England, Cornwall 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, Cornwall Parish Registers, 1538-2010 .

Record Description

This collection will include records from 1538 to 2010.

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. In the period 1754-1812, the register of banns may include marriage information not found in the marriage register, such as residence of the bride and groom, witnesses to the marriage, or the place of marriage when it took place in a different parish. Starting in 1813, preprinted registers were introduced, and then separate registers were kept for baptisms, marriages, and burials. Before 1813, bishops’ transcripts were usually recorded on loose pieces of paper. Beginning that year, the transcripts were recorded on the same preprinted forms as parish registers.

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 often but not always 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).

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 transcripts were not kept because ministers were deposed from their parishes.

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.

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

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.

"England, Cornwall Parish Registers, 1538-2010." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing Record Office, Truro.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

These baptism records before 1812 may contain the following information:

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

These baptism records after 1812 may contain the following information:

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

These marriage records before 1754 may contain the following information:

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

These marriage records after 1754 and before 1837 may contain the following information:

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

These marriage records after 1837 may contain the following information:

  • Marriage date
  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Ages and marital status of the bride and groom
  • Residences of the bride and groom at the time of their marriage
  • Groom's occupation
  • Name of groom's father
  • Name of bride's father
  • May note if a spouse is single or widowed at the time of the marriage

These burial records before 1812 may contain the following information:

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

These burial records after 1812 may contain the following information:

  • Date and parish of burial
  • Name, 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, it would be helpful if you knew the following information:

  • Where the person lived and the corresponding parish
  • When the person lived; if you do not know the time period, it would be helpful if you estimate it from what you know of more recent generations.

Search the Collection

To search the collection image by image select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page:
⇒ Select the appropriate "Name of County"
⇒ Select the appropriate "Name of Town (with parish)"
⇒ Select the appropriate "Event Type and Year Range (with Volume)" which will take you to the images.

Look at the images one by one comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors 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.
  • 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.

Tips to Keep in Mind

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.

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.

Online Image collection

The Diocese of Exeter Parish Registers were published online in August 2010 as part of the FamilySearch effort to convert microfilm holdings to digital images. Entitled England Cornwall Church of England Parish Registers 1538-1900 the collection also includes some material for non-Conformist chapels which were filmed at the Cornwall Record Office at the time of filming Church of England registers. There are also typed transcripts of Society of Friends marriages included for certain areas of the county.

Parish pages for the Diocese and county will build to assist researchers identify problems within the collection which have been reported to support@familysearch.org.

If you encounter any inaccuracy within the collection please use the Feedback feature when viewing images or you may email support@familysearch.org for assistance.

Parishes transferred to the newly created Diocese of Truro on 15 December 1876 and the present day Diocese of Truro have over 300 churches.

General Information About These Records

Because a major portion of these records have been transcribed and indexed by the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks and then published in a searchable database on their website at http://www.cornwall-opc-database.org/ you may be able to use the Online Parish Clerks database as an index to this collection.

You would find the image of your ancestor's register entry quickly and easily by first finding him in the Online Parish Clerks database, and using the said process with the date taken from that database to go directly to the image in this FamilySearch Historical Records Collection. This same method could also be used if you have found the date of an event in the IGI.

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.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
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 the 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, Corwall Parish Registers, 1538-1900," Images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 3 April 2012), Cornwall > Mabe > Marriages, 1837-1905 > Image 2 of 133, William James Chegwidden and Jane Stephens, 16 July 1837; citing Cornwall Church of England, Parish Registers, Cornwall Record Office, Truro, Cornwall, England

Citations can be formed from data provided for the parish in parish pages of this wiki and using the volume numbers which follow the type of register and years covered.

Example: The Parish of Ruan Lanihorne has a Cornwall Record Office reference P199 (see Ruan Lanihorne, Cornwall) The waypoint to the image for banns provides two volume references according to year. The citation would be formed Cornwall Record Office P 199/ 1/3 for the banns marriages burials 1755-1808.