Parish Registers
                                                                                                by Maureen Hunt                        

The Parish Register only records religious events. It contains details of baptisms, marriages and burials. It does not record the actual date of birth or death, but records the date of the baptism or burial.

Parish registers began as a result of the Thomas Cromwell Mandate of 1538, which stated that all baptisms, marriages, and burials had to be performed by a Parish priest. They also had to be recorded. Initially these records tended to be written up at a later date, on individual sheets of paper. Due to this, much of the information tended to be inaccurate, as it relied on the priest’s memory. Many of these early records have been lost.

In 1597, a church injunction ensured that the records were kept in bound books of parchment. To make sure that this was actually carried out, a copy had to be sent annually to the Bishop of the Diocese. These are sometimes referred to as Bishop’s Transcripts.

From 1754 marriage entries were made on printed forms contained in a separate book. This came about as a result of an Act of Parliament in 1753. This is known as Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, which was introduced for "the better prevention of clandestine marriage". It came into force on March 25th 1754, and was specifically designed to regulate how, and where marriages could take place. It meant that all marriages had to take place in licensed buildings, which in most cases meant the Parish Church. One of the parties getting married had to reside in the parish, and the register had to be signed by both parties and witnesses. Not all churches were licensed for marriages, and some churches such as Saint Peters Church in Wolverhampton became 'mother church' to other parishes.

The original Parish Registers are kept at the County Record Office. The local Record Office at Stafford used to allow people to look at the original registers, but now they have to be viewed on microfilm. Before going to view the registers, a microfilm reader has to be booked, and if its your first visit, you have to obtain an identity card. Copies of the registers can also be ordered.

The same film can be viewed at the Wolverhampton Archives. But again, a reader has to be pre-booked, and an identity card obtained. It should be pointed out, that there is a reader, that can print out a copy, at the time of viewing. But this must be asked for when making a booking.



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