Parish Registers at London Metropolitan Archives | London Metropolitan Archives

RESEARCH GUIDE

Parish Registers at London Metropolitan Archives

LMA Research Guide 2: Introduction to parish records held at London Metropolitan Archives, showing which records we hold, and which are elsewhere.

Introduction

Before 1837 and the introduction of civil registration, parish registers of the Church of England are the most comprehensive source of information about individuals. The registers of ancient parishes may date from as far back as 1538, but only a very few parishes have registers surviving from this date.

Usually an ancient parish consisted of a single church, the parish church with a single set of registers. Since the early seventeenth century and the rapid population growth in London, the ancient parishes were sub-divided. So by the end of the nineteenth century some ancient parishes had been sub-divided as many as 30 or 40 times each with its own parish church and own registers. These 'daughter' churches may oversee chapels or mission churches.

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) holds parish registers from over 800 churches within the City of London and the former counties of London and Middlesex except for parishes in the ancient City of Westminster. Registers for these parishes are held by the City of Westminster Archives Centre, 10 St. Ann's Street, London SW1P 2XR. Westminster registers 1538-1945 can be consulted online on the Findmypast website.

For further information about City of London parish registers see City of London Parish Registers. A handlist of parish registers, register transcripts and related records at Guildhall Library, Guildhall Library (1999). These registers are now held by LMA.

LMA has produced 'A Guide to Anglican Parish Registers and Records'. It lists Anglican churches and gives the date range and locations of the baptismal, marriage and burial registers. It will give a general reference if registers are held in this office. Lists of parish registers arranged according to the present London Boroughs can be found amongst our lists of major genealogical sources,'London Generations'. Full catalogues of parish records held by LMA are arranged alphabetically by the dedication of the church. Establishments other than parish churches kept baptismal and burial registers. In London these are notably hospitals, including the Foundling Hospital, workhouses and prisons.

Parish registers on the Ancestry website

LMA and Guildhall Library Manuscripts have been working in partnership with Ancestry.co.uk to digitise the parish registers from churches whose records are held in our care. It is now possible to search indexed baptism registers 1813-1906, marriage registers 1754-1921 and burial registers 1813-1980 online at the Ancestry.co.uk website as well as composite registers of baptisms, marriages and burials 1538-1812. It is necessary to have a subscription to Ancestry.co.uk to access the parish registers; free access to Ancestry is available at LMA and Guildhall Library.

Please note this project has not included parish registers held by the City of Westminster Archives Centre. These can be searched on Findmypast. Nor does it include the parish registers of All Hallows Barking by the Tower, St Giles-in-the-Fields, St Nicholas, Chiswick, or All Saints, Isleworth, which are available for consultation on microfilm at LMA because the original parish registers had not been deposited here at the time the parish registers were digitised.

The parish registers of some churches such as Christchurch Newgate Street were badly damaged or in some cases destroyed either by bombing in the Second World War or by a fire at the church. However before many of the early registers of All Saints, Wandsworth, and some of the early marriage registers of St Mary, Putney were badly damaged, transcripts of many of the early registers had been compiled and published as follows:

All Saints, Wandsworth (published 1889) available on microfilm X102/110

  • Baptisms 1603-1787
  • Marriages 1603-1788
  • Burials 1603-1678 and 1727-1787

St Mary, Putney (transcribed by Amy C Hare and published 1913-1916) available on microfilm X102/112

  • Baptisms 1620-1812
  • Marriages 1620-1870
  • Banns 1774-1812
  • Burials 1620-1686 and 1700-1812

For details of any transcripts of City of London parish registers including Christchurch Newgate Street see City of London Parish Registers. A handlist of parish registers, register transcripts and related records at Guildhall Library, Guildhall Library (1999).

Information in parish registers

Early parish registers

Early baptism, marriage and burial entries were frequently made in a single volume, which had separate sections for each type of entry known as composite registers Some parishes also had a separate section relating to a chapel-of-ease or chapelry which carried out their own baptisms, marriages and burials.

The information recorded was very sparse, usually only a single line relating to each entry. The amount and type of information varied from parish to parish. Entries were often written at least partially in Latin. Our library holds various publications which may assist you with common Latin terms and phrases.

Marriages were entered in a separate volume from 1754 and baptisms and burials from 1 January 1813. The information recorded is given under the relevant headings below.

Baptism registers

Typically a pre-1813 register recorded the date, name, names of parents and possibly the father's occupation. Occasionally the street or area in which they lived was noted. The date of birth was not normally given. The maiden name of the mother, if married, is never entered, nor are the names of the grandparents, god-parents or sponsors.

From 1 January 1813 a new type of register was introduced (known as George Rose's register). The entries followed a standard format, in bound volumes with pre-printed pages. The information recorded was the date of baptism, child's name, parents' names, address which may just be the name of the parish or street; father's occupation and the name of the officiating minister. The alleged date of birth may sometimes be noted. It is only in the mid to late 20th century that the names of god-parents or sponsors are recorded. The practice of noting this information varies from parish to parish.

Marriage registers

Early marriage registers give the date and the names and surnames of the bride and bridegroom. In some instances the occupation of the bridegroom was given.

After Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753 a standard form of entry for marriages was introduced in 1754. The information recorded was the date, the names of both parties, the parish in which they lived, whether the marriage was by banns or licence and whether spinster, bachelor, widow or widower. The register was signed by the bride and bridegroom, the officiating minister and two witnesses. Those who were unable to write would make a mark. Ages may only be noted in the case of a person under 21 years of age (a minor). No information would normally be provided about the parents or their occupations. Most entries were recorded on pre-printed sheets in bound volumes. On the introduction of civil registration on 1 July 1837 a new type of register was produced. The entries gave the date, names of the parties, addresses, occupations and ages. Before 1870 the age is frequently given as 'of full age'. This usually indicated 21 years or above, although sometimes the registrar has taken it to mean above the age of consent. The address is commonly only given as the parish and the bride's occupation is seldom given. The parties were required to state if they were bachelor, spinster, widow or widower. The name and occupation of both fathers were required, even if they were deceased. The register would also confirm if the marriage had taken place by banns or licence. It was signed by the bride and bridegroom, two witnes ses and the officiating minister.

Two copies of the register were made, one was sent to the local Superintending Registrar and the other to the General Register Office (GRO). The copy sent to the GRO did not contain the original signatures. The copies formerly held by the church are the ones now kept at LMA.

Civil marriages, those held in Register Offices, also began in July 1837. Records of these marriages are not held at LMA.

Burial registers

Burial entries until the end of 1812 were usually only very brief. They gave the date and the name of the person to be buried. Occasionally, family relationships such as wife of or son of may be noted. It may be recorded if the burial was that of a child or baby or from the workhouse (pauper or poor). Occupations are rarely given. From 1 January 1813 new format registers were introduced. As with the baptism registers, the pages were pre-printed and bound in a volume. The name of the deceased, address, date of burial, age and officiating minister were given.

During the 1850s the churchyards and burial grounds of inner London were closed by a series of Acts of Parliament. They had become overcrowded and for reasons of hygiene and of good public health not suitable for further burials. Many burial registers for parish churches in inner London cease by 1855. Those that continue usually only contain a few entries relating to burials in existing graves or special interments in the church.

In the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s new cemeteries were established by private companies and by local authorities on the edge of the built up area of London. For further information see our Information page on Cemetery Records and Greater London Cemeteries and Crematoria compiled by Patricia S. Wolfson revised by Cliff Webb (Society of Genealogists, 1982, Reprinted 2005).

Bishops' transcripts (BT's)

Bishops' Transcripts are copies of entries in baptism, marriage and burial registers. They were made by churchwardens once a year and returned to the Bishop's Registry.

LMA holds BT's for the City of London, the counties of Middlesex and Surrey, and those parishes in Kent which later became part of the County of London.

BT's for marriages cease, on the whole, after civil registration was introduced in July 1837. BT's for baptisms and burials cease at various dates between the 1830's and 1900.

Amongst our holdings few BT's survive before 1800. For many parishes the holdings are incomplete. The information contained in them should be identical to that in the register. However, small differences may be noted. Most of the BT's held by LMA for the 19th century have now been digitised by Ancestry.

International Genealogical Index (IGI)

The IGI is an index to approximately 118 million births, baptisms and marriages compiled and published on microfiche by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Genealogical Society of Utah). The information has been collected from a number of sources (mainly parish registers dating from 1538 to 1875) and from many countries. It is arranged by county and within the county alphabetically by surname.

A fiche copy of the 1992 edition for the whole of England and Wales is available in the Information Area. It includes entries from the registers of many important London parishes such as St Leonard, Shoreditch, St Luke, Old Street, Finsbury, St Marylebone, and St Pancras, but many younger London and Middlesex parishes are not included.

The IGI is also available on-line at the IGI website www.familysearch.org

Switching the Lens - Rediscovering Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous Heritage 1561 to 1840

Parish records are a vital source of information about the identity, age and occupation of individual people, together with details of the place they originally came from. The baptism, marriage and burial registers in our collections refer to Black people from 16th century onwards. For example, a register from Saint Luke, Chelsea contains a baptism entry for Charles, a 10 or 12-year-old boy, 'brought from Guiana' as a servant by Sir Walter Raleigh, baptised on 13 February 1597/8 (P74/LUK/161 folio 5v).

The 'Black and Asian Londoners Project: Presence and Background 1536-1840' used parish records to gather a significant body of evidence about African, Caribbean and Asian individuals living in London during this period. This information is now available on our online public catalogue as a distinct collection entitled Switching the Lens: Rediscovering Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous Heritage 1561-1840. The ongoing development of this dataset is a part of a wider aim to 'decolonise' the collections at London Metropolitan Archives, through new ways of interrogation and interpretation.

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