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Photograph of part of a page from a baptismal register Show image info

Part of a page from a baptismal register

Church Registers

Church registers record baptism, marriages and burials of a parish or church’s congregation. They are a vital source of information for family history before the introduction of the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in July 1837.

History of Church Registers

Since the 16th century Anglican churches have been required to keep registers of the baptism, marriages and burials within their parish, although not all registers survive that far back. Until the 18th century all events were usually recorded in the same register, the form of the record depending upon the priest, so details may vary between parishes.

In 1754 marriages in England and Wales were required to be conducted in an Anglican church by an Anglican priest to be legal, and many parishes started keeping separate marriage registers from around this date. In 1812, in an attempt to regularise the records, parishes were provided with pre-printed registers – one each for baptism, marriage or burial – so every priest recorded the same information.

Non-conformist churches grew in number in the 18th century, particularly in Bath, and they also often held their own registers outside the Anglican parish system. Because of the legal requirement to marry in an Anglican church, most non-conformist churches did not record marriages although some may have held their own service conforming to their own rites. Baptisms and burials (if there was an associated burial ground) were often the only registers kept.

Holdings

Please see this list for details of what registers are accessible online and in print at the Record Office. We have access to AncestryLibrary and FindMyPast subscription websites, and you can access any of the free websites whilst online.

Summary

Online: The original Anglican parish registers are held at the Somerset Heritage Centre and are now available online through Ancestry. Transcripts of many registers (including non-conformist) are available on www.freereg.org.uk and those deposited at The National Archives through www.familysearch.org (mainly non-conformist and Bishop’s Transcripts).

Transcripts and indexes: There are several printed transcripts available at the Record Office as well as those online.

Microfiche: We have all the Bath & North East Somerset Anglican parishes on microfiche, along with a selection of neighbouring Somerset parishes.

See a list of all the parish registers and transcripts we hold.