So, you have been researching your ancestors through the census and have gleaned the name of the town that they were born in. You now have to find the parish in which your ancestor was baptised in and perhaps you have been lucky in getting the parish name from the census. Now you want to find out where exactly it is and carry on your research back before 1837.
The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, Phillimore & Co Ltd; 3rd Revised edition edition (1 Dec 2002) is the go to resource for family historians who are dealing with the “Old Parishes” of England, Scotland & Wales. The third edition of this index features the addition of a map of the whole UK that shows the county boundaries before 1830 and it has shifted to a reliance on census indexes, rather than marriage indexes, which are now summarized in a paragraph.
In what I’ve written above I refer to the Old Parishes. What are these, you may be asking yourself? The answer is that they are those, approximately twelve and a half thousand parishes, from before 1832 and the Victorian expansion of towns and cities. It was then that many of the ancient parishes were divided up with the building of new churches to cater for the expanding population.
The Phillimore Atlas and Index is an abstract made in 1831 of the records that had survived for the parishes of that time. The book gives the family historian maps of the ancient parishes, along with names and the dates of the earliest surviving registers for each of the named parishes. Now these could be back as far as 1538 or much much later, depending on their survival against fire, flood and a variety of other reasons for them going missing.
Taking a look at the Index section you would see that you are able to find a list of the old parishes for the county that you are interested in. You will find the dates for when the registers were deposited and a code against them that will tell you where the records are deposited in the various record offices.
Now, you should be aware, however, that it is possible that not all three types of records may have been deposited yet. The baptism, marriage and burial registers may have filled up at different rates. The registers are only ever deposited when they are full as they remain a working document until such time. So, take as an example, a parish where baptisms are only done once in a blue moon. Here the register that they started in 1813 may still be with the church as it tortuously slowly received children into the faith! (1813 was when the new registers came into existence.)
The Atlas and Index is effectively a synopsis of parish registers and if there is nothing in the column for baptisms then you could assume that it was still with the church in 2003, when the last revision came out. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, can be found in most municipal libraries or can be bought from all good bookshops and at Amazon.co.uk