What information can I find in Church of England records?

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The information recorded in the church and nonconformist records varies by time period and location.

Christenings

Children were usually christened within a few weeks of birth, though christenings of some older children or adults were recorded. The parish registers give at least the infant’s name and the christening (baptismal) date. Additional information may include the father’s name and occupation, the mother’s first name, the child’s birth date and legitimacy, and the family’s place of residence. In larger cities the family’s street address is given.

The preprinted forms introduced in 1813 called for the child’s christening date and given names, both parents’ given names, family surname, residence, father’s occupation, and minister’s signature. The birth date was sometimes added.

Marriages

Parish registers often record only the marriage date and the names of the bride and groom. The records may also include the marital status and the parish of residence of both parties, the groom’s occupation, signatures of witnesses, and the minister’s name, especially after 1754.

Starting 1 July 1837, all parishes were required to use a new form. This form called for the bride and groom’s ages, residences, and occupations and the names and occupations of their fathers.

Couples usually married in the bride’s parish. Typically, the English married in their 20s. You may find records that show a couple’s “intent to marry” in addition to the records of the actual marriage. Sometimes, however, the couple registered their intent to marry but never married.

There were two ways to meet the requirements to marry.

  • By Banns. A law required couples to have the minister announce or post notice of their intent to marry for three consecutive Sundays, unless they obtained a license. This gave others the opportunity to object to the marriage. Beginning in 1754, officials recorded banns in separate registers. Banns registers contain information almost identical to marriage registers, but banns usually do not list the witnesses or marriage date.
  • By License. A couple applied to the proper church authority, usually the bishop, for a license when:
    • Circumstances made it desirable to marry without waiting the three weeks required for the proclamation of banns.
    • The bride and groom lived in different dioceses.
    • A couple preferred not to subject themselves to publication of banns (common among upper classes and nonconformists).

Burials

A burial usually took place in the deceased’s parish a few days after the death. Pre-1813 burial records list the deceased’s name and burial date and sometimes mention the age, place of residence, cause of death, or occupation. The husband’s name is sometimes given on the wife’s burial entry. The father’s name may be on the record for a deceased child. After 1813 the forms called for the name, age, abode, burial date, and minister’s signature. Burial registers may mention infant children who were not christened, including stillbirths. Christening records never record stillbirths.

Some church records are extracted and indexed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI).

1. Go to www.familysearch.org

2. Click the Search tab.

3. Click International Genealogical Index on the left side of the screen.

4. Follow the instructions given.