Births Marriages and Deaths Overseas
LMA Research Guide 8: Births Marriages and Deaths Overseas
LMA holds many registers for overseas Anglican chaplaincies as part of the archives of the Bishop of London, and of the Bishop of Gibraltar and his successors.
We advise people to begin their research by consulting The British Overseas: a guide to records of their births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials available in the United Kingdom (Guildhall Library, 3rd edition, 1994). A copy is available from the Information Desk at LMA.
From 1633, the Bishop of London was held to have responsibility for Anglican chaplaincies overseas where no local bishop had been appointed.
In Europe, Anglican chaplaincies and congregations were established after the Reformation, and proliferated from the 17th century. The Bishop of London's jurisdiction over those in southern Europe ceased in 1842 on the creation of the Diocese of Gibraltar. However, he retained responsibility for those in northern and central Europe until 1980 (although from 1883 this was administered through a suffragan bishop, later given the title of Bishop of Fulham). Between 1970 and 1980 the jurisdictions of Gibraltar, and of North and Central Europe, remained separate, but were administered by one bishop, the Bishop of Fulham and Gibraltar. In 1980 the Bishop of London divested himself of all jurisdiction overseas and a single diocese of Gibraltar in Europe was formed, known subsequently and to this day as the Diocese in Europe.
Outside Europe, the allegiance of the American (Episcopal) church to the Bishop of London had ended after American independence in 1776. The first Anglican bishop in Canada was appointed in 1787, and other British colonies generally acquired bishops of their own in the 19th century. This explains why registers from colonial territories are not usually found in the Bishop of London's archives. In addition, records of baptisms, marriages and burials in India were returned to the civil authorities and are now part of the British Library Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections (previously the Oriental and India Office). Remember also that few chaplaincies in non-English-speaking countries outside Europe were established before the 19th century.
Records of overseas chaplaincies fall into three categories:
- Original registers brought back to the United Kingdom
- Copies made for official purposes, such as bishop's transcripts
- Published and unpublished transcripts or copies made by researchers.
LMA holds the original registers for a number of overseas chaplancies. Registers are listed in 'The British Overseas' and our online catalogue.
- Most surviving registers do not begin until the 18th or more commonly the 19th century
- Chaplaincies within the Diocese in Europe continue to deposit their registers but this on a piecemeal basis.
- Some chaplaincies in Europe now retain their own registers. Please see the Diocese in Europe's website for contact details.
- It is not known what arrangements were made by Anglican and English non-conformist residents in countries where there was no English chaplaincy. Some baptisms, marriages and burials may have been entered in the registers of local protestant churches.
- English Roman Catholics overseas should be sought in the registers of local Roman Catholic churches.
International Memoranda, 1816 - 1924 (DL/E/E/003/MS10926) - From 1816 to 1924 the Bishop of London's registry maintained a series of volumes, now known as the 'International Memoranda', for the registration of miscellaneous foreign baptisms, marriages and burials. Most of the entries are for baptisms and marriages by chaplains officiating at British embassies abroad, but the series includes a number of other registrations, for example, by clergymen travelling overseas or on board ship. It is important to note that registrations were sometimes accepted up to thirty years after a baptism, marriage or burial took place. The British Overseas gives full details of countries covered by the series. Indexes to the 'International Memoranda' are available on the open shelves in the Information Area at LMA (DL/E/E/004/MS10926C/001-002).
Original certificates of baptisms, marriages and burials transmitted to the Bishop of London for registration in the 'International Memoranda', 1816-1924 (DL/E/E/005/MS11224) - Note that not every certificate transcribed in the 'International Memoranda'survives in the original. Further details are given in The British Overseas.
Bishop of Gibraltar's Memorandum book of miscellaneous baptisms, 1913 (at Cartagena, Spain only) and 1921-1969 (CLC/319/C/007/MS23607) - From 1921 to 1969, the Bishop of Gibraltar also maintained a memorandum book of miscellaneous baptisms, by clergymen travelling overseas or on board ship, or at British embassies or other diplomatic premises abroad. An index to this memoranda book is available on the open shelves in the Information Area at LMA (CLC/319/C/008/MS23607A) and The British Overseas gives details of countries covered.
The London Diocesan Registry compiled an index in the 1960s to their foreign registers and register transcripts (DL/E/E/010/MS15061). The index is not entirely straightforward to use as it is arranged alphabetically by the initial letter of each surname, and within each letter alphabetically by place. It also uses references formerly in use at the Diocesan Registry.
- Index to foreign register transcripts, Surnames A-C (DL/E/E/010/MS15061/001/001)
- Index to foreign register transcripts, Surnames D-I (DL/E/E/010/MS15061/001/002)
- Index to foreign register transcripts, Surnames I-P (DL/E/E/010/MS15061/002/001)
- Index to foreign register transcripts, Surnames Q-Z (DL/E/E/010/MS15061/002/002)
Few marriage allegations exist within the overseas records of the diocesan authorities because licences for marriages outside British colonial territory were not granted by them. However, some allegations survive for intended marriages in Gibraltar Cathedral and the King's (Military) Chapel on Gibraltar from 1859-1873 (CLC/319/C/012/MS20979). For an index see CLC/319/C/012A/MS20979A.
There also survive some marriage licence allegations and certificates for marriages at the British Embassy in Paris, 1828-1829, 1835-1837, amongst the records of the Bishop of London (DL/E/E/024/MS10891C). For an index see DL/E/E/024A/MS10891CA.
Useful records held online
Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969 (The National Archives) - On Ancestry
Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths From British Consulates, 1810-1968 (The National Archives) - On Ancestry
Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea, 1844-1890 (The National Archives) - On Ancestry
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 (The National Archives) - On Ancestry
British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Baptisms (1761-2005), Banns and Marriages (1796-2005) and Deaths and Burials (1796-2005) (General Register Office/The National Archives) - On Findmypast
International Genealogical Index (IGI), useful for baptisms and marriages overseas before 1800 - On Family Search
British India Office Births and Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths and Burials (The British Library) - On Findmypast