England, Norfolk Bishop's Transcripts (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: Norfolk Bishop's Transcripts, 1685-1941 .

Collection Time Period

The parish register collection covers records for the years 1530 to 1900.

Record Description

The parish register collection was formed from microfilm filmed at the Norfolk Record Office, which was converted to digital images. The collection was published in February 2010 online.

Parishes in the Diocese of Norwich may be in Suffolk or Norfolk.

The collection did not include those parishes or microfilms held for the Archdeacon's Transcripts for the Diocese of Norwich.

As the Research wiki content grows for diocesan parishes, it is hoped to describe the Archdeacon's Transcript parishes with film detail. If a parish cannot be located in the historical records collection, establish whether the Archdeacon's transcripts from the diocese exist on microfilm by place search in the Family History Library Catalog. The Norfolk Record Office also has a PDF file of parishes and Archdeacon's Transcripts on its website.

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 then 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.

Record Content

Church of England parish register baptism records usually contain:

  • Baptism date
  • Name of the child
  • Sex of the child
  • Legitimacy of the child
  • Marital status of the parents
  • Social class of the parents
  • Name of the father and often mother’s given name
  • May list the residence of the parents, especially after 1812

Church of England parish register marriage records usually contain:

  • Marriage date
  • Name of the bride and groom
  • Age of the bride and groom
  • May list names of parents or other relatives
  • Residence of the bride and groom
  • Marital status of individuals and couples
  • May list the dates that the marriage was announced (also called “banns published”). This normally took place on three separate occasions prior to the marriage and gave anyone with a valid reason a chance to object to the marriage.
  • After 1754 the full names of witnesses are also given.
  • After 1837 the full names of the fathers are given.
  • May note if a spouse is single or widowed at the time of the marriage

Church of England parish register burial records usually contain:

  • Burial date
  • Name of the deceased. If the deceased is a child, the father’s name might be given. If the deceased is a married woman, the husband’s name might be given.
  • Age of the person
  • Residence of the deceased
  • May give the sex of the deceased
  • Residence of the deceased

How to Use This Record

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 parish registers that are missing or illegible. 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.

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. After 1812 and sometimes before, 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.

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.

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, you must estimate it from what you know of more recent generations.

Record History

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.

Archdeacon's and Bishop's transcripts for the Diocese of Norwich were sent from each parish annually to the Diocesan authorities.

Prior to 1812, incumbents made their return to Archdeacon's for 6 years out of 7 the seventh Bishop's Visitation Year; the return would be made to the Bishop at the time of the visitation.

The Archdeacon's transcripts for the Diocese may contain missing years or part years and have other gaps.

From 1813 onwards all transcripts were sent to the Bishop.

The earliest transcripts in the Archdeacon's series are from 1600 but in many parishes they have not survived. It is recommended that you search the Archdeacon's Transcript series first then the Bishop's Trancripts series to pick up any gaps in the Archdeacon's series from the Bishop's Transcripts.

The Bishop's Transcripts series at Norfolk Record Office has the two series for the Norwich Archdeaconry and the Norfolk Archdeaconry. Within each Archdeaconry they are kept in yearly bundles and parishes arranged alphabetically for each year with the pre-1812 on microfilm, on microfiche 1813 and onwards.


Within the diocese, the Suffolk parishes in the Archdeaconry of Suffolk and County of Suffolk of Belton, Suffolk, Bradwell, Suffolk, Burgh Castle, Suffolk, Fritton, Suffolk, Gorleston, Suffolk transcripts are held at Suffolk Record Office.

Norwich transcripts for ease of search are grouped together by year. Exceptions include:

Why This Record Was Created

Parish registers were created to record church events of baptism or christening, marriage, and burial. Baptismal entries usually list the person’s birth date and 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.

Record Reliability

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 bishops’ transcripts can be verified against each other.

It is usually preferable to use the parish registers if they survive as a primary record. The transcript series is useful in the event that:

  • The parish register has not survived
  • The register is still in the parish and has not been deposited in an archive
  • The parish register is too fragile to use or preserve by filming or digital imaging
  • The parish register is incomplete or cannot be read (transcript may be legible or contain omitted entries).

Comparison of entries can indicate the reliability of the parish record keeping.

Related Web Sites


Related Wiki Articles

England Vital Records

England, Norfolk, Church of England Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

England, Norfolk, Church of England Archdeacon’s Transcripts (FamilySearch Historical Records)

England, Norfolk, Church of England Bishops Transcript's - Archdeaconry of Norfolk (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Quick Research Links - England

Known Issues With This Collection

Known issues within this Historical Records collection are identified within each parish page. Norfolk Parishes may be used to identify each parish in the collection.

At present about 76% of the Diocese of Norwich parishes are available online and are based upon microfilming at the Norfolk Record Office. Microfilm conversions are available (November 2010).

The remaining parishes within the Diocese which have Archdeacon's Transcripts may be viewed online at Family Search Historical Records (published 18 January 2011). The help centre also contains a knowledge document ID 109861 "England: Norfolk - Parish registers that were not filmed by the GSU and are not available on FamilySearch" to assist you.

FamilySearch has undertaken to convert from microfilm those parishes which were available in previous acquisitions from the Norfolk Record Office. Microfilming may not have completely filmed all volumes in each parish.

If you encounter an issue within any online images and cannot identify it within the parish wiki page please email support@familysearch.org Historical Records and outline the issue in order that it can be reported for correction in future.

Our engineers do not have the ability to make corrections rapidly and in many cases the entire collection would need to be taken down to change the waypoint to a record or correct spelling. It is therefore likely that known issues will be repaired at a point when the collection is taken down and reloaded in it's entirety. Please be patient as we determine repairs which are needed within the collection and prioritise work. If the microfilm image was blurred or has missing pages from a volume please ask for assistance. It is also important to bear in mind that the Diocese of Norwich includes parishes within Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk and that, depending on the period of the register, parishes transferred to neighbouring Diocese. In this respect we recommend that you search England Jurisdictions 1851 in conjunction with the content being built for parish pages to identify the relevant Diocese and County changes over time.

There are within the Diocese several instance of villages with the same place name. The use of dedicatory names for each parish does not always resolve this problem and in instances FamilySearch has both within the Family History Library Catalogue and images at FamilySearch adopted a different title to the Norfolk Record Office Catalogue. As the FamilySearch Wiki parish pages are being built the Norfolk Record Office catalogue reference is provided. See Houghton St Giles, Norfolk as an example.

Roydon (near King's Lynn), Norfolk describes the current arrangement of the images for that parish and Roydon (near Diss), Norfolk awaiting engineering.

East Harling, Norfolk waypoint correction for 1754-1812 marriage register (incorrectly identified as baptismal register)

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 also 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: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection:

"England, Norfolk Bishop's Transcripts, 1585-1941." images,FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org): accessed March 18, 2011. entry for Mary Hardingham, baptized 4 February 1827; citing Church Records, Norfolk, Archdeaconry of Norfolk, 1827, D-G, Image 1; Norfolk Records Office, Norwich, England.

Sources of Information for This Collection

Norfolk. Bishop's Transcripts, 1685-1941. Norfolk Record Office, Norwich.