In England, local churches were required to keep registers of all baptisms, marriages and burials. Are there any studies that show how complete these records generally were, in particular in relation to the 1700s.


2 Answers 2


I don't know about a full-fledged academic study, but there is a very detailed book about the parish records, published in 1910, The Parish Registers of England by J. Charles Cox. The entire book is in the public domain and may be found online at archive.org. It discusses some of the circumstances that may have led to gaps in the records.

In 1694 taxes were imposed on marriages, births, burials, bachelors, and widowers. Tax collectors read the registers to find out about these events, and there was a £100 penalty on ministers for neglect to register. So this would have been an incentive to get it right!

In 1695 there was a fine of 40s. on parents who neglected giving notice to the minister after a birth, and ministers were to be fined the same if they did not keep a reference of those born and not christened. But Cox says that this particular registration was "for the most part neglected," and an Act of Immunity was passed in 1706 to avoid impoverishing the clergy.

The Stamp Act of 1783 required a 3d. duty for every register entry, and Cox says it "was a direct inducement to defective registration."

Cox also writes,

"It is by no means unusual to find gaps and irregularities in the continuity of registers at times other than the great Civil War, to which attention has already been called at some length. The following entry accounts for one of these breaks.

"At the archidiaconal visitation at Northampton, on 10th October 1577, it was presented that the vicar of St. Sepulchre's

"'will not kepe the booke of christenyngs weddings and buryenges because the church wardens will not bringe the names of them that be christened wedded and buried and because they will not bringe him the booke and putt it unto his hands.'

"The archdeacon ordered the vicars to duly keep the register for the future. A reference to St. Sepulchre's registers shows a gap from 1574 to 1577."

I don't feel qualified to estimate how complete the records were in any authoritative sense, but I think Cox's book does give some insight into the completeness or lack thereof. In addition, it includes a lot of interesting entries from the registers. Perhaps this will help somewhat until someone shows up with further information.


This is a certainly tricky question, however their have being many studies of the baptisms,marriages,deaths for one The east lake church history: http://www.eastleake-history.org.uk/church-records.html

This may help, as bill one of the priests donated 20 years discovering the truths of the church he has discovered before the 1700 and all the way to the year 1901.

  • This doesn't answer the question at all. Jul 29, 2012 at 9:30
  • Ok you should try
    – Luke
    Jul 29, 2012 at 12:19
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    No actually. This isn't Yahoo Answers where it's ok to just throw ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Here that kind of extra noise degrades the site. That's why it gets ignored or downvoted. Jul 30, 2012 at 16:00
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    well, Luke has at least contributed something vaguely in the ballpark which is more than I have had from others and I appreciate that. I'm not sure I get the bit about "yahoo answers" - they are quite a successful site, after all. Perhaps this site could learn from it? Jul 31, 2012 at 22:18
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    Thank you I will try and answer better next time :) also sry for having at 'nag' at u sevensideddice it's just I try to answer something and it either answers well but some does better or I'm way off task however theirs always gonna be people better than me in this case a lot of people :)
    – Luke
    Jul 31, 2012 at 23:42

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