride’s parish and the groom’s parish.

Most bishops’ transcripts of Church of England parish registers have been preserved. Many have also been copied to microfilm or microfiche. The condition of the records is relatively good considering their age and their storage conditions over the centuries. In 1598 ministers were required to copy their registers onto parchment. If the minister failed to make such a copy, the register for that parish and its records did not survive. During the Commonwealth period, 1649–1660, many parish registers disappeared and many transcripts were not kept because ministers were deposed from their parishes.

Parish registers were created to record church events of baptism or christening, marriage, and burial. Baptismal entries usually list the person’s birth date burial entries list the death date. In the Church of England, baptism, which was also called christening, was performed soon after the birth of a child. Marriage in the church legally united a man and a woman for civil legal reasons and for the purpose of founding a religiously sanctified family. Burial is a function of the church to inter the deceased soon after death.

Church of England parish registers are the most reliable and accurate family history source until July 1837, when the government instituted the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Information in parish registers and Bishop's Transcripts can be verified against each other. There are often variations in Bishop's Transcripts of names and spellings. Bishop's Transcripts may also omit years or part of years and are incomplete according to Diocesan practice and preservation.

Transcription is a human process and can include error. If you are searching a computer data base which has been indexed exactly as viewed it may be necessary to search on variants of the given name and surname. The transcriber may have faithfully rendered Thos. or a Latin spelling like Xpher and your search for Thomas or Christopher may not produce a search result.

Parish register entries may not correspond with post 1837 Civil Registration certificates. The registration of Marriages involves a quarterly return from each authorised person  (Registrar General approved) to the local Registry Office and each Registry Office in turn to form a National Index. The transcription of information from the event may not correspond to the original entry.

Since Civil Birth registrations are only partial in the early decades of Civil registration, parish registers may be the only source of record for infant birth and death in a period of high infant mortality rates.

For a list of records by date or locality currently published in this collection, select the Browse link from the collection landing page. 

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

Diocese of Manchester. England, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Parish Registers. Manchester Archives and Local Studies, Manchester Central Library, Manchester, England.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

Church of England parish register baptism records prior to 1812 usually contain the following information:

  • Date and place of baptism/christening
  • Name of child
  • Gender of child
  • Parents' names

Church of England parish register baptism records after 1812 usually contain the following information:

  • Date and place of baptism/christening
  • Child's given name
  • Child's legitimacy
  • Parents' names and residence
  • Father's occupation
  • Minister's name

Church of England parish register marriage records before 1754 contain only the following:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Marriage banns including the residences of the couple

Church of England parish register marriage records after 1754 and before 1837 usually contain the following information:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Names of the witnesses
  • Name of the minister

Church of England parish register marriage records after 1837 usually contain the following information:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Ages and marital condition of the bride and groom
  • Residences of the bride and groom at the time of the marriage
  • Groom's occupation
  • Full name of the groom's father
  • Full name of the bride's father
  • May note if a spouse is single or widowed at the time of the marriage

Church of England parish register burial records before 1812 usually contain the following information:

  • Day, month, year and parish of burial
  • Name of deceased
  • Name of the spouse of deceased

Church of England parish register burial records after 1812 usually contain the following information:

  • Date and parish of burial
  • Name of deceased
  • Age and gender of deceased
  • Residence of deceased

How to Use the Record

To search for a person in a Church of England parish register, you must know the following:

  • Where the person lived and the corresponding parish
  • When the person lived; If you do not know the time period, estimate from what you know of more recent generations

Search the Collection

Browsing the Images

To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒ Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒ Select the "Name of County" category
⇒ Select the "Name of Town (with parish)" category
⇒ Select the "Event Type and Year Range" category which takes you to the images

Look at each image one by one comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.

Using the Information

Baptism or christening records list the parents’ names, making it possible for you to connect your ancestor to an earlier generation. You may find a birth date listed or be able to approximate a birth date. After 1812, the baptismal records list a place of residence, making it easier to identify your family by where they lived. The records also list the father’s occupation, which makes it easier to identify your ancestor's family when more than one family with the same name lived in the parish.

Marriage records sometimes state the residence for the bride and groom. You can use this information to look for their baptisms and to identify the children of this couple. Sometimes the groom’s occupation is listed, which could help you find more records about the groom. Marriage records after 1754 list the names of witnesses, who were often family members. These can help you identify your ancestor’s family. Signatures in the records might be used to identify a particular individual by the handwriting style.

Banns indicate the parish of residence of the bride and groom. This information often leads to the records of another parish. You can search for the baptisms of the bride and groom in the parishes of residence since these might also be the parishes where they were born.

After 1812, sometimes earlier, burial records include the age of the deceased. Use this age to approximate the person’s birth year and to find the baptismal record. If the deceased is a child, the parents’ names might be given. This information helps to extend your family another generation. The occupation of a deceased male might be given (especially after 1812) and can help identify your ancestor when there is more than one person by that name in the area. Knowing the occupation might also provide you the opportunity to find other records about your ancestor.

General Information About These Records

Parish registers are one of the best sources for identifying individuals and connecting them to parents, spouses, and other generations. In July 1837, the government instituted the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. However, parish registers continue to play an important role because they are often more readily available than civil registers. Bishops’ transcripts are a backup source for missing or illegible parish registers. If possible, you may want to search both the parish registers and the bishops’ transcripts, since one is a handwritten copy of the other and might contain differences.

A useful means of locating parishes prior to 1851 is by referring to the wiki article:

England Jurisdictions 1851

Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Related Websites

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection

"England, Lanchashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Parish Registers, 1603-1910," images, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org: accessed 3 May 2012), Lancashire > Ancoats (St James the Less) > Marriages, 1892-1920 > image 1 of 250, entry for John Foy and Martha Ann Whittaker, married 8 June 1893; citing Genealogical Society of Utah, "England, Lanchashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Parish Registers, 1603-1910." Index based on the International Genealogical Index, obtained from the Manchester Central Library, Manchester, England.