Plymouth & West Devon Record Office in partnership with findmypast.co.uk
Church of England parish registers 1538-1911
Before 1837, civil registration did not exist, so the main way to track your ancestors is through parish registers. These registers record the key events of baptism, marriage and burial. Please note baptisms and burials do not equate to births and deaths.
The earliest register is Plymouth St Budeaux and dates from 1538.
The famous polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott was baptised in Stoke Damerel Church Plymouth on 30 June 1868.
What information is contained within parish registers?
Parish registers come in four main types: composite, baptism, banns/marriage and burial. Early registers tend to be composite, i.e., containing all events. Later registers are event specific.
Depending on the date, baptism registers can give you parents' names, location and occupation of father and sometimes the date of birth. Be warned that early registers can be in Latin.
Marriage or banns registers are the most complex. Banns are called before a wedding takes place but sometimes the marriage does not take place. From 1837, the registers are the same as those for civil registration. Information contained includes: names of both parties, ages, abode and occupation. Early registers can also be in Latin and just give names of both parties.
Burial registers tend to be the most basic of all, just giving the name of the deceased in many cases. Also, not all churches had churchyards so not all parishes will have burial registers, especially town/city parishes.