Both the British state and the church had an interest in record keeping, and a 1538 act of Parliament required ministers in the Church of England to record baptisms, marriages, and burials. In 1754, Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 came into effect, requiring a formal ceremony be performed by Anglican clergy in the parish of one of the participants following the publication of banns, or following a bishop’s or archbishop’s licence, and in the presence of two witnesses. (There were exemptions allowed for Jewish and Quaker marriages.) In 1837, civil registration began, which removed many of the restrictions imposed by Hardwicke’s Act. This database includes parish records with dates ranging from 1754 up until 1935.
Couples were usually married in the bride’s parish. Marriage records typically include the bride and groom’s names, residence, date and location of the marriage, names of witnesses, condition (bachelor, spinster, widow, or widower) and the name of the officiant. Some records may also include the father’s name and occupation. The early records may contain less detail.
In addition to keeping parish registers, lists of baptisms, marriages, and burials were required to be sent to the bishop of the diocese and this collection comprises contemporary transcripts of the original records. These copies of the parish registers, called bishop’s transcripts, can sometimes fill in gaps where parish registers are missing, however, they may vary slightly from the parish registers. This may be because an error was made as the information was copied, or a correction or additional details may have been inserted as the copy was being recorded for the bishop. For these reasons, if both copies are available, it’s wise to check both of them.
See the browse on the right to determine which parishes are included in this collection and the date coverage for each parish.
Mar 2020: Added additional images and indexes for Bishop Transcripts.