San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Church of England Parish Records – More than Baptisms, Marriages and Burials

Wednesday, June 20th at 7.30 pm Grace Lutheran Church,

2825 Alameda de las Pulgus, Sam Mateo

Many of us have English (or Welsh) roots, and, if ancestors lived in the home country after 1840, the research is relatively easy.  Every-name censuses are available from 1841 and every 10 years thereafter and a national index of civil registration began in 1837.  However, researching prior to 1837 is much more challenging.  Few of our ancestors owned land, most did not write wills and the primary record group to research are church records. 

Not everyone, even in a country with an “established church” belonged to it. Not everyone was baptized or buried in the Church of England (although most marriages between 1754 and 1837

are to be found in Church of England records.)  But all inhabitants of a parish may be found in the large group of civil records associated with the parish.  Prior to 1834 the Parish had a civil as well as an ecclesiastical function.

What type of records might these be?  Well one large set pertains to paupers – the widows, orphans, elderly, disabled  and unemployed who resided there – and we all have ancestors who were down on their luck at one time or another!  Wealthier parishioners of course had to pay rates or taxes to support these people, pay for road or highway maintenance and taxes on the land they occupied (even though they didn’t own it.) Just like us – they sometimes complained or even tried to dodge the taxes!  Every parish had vestry members and officers such as Constable or Overseer of the Poor.  Your upstanding ancestor could be a vestry member or parish officer.  Your family could be named in a settlement certificate or your ancestor in apprenticeship papers.

There are a wide variety of records available – but of course not everything is available in every parish.  But where these civil records (sometimes called Parish Chest Records) are extant a wealth of information can be found for your ancestors and your family.  Come and learn what’s available in these records.
Christine Green

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