Parish records - indexes and aids
Don"t panic if you are faced with a large register with many entries to plough through or don"t have any idea when someone might have been baptised or married.
One of the delights of family history is that so many people have collaborated to make records easier to use, and this is largely by creating name indexes to a large number of registers.
The biggest database of entries from registers is of course the International Genealogical Index or IGI.
Remember - as good historians you must check the entry in the original record whenever you find a useful entry in the index. The index is probably abbreviated in some way and will probably not include all that can be found in the register. You might miss vital clues if you only use the indexes, but using them will of course save you valuable time.
Boyd"s marriage index (England) 1538 - c1837 at Society of Genealogists and online. This is an index to English marriages taken from parish marriage registers, marriage licences and Bishop´s Transcripts.
The Pallot marriage index for London and some other counties 1780 -1837, to be found at the Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies or online.
County Marriage indexes are listed in Marriage and Census Indexes for Family Historians, Jeremy Gibson and Elizabeth Hamson, Federation of Family History Societies, 2000
The National Burial Index is a finding aid to burials containing information from parish, non-conformist and cemetery burial registers. The entries come from different types of sources, for example, parish registers, bishop"s transcripts, earlier transcripts or printed registers.
Scottish Old Parochial Registers indexes for births (or baptisms), marriages (or banns), deaths and burials from 1553 - 1854.
More useful tips to remember
Julian and Gregorian calendars
Note that the church"s year hasn"t always started in January. In 1752 the use of the old style calendar known as the Julian Calendar was abandoned in favour of the new style Gregorian Calendar.
Under the old style dating system the year began on 25 March and continued through to the 24 March following.
However much of the rest of Europe had changed to the new style and often the dates noted in registers between 31 December and 24 March would be recorded in what was known as double dating using both the old and new style, for example 16 January 1746/7 or perhaps 16 January 1746 "OS" (old style) and 1747 ‘NS’ (new style).
If you see a date in an index, for example in the IGI, between 1 January and 24 March and before 1752 you must make sure that the double dating problem has been taken into account. If you can"t find the entry in the original entry in the year you are expecting, look a year either side.
Data and dates at the Society of Genealogists
The Society of Genealogists has been collecting copies and transcripts of records. Here’s a guide to what you’ll find
1538 Loose papers
1558 Books copied up from Elizabeth I
1598 Bishops Transcripts
1645 - 1660 Civil War/ Commonwealth gap
1694-1706 Tax on registration
1753 Hardwick"s Marriage Act (separate registers from 1754)
1812 Rose’s Act (dedicated christening and burial registers)
Most older registers have been deposited in a record office
English parish registers are held in local County or Metropolitan Record Offices
Welsh registers are at the National Library of Wales or Welsh County Record Offices
Scottish registers before 1855 are held at General Register Office for Scotland.