Lancashire, England Genealogy

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Records from this area are currently being indexed by volunteers. Come join the effort and help us index the Lancashire CofE Parish Records 1541–1910

Key topics to get started:

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Did You Know?
Be sure to visit both "The Parishes A-Z" and "The Chapelries A-Z" links (to the right) and click to find your parish or chapel to 1) determine if it was indeed an ancient parish, or, if a chapel of ease and to which ancient parish it was attached and, 2) find links to rich online (free) data content for each.

Lancashire originally had only 75 parishes, and unlike most other England counties, was comprised by far of mostly (over 400) chapelries. These chapelries (or chapels of ease) subdivided each parish to which they were attached. Key Strategy: Always be certain to search for the events of your ancestor[s] in ALL chapelries of a parish and their registers as well in the registers of its ancient parish.

Lancashire Rose, the flag of Lancashire
Location of in England

Lancashire, is a maritime county located in the North West of England. It is sometimes called the County of Lancaster.

By 1850 Lancashire was comprised of only 75 ancient parishes, each with mostly large boundaries. However, with over 400 smaller chapels  in Lancashire (called chapelries, chapels of ease, district chapels or ecclesiastical churches), most parishes on average had 8 chapels which sub-divided them.  

Each chapel of ease possesses 'parish' registers of baptisms, and (where extant) marriages and burials of their own, and many of them, from ancient times.

You can click The Parishes A-Z link or, The Chapelries A-Z below it, to find your Lancashire church. On most parish pages you can find (click) a link to view a "Comprehensive List" of Chapels attached to each ancient parish.

You can also check John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales or, Samuel A. Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of England to determine whether your 'parish' was in fact a "parish" or, if it was instead a chapel of ease (chapelry) within a large parish boundary, etc.[1]

Lancashire's Ancient Parishes And Their Chapels: 

   The Parishes(A-Z)

   The Chapelries(A-Z)

Lancashire's numerous smaller chapels of ease and district chapels comprises a vast portion of its geographical tapestry and each one possessed registers of baptisms, and sometimes marriages and burials. Because of this unique attribute, thoroughness in Lancashire research especially requires comprehensive, diligent study to determine all chapels of ease, chapelries, district churches, and parochial chapels lying within the boundary of each ancient parish.

Lancashire contains also "parts of 4 other [border] parishes, and at least 9 extra-parochial places. Prior to 1870, the county was divided into the city of Manchester, and the boroughs of Ashton-under-Lyne, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Clitheroe, Lancaster, Liverpool, Oldham, Preston, Rochdale, Salford, and Wigan, and included parts of the Cheshire boroughs of Stalybridge, Stockport, and Warrington...

Lancashire's assizes (higher courts) were held at Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester. The quarter sessions (smaller courts) were held at Lancaster, Preston, Liverpool, and Manchester.

Featured Content

Research Tools


Lancashire is one of the most complex of all England's counties. The following interactive map enables researchers to make sense of this county's jurisdictional makeup:  1851 Jurisdictions Map. If you want to know those parishes (or chapelries) immediately surrounding and contiguous to your target parish or chapel in which an ancestor possibly lived, was born or married, or to know in which diocesan court in order to search for a probate (will) record, or a marriage licence, allegation or bond, etc., use this map to find each parish, or all (or most) of its chapelries, and jurisdictions.  

Also all the key jurisdiction levels to which each ancient (civil) parish and most chapelries (but not yet all) are attached, and of which are viewable may be located in the above Jurisdiction Map tool.

 Wiki "Lancashire Parishes" Pages

The above Maps may not list or mention your place (i.e. chapelry--especially for post-1851 Lancashire). So on the "Lancashire" main page, click "Parishes" on the left margin and click the name of the parish (see those with a double **) in which your ancestor resided. Then click the "Comprehensive List of Chapels and Churches" which more thoroughly list all chapels attached to each parish.

Lancashire "Search" Strategy 

In Lancashire research--

  1. Identifying all chapel registers within each ancient parish--is a "must" before searching in the next contiguous ancient parishes! Why? Because most parishes have multiple chapelries attached to them. The mistake oft repeated is the failure to accurately identify all chapels within the parish and instead moving on to the next parish anyway before having researched in every one of the chapelries' registers! This is the major reason for decades-old unsolved research problems. To exasperate the problem, there is no single treatise, reference aid or published resource tool anywhere--that accurately identifies ALL chapelries found within each ancient parish. These (Lancashire) Wiki pages offer researchers--for the first time a singular tool and reference aid to help you identify and create the most accurate list of chapelries within each ancient parish compiled from several reference tools and aids. Still, additional chapelries occasionally come to light which need to be added to each parish's lists found herein!
  2. Never advance research in the next ancient parish church's registers unless or until you've searched all the chapels of ease's (chapelries') registers, of those chapelries lying within the target ancient parish's boundary! For example, the ancient parish of St Chad's Rochdale has about 20 chapels and district churches attached to and subdividing its parish boundary; thus all 20 of them need to be searched before continuing the research in the next ancient parish, such as the parish of Radcliff (St Mary)!
  3. Many of Lancashire's chapelries sent couples off to the mother (ancient) parish for marrying. This is because about 90 percent of all chapelries were never granted permission to marry. Burials are often found in the ancient parish yard (to which it was attached) or else in another nearby chapel with a burial yard. Many chapelries simply did not possess or maintain a church burial ground'.
  4. Marriages in the City of Manchester occurred mostly at Manchester Cathedral--England's largest ancient parish which possessed over 150 chapelries, district churches and ecclesiastical parishes subdividing its border. The Cathedral retained 'licence' to marry most couples within it own border with but very few exceptions especially during the Lord Hardwick era between 1754 and 1837. Note the following few churches within the borders of Manchester ancient parish (the Cathedral of St Mary, St George & St Denys) which, like the Cathedral Church, held rights and privileges to marry couples in their respective chapelries:
  • Manchester St John's Deansgate - from 1804
  • Manchester St Mary's Chapelry - from 1806
  • Ardwick St Thomas - 1740
    By about 1840 most chapelries were granted permission to marry couples in their own chapel.

See Maps above-mentioned, or the links to the "Comprehensive List of Chapels"--found on the main page to each ancient parish--to help you create an accurate list of chapelries to search. 

Two great (free) resources for also finding chapelries in each ancient parish (1848 and 1870, respectively) are Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of England, published in 1848 or,  Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, (in 1870), Both of these publications help you determine whether a Lancashire place was--

  • the ancient parish
  • a chapelry (a chapel of ease) 
  • district church
  • an ecclesiastical parish
  • parochial chapelry (holding jurisdiction over one or more other chapelries within an ancient parish)
  • a parish and then identifies by name--all chapelries within its borders

Civil Registration District Jurisdictions 

When civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1837, Lancashire was divided into nearly  40 registration districts, each containing numerous parishes and their attached chapelries. View and see a list of Lancashire districts and the parishes they contain, which will help you quickly identify the correct registration district name when searching the indexes to the civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths (post-1837 to the present).

Ancient Parishes Jurisdictions

See a list of Lancashire's 75 parishes (see double asterisks) with links to articles and its 400-plus chapelries. 

Probate Court Jurisdictions

Read more about Lancashire Probate Records.

Before 1858, every town and parish in Lancashire was under the probate jurisdiction of a primary court and one or more secondary courts.  To see a list of Lancashire parishes and the pre-1858 courts that had probate jurisdiction over them, go to Lancashire Probate Records.

You will find for any given place name, all of the jurisdiction levels and more, in the above map.

Useful Resources

Raymond, Stuart A. Lancashire: a genealogical bibliography, vol. 1, Lancashire genealogical sources. Birmingham [England]: Federation of Family History Societies, c 1996-1997.

Raymond, Stuart A. Lancashire: a genealogical bibliography, vol. 2. Registers, inscriptions and wills. Birmingham [England]: Federation of Family History Societies, c 1996-1997.

Raymond, Stuart A. Lancashire: a genealogical bibliography, vol. 3. Lancashire family histories and pedigrees. Birmingham [England]: Federation of Family History Societies, c 1996-1997.

Useful Websites

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

England, Lancashire, Oldham Cemetery Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

  1. Wilson, John Marius, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870). Adapted. Date accessed: 30 Apr 2012