The parish registers from Eversholt, Bedfordshire, are published for the period 1602-1812. They seem mostly complete.

They contain records of 2074 burials, 2792 baptisms and 571 marriages.

I can understand the low number of marriages - one marriage for two baptisms, plus many people died while still children, before having an opportunity to marry. But why are there more baptisms than burials?

A chart of the numbers in each 5-year interval over this period shows that baptisms exceeded burials in 34 of the 43 intervals. One period with low baptisms registered was around 1650, during the commonwealth, when the church was in some chaos. The other with low baptisms was around 1735, when there is some evidence that the parish rector was in jail.

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The parish population is not known to have changed substantially during this time. It was 715 in 1801. The parish is rural and agriculture was the major employment.

  • What factors might lead more baptisms to be registered than burials over a 200 year period? Was the parish exporting excess population?

  • Is this a common feature of many parishes?

Update: There does seem to be a gender bias. Guessing from the given names,

  • 1438 males and 1350 females were baptised. (4 unknown.)
  • 1045 females and 994 males were buried. (35 unknown.)

This would suggest that the parish might have been exporting excess males.

I note Completeness of Old Parish Registers in the 1700s and have looked at The Parish Registers of England, by John Charles Cox, Methuen, 1910 and The parish registers and records in the diocese of Rochester : a summary of information collected by the Ecclesiatical Records Committee of the Rochester Diocesan Conference, W E Buckland, Kent Archaeological Society, 1912 but find no solution. I considered posting this at https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/ but tried here first.

  • 5
    Some thoughts a) there were very few wars fought in England, but the British fought a lot of war on sea and in Europe, b) emigration to cities (I remember some youtube video about cities before the 19th century having, due to sanitation problems, negative natural growth rate, that was offset only by immigration) c) emigraton to America & British Empire.
    – SJuan76
    Jul 20, 2017 at 12:09
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    Because the population was increasing?
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 20, 2017 at 13:26
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    Emigration from the parish seems a possibility, given the gender bias I now note above. Population increase can't account for the discrepancy, since there are 718 excess baptisms and the population didn't change much - certainly by less than 200.
    – emrys57
    Jul 20, 2017 at 13:27
  • England's population nearly doubled in the time period you're considering, in spite of net emigration towards the colonies. Jul 20, 2017 at 13:38
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    If the country poulation doubled but the parish poulation grew only slightly, then, combined with the gender bias observed, it seems very likely that the parish was exporting excess population. If someone cares to write that more clearly as an answer, then I'll give it a tick. Thanks!
    – emrys57
    Jul 20, 2017 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


I have seen similar patterns in other parishes where I've been researching my own ancestors. A number of factors were at play, and it is difficult to be specific for a particular parish, however, the most likely reasons for Eversholt appear to be:

  1. There was a huge migration of population from rural areas to urban areas over that period. A series of Enclosure Acts, passed by Parliament and the Agrarian Revolution meant that many people were effectively driven from rural parishes to urban centres.
  2. From 1682, the Toleration Act, allowed (Protestant) dissenters to worship in their own chapels and meeting houses, provided they had been licensed by Justices of the Peace. The effect of this was that many people were baptised by the Church of England, but buried by other denominations. These people wouldn't appear in the CofE parish registers. I noticed that there is a Methodist chapel at Wits End in Eversholt. There are, presumably, other non-conformist places of worship, with associated burial grounds, in the vicinity

It's also worth observing that during the Commonwealth period (1649 - 1660) the parish registers were actually the personal property of a parish official (named, confusingly, the Parish Register). The records were often poorly kept, and many were simply removed by the Parish Register when his term in office ended.

When I was at school, the "received wisdom" was that people in the past didn't move far from where they were born. It seems we were misinformed. My personal experience is that my ancestors don't seem to have stayed in one place for more than a couple of generations!

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    It's certainly true that Eversholt was a hotbed of fissiparous nonconformism. The cemeteries were inconveniently distant; there are none in the village. And nonconformism would not, I guess, cause a gender imbalance. It is true that nearly everyone who married in Eversholt in 18xx married someone from nearby, the census shows it. But that does not imply that people from Eversholt didn't move to the cities. Exporting excess population is my favourite. Thanks for the great ideas!
    – emrys57
    Jul 21, 2017 at 8:18

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