My Ancestors Were in the Parish Records? | The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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My Ancestors Were in the Parish Records?

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on September 5th, 2010

As a family historian, one of the highlights of my year is to try and get to London’s Olympia for the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE exhibition in February and mix with like minded people all “doing” their family tree and seeing what is new in our field. In 2010 I signed up early and bought my tickets on-line. This enabled me to also reserve some passes to one or two of the Society of Genealogist’s lectures in the hall. And a good thing I did, as some of them sold out before the day!

I particularly enjoyed the talk given by John Hanson FSG, who has been researching his family tree for about 25 years.

His workshop, called “My Ancestors Were in the Parish Records? Well They Should Have Been!”, gave his audience a really good overview of Births Marriages and Burials as we would expect to find in the church records of England & Wales. As I sat, taking notes and thinking to myself smugly that I already know quite a bit about this area, I found that pretty soon I was listening to some really useful nuggets of information that I just didn’t know, or had forgotten about along the way.

Old Parish Registers

For example: Baptisms

Most people, John Hanson pointed out, think that baptisms tend to peter out with the start of civil registration on the 1st of July 1873, but this is not entirely true. Yes, they have declined in modern times. Hanson’s wife is a verger in their local church and the number of baptisms that their vicar performs these days could be counted on the fingers of one hand. But go back to the eighteenth, nineteenth & early twentieth century, he said, and you would find that the number of children being baptised per week then, would be similar to the numbers that gets baptised in a year today! Up to 1900, however, we will still find our ancestors being baptised in church and it is only as we get closer to today that the numbers drop off. So although we often think of parish records as predominately those to use to get back before 1837, this is a wake up call that these records can still be interesting to look at after that date.

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