Church Registers

A guide to Derbyshire Anglican, Catholic and Non-Conformist church registers.

Derbyshire Record Office is also the Derby Diocesan Record Office for the Church of England.  Many non-conformist churches also deposit their records and registers.  Catholic registers, however, are mostly held elsewhere (see below).

Anglican (Church of England) Parish Registers

Parish registers are the main source for family history in the period before 1837 (when civil registration was introduced), and one of the key resource held at Derbyshire Record Office.  As a general rule, the registers do not record information about births and deaths; they record church ceremonies, i.e. baptisms, marriages, and burials.  Many of the parishes have registers dating back to the 16th century.  The earliest registers are written in Latin and we have produced a guide to help you understand the different entries – with just a little bit of knowledge and experience it is much easier than you might expect.

As a key family history resource, the registers are extremely popular and surrogates exist for the majority of items (on microfilm or DVD).  The majority of Church of England registers are also available online via the family history website Ancestry:

  • Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 (marriages to 1754 only)
  • Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932
  • Baptisms, 1813-1916
  • Burials, 1813-1991

There are hundreds of Anglican churches and chapels across the county.  Our Parish Register Guide (published 2010) provides an alphabetical summary of all the parishes identifying how the parishes have developed over the last four hundred years, e.g. Alsop-en-le-Dale was originally in the parish of Ashbourne and Belper was originally in the parish of Duffield.  It also identifies those parishes that were once in Derbyshire but have now been transferred to other counties or dioceses (such as Mellor, now Cheshire, and Norton, now Sheffield).

For registers deposited since 2010 and other church records, you can search the online catalogue using the reference number in brackets after the parish name.

In the 17th-19th centuries, Derbyshire parishes sent an annual copy of all baptisms, marriages and burials diocese in Lichfield.  Known as the ‘Bishop’s Transcripts’ they do sometimes include information from registers that have not survived amongst the parish archives, or entries that were perhaps missed from the originals.

For other records created by the Church of England in Derbyshire, see our Guide to Anglican Ecclesiastical Records.

Non-Conformist Church Registers

Non-conformist is a catch-all term for all non-Anglican (i.e. non-Church of England) Christian denominations, including Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Unitarian, Presbyterian, Quaker and Roman Catholic.

Some registers survive from the 17th century, but for most chapels registers only survive from the late 18th or early 19th century.  As a result of Hardwick’s Marriage Act of 1753, all marriages had to take place in Anglican churches, although many families may have continued to attend the Anglican church for their ceremonies and it is always worth checking the earlier Anglican registers.  Quaker and Jewish marriage ceremonies were also recognised as valid.  After 1837, marriages were required to be conducted by licensed persons and gradually more non-conformist ministers were licensed.

Under the Non-Parochial Register Act of 1840, all non-conformist and foreign churches (not synagogues) in England and Wales were required to send their registers to the Registrar General.  These are now held at The National Archives in series RG4, RG5, RG6 and RG8.  From 1880 non-conformist burial ceremonies were permitted in Anglican churchyards.

Burial registers from 1713 are held at The National Archives, with microfilm copies for Derbyshire Churches available at Derbyshire Record Office.

The information in the Non-Conformist registers can vary considerably, but they are likely to contain details of: births/baptisms, marriages, and deaths/burials.  The details given for each event also varies, but was normally very similar to that found in Anglican registers, although births and deaths are more commonly recorded.  Use the Non-Conformist Register List to see what records are available and check the online catalogue, searching the Title field for the place name and the word ‘church’.

Catholic Registers

Derbyshire Record Office’s holdings of Catholic Church registers is very sparse as they are designated repositories elsewhere for the preservation of catholic records relating to Derbyshire.  The majority of the county falls under the Nottingham Diocese, with records held at the Nottingham Diocesan Archives; churches in Chesterfield, Dronfield, Bamford, Clowne, Staveley, Hathersage and Spinkhill fall under the Hallam Diocese, whose records are held at Sheffield Archives.

As with other non-Anglican churches, after 1840, Catholic churches were also required to send their registers to the Registrar General.  However, with performance of Catholic ceremonies illegal before 1836, very few registers were submitted by Catholic churches.  Sometimes before the 1836 Emancipation Act, Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials may appear in Anglican registers with the word ‘papist’ or ‘recusant’ next to each entry.  Between 1754 and 1837, most Catholics married in Anglican churches to ensure their marriage was valid under English law.  However, many are not recorded in Anglican registers, either because a Catholic family refused to attend an Anglican church, or because the Anglican incumbent refused to conduct ceremonies for Papists.  In the absence of alternative burial grounds before 1855 Catholics were generally buried in Anglican churchyards, but not necessarily recorded in the registers.

Catholic registers held by Derbyshire Record Office are listed in the Non-Conformist Register List.

Other Faiths

Very few archive records for other faiths have been deposited with Derbyshire Record Office:

  • Derby Hebrew Congregation – D3290
  • Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sikh Congregation – D6659
Further Reading

There are a very large number of books and other guides available in the Local Studies Library about undertaking family history research all of which refer to church registers.

There are also a wide range of online guides from The National Archives.

The Catholic Archives Society promotes the identification and listing of Catholic records and publishes an annual periodical which is available in Local Studies.  The Society itself does not hold any archive records but may be able to offer research advice.

5 thoughts on “Church Registers

  1. Pingback: Local and Community History | Derbyshire Record Office

  2. Pingback: Bishops’ Transcripts | Derbyshire Record Office

  3. Pingback: Civil Registration: births, marriages and deaths | Derbyshire Record Office

  4. Pingback: Family History – Getting Started | Derbyshire Record Office

  5. Pingback: Derbyshire Parish Registers Online | Derbyshire Record Office

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