Friday, August 29, 2014

August Program Review - Hall Horrocks on "British Parish Registers and Census Records"

The August 27th program for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS)  featured Hal Horrocks speaking on "British Parish Registers and Census Records."  There were 35 persons in attendance.

Hal provided a list of important dates for British genealogical research, ranging from 1215 (the "Calling of the Banns" for marriage) to 1853 (the Cemetery Act).  The most important dates were 1538 when Parish Registers began, 1643 to 1660 when the British civil War caused disruption in registers, 1812 for better regulation of parish registers, 1754 when Lord Hardwick's Marriage Act enforced banns and licences, and 1837 when Civil Registration was started.

A "Parish Register" is a book kept by a parish church that recorded details of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials.  The originals are usually kept in vaults in a county office or at the British National Archives, may be microfilmed (the Family History Library has many of them), or online in the International Genealogical Index (on FamilySearch) or in a county Online Parish Clerk (OPC) website.

The baptism records usually record the baptism date, the name of the child, the parents' names, the father's occupation, and the family's abode.  The marriage record usually provides the marriage date, name of both parties,their condition (e.g., bachelor, spinster, widow), the type of marriage (banns or licence), sometimes their parents names, and their abode.  The burial records provide the burial date, the person's name, their age, and where the person lived when they died.

The British Census was taken every 10 years since 1801 (except for 1941), but census records with every name in a household started in 1841.  The last census presently available is the 1911 census.  All of the 1841 to 1911 census records are available in searchable databases with linked images on several record providers (e.g.,,,, etc.).

Many mistakes were made in census entries.  For instance, in the 1841 census, ages were rounded up to the next five years for adults, but not for children.  Many persons were not enumerated because the enumerator failed to call back or collect the form.  Name spelling errors are common.  Hal reviewed a list of why your ancestors may be missing from the census (e.g., they may not have been home, or working away from home, or travelling, very young infants were often not recorded, older children may be living outside the home, children of remarried widows may be listed under their stepfather's surname, enumerator handwriting may have been poor).

Hal showed a case study of Eliza (Horrocks) Mason, born in 1819  - starting  with the 1841 census, backtracking to find her baptism and marriage records in a Parish Register, then finding her in the 1851 to 1891 census records, and finding a death record in the Civil Registry.

All in all, this was an excellent review of how to find and use the British Parish Register and Census record resources.  

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