Find online parish registers

By Editor, 22 January 2015 - 1:44pm

Struggling to find that missing marriage? Baffled by a burial? Editor Sarah Williams shares her top sites for accessing parish records online

Sarah Williams is editor at Who Do You Think You Are? MagazineThursday 22 January 2015
Sarah Williams, editor
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In the past, family historians had to know which parish an ancestor was likely to have been baptised, married or buried in and then track down where those records were held and start browsing. Now, as more and more registers are being digitised, indexed or transcribed and those results are going into searchable databases online, it’s all getting easier.

Let me add a word of warning though. Only a small proportion of parish registers are online. In fact, let me add two words of warning, not all parish registers have survived. So don't expect miracles and if you are expecting to find someone in the Dorset collection on Findmypast, for example, and they're not there, it doesn't mean they weren't in Dorset. Knowing the parish your ancestor is likely to have been in is still important, even if it is just to back up something you’ve found online. However, speculative searching can yield some great results so, without further ado, here are some great websites (some free, some fee-paying) that are worth visiting in your hunt for your family’s past.


10 free websites with great parish register collections... 

1. FamilySearch The biggest free online resource for family historians has a vast database of parish register entries. Most are transcriptions (including all of Wales), but there are also some images, notably Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Norfolk, Durham and Isle of Man.

2. FreeREG Although far from complete, this sister site to FreeBMD is growing at quite a rate and is definitely worth checking out.

3. Cornwall Online Parish ClerksI can’t mention all of the Online Parish Clerks websites or I’d go over my allotted ten websites, but Cornwall gets a special mention as being the original group that inspired this movement of volunteer transcribers. There’s an astonishing amount of material here. If you’ve got Cornish ancestors you’d be mad not to visit.

4. Dorset Online Parish Clerks Like its sister site in Cornwall, this OPC site is packed with over 1.6 million individual entries.

5. Lincs to the Past Not the easiest site to use, this council-run offering does at least have digital images of the actual registers. You will need to know the parish and date by searching FreeREG or FamilySearch first though.

6. Lancashire Online Parish Clerks Another great OPC site.

7. Essex Online Parish Clerks If you find an entry here, you can then track down the original register page at the Essex Ancestors website (for a fee).

8. Warwickshire Online Parish Clerks Almost 100 parishes are included.

9. Forest of Dean Family History Trust A great example of a small, regional resource with more than just parish register transcriptions.

10. Sheffield Indexers Transcriptions of dozens of registers, including nonconformist registers, for Sheffield.


10 fee-paying websites with great parish register collections

1. AncestryThis giant of the genealogy world is the first place you should check for London parish registers courtesy of its relationship with the London Metropolitan Archives. Also excellent for Surrey, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Birmingham, Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Manchester, Wigan and Liverpool with more records to come in 2015.

2. Findmypast Another major player, FMP hosts digitised registers for the parishes of Westminster, Canterbury, Devon, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, York, East Riding, North Yorkshire, Sheffield, Cheshire and Wales as well as transcriptions and indexes that have been created by family history societies across the UK.

3. TheGenealogist This subscription website has a variety of transcriptions and digitised books of parish register transcriptions done by antiquarians in the late 19th/early 20th century. Also holds the nonconformist registers.

4. ScotlandsPeople The best place to go for Scottish Old Parish Registers.

5. Essex Ancestors Run by the Essex Record Office, this site has images of virtually all its surviving registers. The entries aren’t indexed so search on first for parish and date and come here for images.

6. Norfolk Family History Society If you’re looking for Norfolk kin then join this society and make the most of its extensive online parish register transcriptions as well as all the other benefits of membership.

7. Durham Records Online Check out this site I you’ve got Durham ancestors and can’t find them on FamilySearch. It’s free to search but you have to pay to see the complete transcribed record. Prices start at £1.50.

8. Joiner Marriage Index Worth checking if you’ve got family you can’t find in Yorkshire or the North East.

9. Society of Genealogists membership of this society comes with the added benefit of access to a number of parish register transcriptions.

10. Parish Register Transcription Society One to watch, this society has a lot of parish register transcriptions available on CD and plans to start uploading them to its fee-paying website, starting with West Sussex parishes.

You can get more tips on tracking down online parish registers in our February issue, on sale from newsagents and supermarkets now or downloadable from iTunes, Zinio or Google Play!

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