Parish Registers

The records of baptisms, marriages and burials were kept by some parishes from 1538 and by the majority from 1558. They are a key source for family history. The data they contain and the format in which it is recorded vary over time.  It should be noted that baptisms took place days, weeks or even years after the date of birth, and burials usually several days after the date of death. Though the keeping of registers began in 1538 they survive back to that date in relatively few parishes. In early registers, the detail may vary depending on the incumbent or clerk who kept the them, and some external influences, particularly the Civil War, have resulted in gaps.

In 1754, a standard printed format was introduced for marriage registers which ensured that the name and parish of both parties, their status, whether the marriage was by licence or after banns, the date of the ceremony, and the signatures or marks of the couple were recorded.

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Standard forms were introduced for baptisms and burials in 1812. For baptisms, the full names of the child and parents, their place of residence (abode) and profession were recorded. The registers generally start to list occupations from 1813 onwards. From 1837 the names of the fathers of the married couple were also given.  

The registers are less complete for the post 1837 period, as register offices and nonconformist chapels were used more often for marriages and municipal cemeteries for burials.

Listings of the registers and their covering dates can be found under the first section of the parish catalogues. 

All parishes in Cornwall have deposited most of their parish registers at Cornwall Record Office (see the online catalogue or the indexes at the Record Office. To find the collection for a particular parish church online, enter Ladock parish church, for example, in the 'AnyText' box and then click on the result for the whole parish collection, with a reference such as P103). Most registers are now produced in microfiche form only.

Copies of parish register microfiches are available at service points around Cornwall (see Records elsewhere) and data from many parish registers is now available through the Cornwall Family History Society and the network of Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. Some register fiches for south east Cornwall and Tamar Valley parishes are also held at Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.