National Burial Index
Putting parish burial registers online
The project of creating the National Burial Index began in 1994 and was first published in 2001 and contained 5.4 million records. The burial records, derived from parish registers, bishops" transcripts, earlier transcripts or printed registers by local family history society volunteers have continued to grow, so much so that a second edition, containing 13 million records, was published in 2004.
The majority of the records cover the period from 1813 - 1850 but the index does extend significantly in both directions from these dates.
Find parish burial recordsThe National Burial Index (NBI) for England and Wales assists family historians in finding burial records and, in doing so, complements the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which is mainly a finding aid to baptisms and marriages. The NBI is becoming a national archive, giving worldwide access to sources held by those local repositories and family history societies and groups participating in the project.
Read more about the Federation of Family History Societies
Burial registers, memorial transcriptions and grave images
The first phase of the project is to put the NBI online at findmypast. This will then be supplemented with full burial register transcriptions, memorial inscriptions and even images of the graves where these are available from member societies.
Church of England, Catholic and Non-Conformist burial records
There are traditionally three types of Christian in England:
Church of England
The majority of burials recorded in the National Burial Index are for members of The Church of England, the Established Church in the UK.
The Church of England, or Anglican Church, grew out of the Protestant Reformation and as such does not recognise Papal Authority.
The highest authority in the Church of England is the British Monarch, to whom an oath of allegiance is sworn by all Anglican clergy.
A Church of England parish usually consists of one church and a single community of worshippers, although sizes can vary depending upon the density of a local population. As can be seen from the City of London Burial Indexes, the ‘Square Mile’ of London alone was home to 98 churches at one time.
Some larger parishes had outlying chapels attached to a mother church, in order to allow more remote or affluent parishioners the ability to worship away from the community. These chapels would not have registered births, marriages or deaths however; this responsibility would have remained with the mother church.
Each parish kept its own burial register, a copy of which was then in turn sent to the headquarters of the relevant Diocese. A Diocese refers to all of the parishes which fall under the jurisdiction of any one diocesan Bishop.
This copy, The Bishops’ Transcript, was not always complete or forthcoming, and in many cases may be less full than the parish register. Illegitimate children and comments on parishioners were usually excluded from the Bishops’ Transcript. The originals remained with their respective parishes until recently; many have now been deposited with County Record Offices.
Organised along a similar line to the Anglican Church, with regard to hierarchy, a Catholic parish church refers to one building, serving one spiritual community. Unlike the Protestant Church, however, the highest authority for British Catholics is the Pope, and not the British Monarch.
The Catholic Church in Britain was the subject of persecution following Henry VIII’s move to separate worship from Rome. In the three hundred years following this, Catholicism in Britain was suppressed and outlawed, to the point of near-extinction.
Following the Napoleonic War, Britain’s relationship with Catholic countries, and the faith itself, improved. Prior to this, under the terms of the Test and Corporation Acts, Catholics and Non-Conformists were subject to religious testing in order to serve in public office – anyone professing beliefs other than that of the Established Church was banned from office. The 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act restored Catholics to full public life.
As a result of the prolonged repression of Catholicism, many areas would not have a Roman Catholic Church. In rural areas, Catholicism was mainly the preserve of the landed gentry, who tended to have their own private chapels.
Non-Conformists are Protestant Christians who worship outside of the Established Church of England, due to differing views on hierarchy and religious freedom.
These were the Dissenters – break-away sects who thought that the Church of England was not observant or devout enough and/or only catered for the propertied classes.
Non-Conformist groups included:
- Quakers (Society of Friends)
Quakers and Jews were allowed to keep their own birth, marriage and death registers, due in part to the differences in their ceremonies to that of the Established Church, and also their aptitude for keeping records. None of the other denominations of Non-Conformists were exempted, for this reason many of them married in Church of England ceremonies following the 1754 Hardwicke Act.
These Christians felt that the Reformation and subsequent establishment of the Church of England didn’t go far enough, and were hostile towards the involvement of the monarchy in the Church. Oliver Cromwell’s rule was based on puritanical, dissenting values.
They worshipped in (usually plain-looking) chapels or, in the case, of Quakers, in Meeting Houses.
In many localities, for a long time the Anglican churchyard was the only available place of burial, so Non- Conformists tended to be buried there and to appear in the parish burial registers even though they were not members of the Church of England.
Non-denominational and Atheist burials
A non-denominational burial ground is one that’s available for the deceased of any religious community, or atheists.
Atheists were also buried in Church of England burial grounds, usually in the main consecrated area despite their wish not to, or in the specially laid-aside non-consecrated area.
This was often where those who had committed suicide, ladies of ill repute and murderers found their final resting place.previousnext