England, Bristol Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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Access the records: England, Bristol Parish Registers, 1538-1900 .
This collection will include records from 1538 to 1900.
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.
The FamilySearch Indexing project is being undertaken in several phases and will be published initially as an index only. The initial index will tend to cover approximately 1813-1900.
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.
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.
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.
- Archbishoprics and Dioceses in England. England, Bristol Record office church records. Bristol Record Office, Bristol, England.
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:
- 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
Bristol Record Office Deposited Material
The Bristol Record Office holds a variety of record Information relevant to searching the history of the city and inhabitants including Black British History.
Holdings include the registers and records of parishes in the City and Deanery of Bristol, later, Archdeaconry of Bristol which is part of the Diocese of Bristol and covers the city itself, a number of parishes in southern Gloucestershire, to the north and east of the city and just a few parishes in north Somerset. The registers of some of the parishes held date back as far as 1538, when parish registers were first introduced.
Bishop's Transcripts for the same area and for a number of Wiltshire parishes, following the transfer of the Cricklade and Malmesbury rural deaneries in 1837. The archive also holds microfiche copies of Bishop's Transcripts of a few parishes in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.
The Bishop's Transcripts are a useful substitute when the registers have not survived, for whatever reason, notably the Bristol parishes of St Peter, St Mary le Port, St Paul Bedminster and Temple, the registers and records of which were destroyed or damaged during the blitz of World War 2.
How to Use the 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.
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.
Beginning Your Search
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
Searching the Registers
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.
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.
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.
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