Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies in partnership with findmypast.co.uk
Hertfordshire Church of England Parish Registers from 1538
Findmypast.co.uk has published online Hertfordshire records dating from 1538:
- Baptisms 803,133 records for the period 1538-1910 – see a list of parishes and dates covered (PDF)
- Banns 164,314 records for the period 1653-1928 – see a list of parishes and dates covered (PDF)
- Marriages 297,962 records for the period 1538-1928 – see a list of parishes and dates covered (PDF)
- Burials 605,940 records for the period 1538-1990 – see a list of parishes and dates covered (PDF)
Until the establishment of civil registration in 1837, parish registers are the principal source of genealogical information for the family historian. The Church of England began to keep registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in 1538.
Of the 132 ancient parishes in Hertfordshire, however, only 16 have registers surviving from this date. The majority of the others date from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign in 1558. Many registers are sadly defective during the Civil War and Commonwealth period 1643-1660 and the registers for the parishes of Caldecote, Flaunden, Ickleford and Sacombe do not survive before the 18th century. Serious fires at the parish churches of Northaw and All Saints Hertford severely damaged their registers.
In addition to the ancient parishes, there are many more of modern origin, formed as daughter churches (chapels of ease or district churches) in large or more populous parishes, for example, in the town of Watford.
Please note that parish registers usually contain dates of baptisms and burials, not births and deaths. Initially the information required to be recorded in parish register entries was minimal, therefore, the quality of registers varies enormously. Often entries include only the barest of details, such as the date of the event and the name of the person, but sometimes the information is much fuller, with occupation and place of residence within the parish recorded.
A notable Hertfordshire example is the register of baptisms, marriages and burials, 1747-1800, for the parish of Hitchin (Ref: D/P53/1/4) which also includes birth dates and parental occupations.
Many registers also contain a great deal of anecdotal information on parish events and calamities not readily available elsewhere. One example is the parish register of Thomas Hassell, vicar of Great Amwell, 1599-1635 (Ref: D/P4/1/9) which has been published by the Hertfordshire Record Society. The burial of plague victims are clearly marked in the Ware register for 1665-6 (Ref: D/P116/1/3).
This collection also includes the parishes of Chipping and East Barnet and Totteridge which, since 1965, formed part of the London Borough of Barnet.
Catalogues of the parish collections held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies can be viewed online