Parish Record Collections
No Church of England parish archive is ever the same as any other. What records are held for each church will depend on the history of a particular church and the records that survive. Until the formation of modern local government in the last years of the 19th century much of the burden of local government fell on the parish, its vestry and officers. This can leave records useful to genealogists, local and social historians and those concerned with the repair and maintenance of the church property.
Finding parish records in our catalogue
Each parish is given a number based on the order that they were deposited with us and all have the prefix P for 'parish' so for example Bedford St Paul is P1, Ampthill is P30, Wootton is P3. You can find a full list of all the parishes and their reference numbers here
The catalogue of each parish collection is then broken down into series and each series is represented by a number e.g. in the reference P7/5/1, P7 stands for the collection of Clifton parish church, P7/5 = churchwardens accounts and P7/5/1 = the first volume of those accounts. Not every parish will have records under each heading but the numbering of the series remains consistent.
0 Registers of Services, Clergy Institutions, Admissions and Licences (the legal documents installing an incumbent or curate)
1 Parish Registers - see Anglican Parish Registers
2 Property of the parish including glebe (land owned by the parish church). May be broken down further into fabric of the church, churchyards, parsonage houses, mission churches.
3 Tithes (tenths of produce originally, but increasingly commuted to sums of money, particularly after the Tithe Act of 1836. The Tithe Act of 1935/6 abolished tithes, compensation being provided by stock which was purchased by the incumbent commuting his own tithe) and other incumbent’s income.
CHURCHWARDENS (the chief lay officers in a parish)
4 Rates - to raise money for the repair or enlargement of the nave of the parish church (abolished 1869)
5 Accounts - expenses of all types from purchasing candles to major repairs, often a useful source for investigating the history of the fabric of the church and for researching local tradesmen
6 Deeds of property of the parish
7 Other churchwarden material such as brief books.
8 Vestry - minutes and proceedings of the Vestry which, very roughly, approximated to the modern Parochial Church Council and Parish Council combined
10 Other records such as lists of constables
OVERSEERS OF THE POOR
11 Rates to raise money for poor relief
13 Settlement papers (very good sources for the genealogist)
14 Apprenticeship papers
15 Bastardy records
16 Settlement matters such as solicitors’ bills, letters.
17 Militia papers
18 Overseers’ miscellaneous e.g. workhouse agreements.
19 Relationship with Poor Law Unions after 1834 (particularly the provision of outdoor relief, i.e. money etc. given to the poor in their own parish rather than sending them to the workhouse)
20 Rates to raise money for highway maintenance
21 Accounts showing how money was spent, often a good source for local tradesmen
22 Surveyors’ miscellaneous e.g. notes and correspondence
OTHER OFFICERS AND COMMITTEES
23 Records of other civil parish officers
24 Special committees e.g. lighting and watching committees
25 CHARITIES (administration of parish charities which commonly included apprenticeship funds, bread and fuel doles as well as more specialised charities)
ENCLOSURE AND TITHE
26 Enclosure Awards
27 Tithe Awards
28 MISCELLANEOUS - may include photographs, printed ephemera such as church guidebooks, concert programmes, things to do with church groups such as choir and bellringers.
29 SCHOOLS (Sunday Schools, National Schools, Charity schools)
30 PARISH MAGAZINES
31 Antiquarian books – category rarely used and no longer added to
PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL (established 1921)
32 PCC minutes including Annual Church Meetings
33 PCC Accounts
34 PCC correspondence
35 PCC property e.g. of church halls
36 PCC sub-committees
37 PCC miscellaneous e.g. electoral rolls, annual reports.