Reference Centre, Dictionnaires

Dictionary of terms found in Church Records

7br, 8br, 9br, 10br

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A method used to record the month of an event found in some church registers and other documents. Based on the old Roman calendar that placed March as the first month of the year each of these terms relate to their Latin equivalent in terms of the number of the month. For instance, 7br refers to Septem or month number 7 occurring during the year. Counting March as the first month, month number 7 would be September under the old Roman calendar. Therefore, these peculiar looking dates, which can frequently be found in British and North American registers as well as in Roman Catholic registers, indicate the months as follows: 7br for septem or September; 8br for Octo or October (the eigth month); 9br for novem or November (the ninth month); 10br for decem or December (the 10th month). No Latin numerical equivalent exists for the remaining months of a year.


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Archdeacon's Transcripts

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Produced from 1558 until the 19th century, the Archdeacon's Transcripts were annual returns of baptisms, marriages and burials prepared from the parish register by a parish clerk and sent to the local archdeacon.  An Archdeacon's Transcript was generally dated from Michaelmas, i.e. 25 September, to Michaelmas eve of the next year.  Events are recorded in chronological order or in that order but separated into categories of baptisms, marriages and burials.  In a register that has been compiled using the Archdeacon's Transcripts many years may be missing and do not cover the period 1642/3-1660.    Bishop's Transcripts can sometimes contain greater or lesser information than what was recorded in the original parish register entry.  Consequently, it may be necessary to review parish registers, Bishops' and Archdeacons' Transcripts to obtain full information for any one particular entry.  Archdeacon's Transcripts are particularly useful when the original parish register has been lost or not otherwise available.  In local record offices, the Archdeacon's Transcripts may have been interfiled in chronological order with the Bishop's Transcripts pertaining to the same parish.


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Assistant Curate

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An Assistant Curate was nominated and paid by a Rector of a parish who was otherwise absent from that parish on a consistent basis.


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Banns

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A public notice usually given in church on three separate occasions that a man and woman are to be married.  Throughout England, after Hardwick's Marriage Act, 1753, a separate register for the purpose of recording the marriage banns was to be kept by each church.  In the registers were to be recorded the names of both parties to the intended marriage, their respective marital status and their respective parishes of residence along with the dates on which the banns were called.  Where marriage registers have not survived the banns registers may provide some vital information concerning an ancestor.  In some European countries banns were pronounced in front of the village town hall or tacked to the front door of the church.  In Roman Catholic countries these public declarations of banns were termed 'Denuntiationis' or 'Denuntiatum' meaning an implication, declaration or warning of an intended event, in the case of marriage, the declaration of an intended marriage.  In Ontario, couples could marry at any time between the fifth day after the last reading of the banns up to three months thereafter.


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Base born

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A low or illegitimate birth with no known paternity. See also 'spurious'.


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Benefice

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A church or ecclesiastical office that returns a revenue to its' holder.


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Bishop's Transcripts

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Produced from 1597 up to and throughout the 20th century the Bishop's Transcripts are annual return of baptisms, marriages and burials prepared from the parish register by a parish clerk and sent to the Bishop.  These transcripts are usually dated Lady Day, i.e. 25 March to Lady Day eve of following year.  The annual returns are generally arranged chronologically by category, i.e. baptisms, marriages, burials.  Registers that have been compiled from a series of Bishop's Transcripts will have some years missing due to loss and do not cover the period 1641-1660.    Bishop's Transcripts can sometimes contain greater or lesser information than what was recorded in the original parish register entry.  Consequently, it may be necessary to review parish registers, Bishops' and Archdeacons' Transcripts to obtain full information for any one particular entry.

Bishops' Transcripts of baptisms and burials prepared from 1 January 1813 are in conformity with Rose's Act and will include the additional information that was required to be recorded such as place of residence and, in particular, the age of a deceased who was buried in the parish.  The Bishop's Transcripts as of 1 July 1837 are in conformity with requirements of civil registration and really form the first record to be prepared concerning a marriage.  All of the information one would expect to obtain from a civil registration entry of a marriage will be included in the Bishop's Transcript copy of that same marriage.


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Canon Law

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The laws prescribed by a church body that govern its' ecclesiastical affairs.


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Chantry

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A chantry or chauntry was a small church, chapel or even a specific altar within a church or chapel. The chantry was endowed with land or other yearly revenue usually granted by way of bequest made in the Will of a parishioner. The grant of lands or revenues was made for the express purpose of providing maintenance for one or more priests to sing masses for the souls of the donor and for others as the donor so directed. Chantries were abolished by statutes passed, first, in 1545 (37 Hen. 8, c.4)and, finally, in 1547 (1 Edw 6, c.14). The lands and revenues of the chantries were given to the Crown at the time of their dissolution.


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Chapel

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A building, either adjoining the mother church (known as a 'lady chapel') or separate from it at a distance (known as a 'chapel of ease'). Chapels may be parochial and have a right to perform sacraments and burials as well as have a distinct minister. These types of chapels were still, in some respects, subject to the mother church. Parochial chapels and chapels of ease were found in various locales throughout a geographically large parish to serve parishioners that were unable to attend the mother church. A chapel of ease was used only for prayers and preaching while the sacraments and burials were performed at the mother church. The curate of a chapel of ease served only at the pleasure of the parochial minister and could be removed at any time.


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Corrody or Corody

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An allowance, especially of provisions for the maintenance or the right to receive those allowances, more specifically a sum of money or the provision of a house, chamber, meat, drink, clothing or other necessity of life paid by an abbey or religious house to a servant of the Crown at the King's request. A corrody should not be confused with a pension.


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Diocese

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A pre-defined geographical administrative district subject to the jurisdiction of a particular Bishop or Archbishop or other leading clergyman of another religion. Administrative districts were first created by the Rooman Emperor Diocletian from whose name the term Diocese was derived.


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Impropriator

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An Impropriator was a layman who, through some arrangement with a Bishop or Archbishop, was entitled to receive the the great and/or small tithes of a parish. Parishes which had an impropriator that received only the great tithes were able to appoint a Vicar to attend to the duties of the church. In the event that the impropriator of a parish received all tithes, both great and small, then a Perpetual Curate was appointed to the church post. A Perpetual Curate was eligible to be nominated as a Rural Dean.


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p.

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Found in church registers next to entries of christenings and burials. There is some debate in genealogical circles as to whether or not this entry signified that the subject of the entry was a pauper and unable to pay the taxes that were levied from time to time, or if the clergyman had already paid for and received a licence to perform the rites, with the 'p.' indicating payment already made. This secondary suggestion does not hold true for my experience. If, in fact, the 'p.' indicated tax or duty already paid then every entry in the affected year or month of a parish register should carry the notation. However, over many years of direct research in parish registers I have only seen the 'p.' notation used sporadically in any one year or month suggesting to me that the notation was only made in reference to certain individuals or families. In some instances, I have compared 'p.' notations with the payments recorded in Overseer's Accounts and in most instances, the subject or family of a 'p.' notation appearing in the parish register has received a payment from the parish coffers for parish support or maintenance of some description. While still not direct proof that 'p.' was used to represent a pauper, the evidence from the Overseer's Accounts does tend to lend weight to this theory.

See the full explanation of the "Pd." and "p." instances in our FAQ file.


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Parish Register

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Parish Registers are hand-written registers of baptisms, marriages, burials.  Entries may be in Latin up to 1730s;  some registers have been badly damaged over time, pages torn, faded or lost completely.  Parish Registers came into being in England during 1538 after Thomas Cromwell, as King Henry the Eighth's Viceregent for Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, delivered an injunction to the churches to keep registers in a good and proper order.  The order was repeated during the reigns of Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth.  Entries of all events were to be made in the register once per week following Sunday services.

Throughout history, various ecclesiastical canons and civil laws dictated the manner in which entries were to be made in the parish registers.  In 1603 new Canons of the Church of England came into force and specified the manner in which entries in the parish registers were to be made.  From 1653 up to 1660 birth and death registers were ordered to be kept by civil officers charging 1 shilling fee for each entry.  Many of these "civil" registers no longer survive.  However, a fair number of Church of England vicars had been appointed to that post and entries for that period may be found in the old parish registers.  As of 1654 up until 1660 marriages were to be performed by Justices of the Peace only but many parishoners continued to be married by clergy clandestinely.  Again, many of these special civil marriage registers have not survived but many marriages were also recorded in parish registers as in the case of baptisms and burials.  Some marriages were also entered into parish registers following the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.  During 1694 and 1783 taxes were levied on entries that were to made in the registers.  Those who could not afford the levy often delayed baptism of children and marriage.

From 1538 up to 31 December 1812 baptisms include the name of child or adult and date of baptism;  early registers may not record either parents' names or simply not include the mothers' names;  some registers included father's occupation.  Marriage entries 1538 up to and including 31 December 1753 were generally limited to the recordal of the names of bride and groom and a notation if marriage took place by banns or licence - if by licence, sometimes an indication was given as to which office issued the licence.

As of 1 January, 1754 the provisions contained in Lord Hardwicke's Act for the better preventing of clandestine marriages (1753) came into effect.  Pursuant to that Act it was then determined that every marriage was to be registered and the entry to be attested and signed by the officiating Minister, the parties married and two or more witnesses.  In order to make the process of record-keeping somewhat more streamlined two new registers came into being - the Marriage Banns Books and the Marriage Book.  Some clergy, however, continued to record the marriage event in the primary parish register.

Burials 1538 through 31 December 1812 can range from vague entries such as "Goodwife Hardy buried on....", to entries that include full name, occupation, age and residence at death.  Baptisms 1813 onward include names of both parents, residence and occupation of father  Burials 1813 onward include full name of deceased, residence, age and in the case of burials of children may include the names of one or both parents.


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Parish Register Extracts

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Parish Register Extracts were prepared by an individual who was researching a particular surname or group of surnames.  Extracts can range from being broad-based so as to include all of the surname entries found in many registers within a certain geographic area, to being very narrow in focus with entries in the extract having been transcribed from one register only.  As an example, my own lineage interests in the county of Kent led me to prepare both types of extracts during my early years of research.  For all 17 of the surnames that centre in Faversham, all events involving those surnames were extracted from the Faversham registers.  Some of those 17 surnames, plus the addition of many others, spread throughout east Kent and became increasingly difficult to trace.  For those latter surnames, extracts were taken from many parishes registers, e.g. Ruck(e) from 219 registers, Andrews and Austin from 185 registers.

Extracts have also been prepared by individuals who were preparing research for other purposes such as preparing a compendium of the notable, famous or infamous in any given place.  Extracts will make reference to surnames outside the criteria by which the extract was prepared in order to record the names of witnesses to marriages and/or christenings.  In most instances, one will not know the surnames that had been extracted for a particular collection unless the surnames have been stated in it's description in a catalogue.  Extracts can be quite helpful as a finding aid IF the surnames extracted match your research AND cover a large number of parishes.


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Parish Register Transcripts

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Parish register transcripts are generally typescripts made by an individual of an original register.  The individual may have been highly knowledgeable and amply qualified to prepare such a transcript.  Today, many individuals who do not have sufficient experience or knowledge, but who are eager to be of aid to fellow researchers, are also tackling transcripts of parish registers.  Any transcript should be an exact verbatim replica of the original register.  Many transcripts, however, are not.  The most reliable transcripts have been prepared by County Record societies, Parish Register societies, archaeological societies and family history societies.  Some of the early transcripts that were prepared by these societies have still not been published but may be available for consultation at the library of the society in question.  By and large, transcripts are a fairly reliable source from which to work if the original parish register is not immediately available.  Just remember, though, when using any transcript that you are relying upon the transcriptionist's ability to concentrate and to not miss any entries or shorthand notations as well as relying on their skill in reading the difficult and sometimes indecipherable script.


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Perpetual Curate

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If all tithes, both great and small, were granted to an impropriator, then a Perpetual Curate was appointed by the Impropriator to the parish to perform the duties of the clergy.


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Rector

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The Rector of a parish had to be appointed to his post by a the patron of the parish and eventually he, the Rector, was also eligible for nomination as a Rural Dean. It was possible for the Rector to have been a layman or even a corporation. The Rector received both the great tithes and the small tithes made by the parishioners in his parish. The great tithes consisted of ten percent of all corn, hay and wood while the small tithes consisted of ten percent of all other items in the parish.


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Rural Dean

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A priest holding the first rank among the clergy of a district outside of a cathedral city. In other words, a Rural Dean could be an Archdeacon or other member of the clergy. The Rural Dean was the Bishop's deputy but inferior in status to the Bishop.


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Spurious

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Spurious is defined, in part, as something that does not have the source, origin or author claimed for it. Spurious also signifies an illegitimate child stemming from the Latin word 'spurius' with the added English 'ous'. It is not known if the clergy used the word spurious to signify an illegitimate child whose mother had claimed that a particular man was the father, or simply to signify that the child was illegitimate, based solely on the Latin translation. See also 'base born'.


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Terrier

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A register or survey of lands setting out the tenures and boundaries. Terriers of the church lands in every parish have, from time to time, been made pursuant to Canon 87 of 1603. When coming from proper custody, such as the registry of the bishop or the archdeacon or the chest in the parish church, they are evidence of the facts properly stated in them.


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Vicar

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The clergyman of a parish was referred to as a Vicar if there was also an impropriator entitled to receive the great tithes of the parish. The Vicar was entitled to collect only the small tithes of the parish as his stipend for clerical duties performed. The Vicar was generally appointed to his post by the parish Patron but he could also be appointed by the parish impropriator. A Vicar was eligible to be nominated as a Rural Dean.


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Visitation

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Ecclesiastical visitations were periodic inspections made by a Bishop or Archdeacon in the countryside of his jurisdiction.  Many matters, both spiritual and temporal, were brought before the visiting clergy for review.  Bishops generally conducted visits during the first year of their office and every 3 to 4 years thereafter.  They did not physically visit every parish but set up reviews in parishes central to several parishes.

It was at the visitation that the behaviour and conduct of local clergy, churchwardens, overseers and other church officials as well as the immorality of parishoners would be reviewed;  absences from church by parishioners;  the situation concerning nonconformists in a parish;  puritanical practices;  matters dealing with the condition and repair of the church, churchyard, furniture, fittings, fabrics, the glebe;  licensing matters of schoolmasters, surgeons and midwives;  a review of church rites performed since the time of the last visitation;  and so on.  Many separate records were prepared as a consequence of a visitation both prior to and following the visitation and are deposited in ecclesiastical archives.  One of the records prepared was the Bishop's Transcript [q.v.] or Archdeacon's Transcript [q.v.] of baptisms, marriages and burials that had taken place in the parish since the time of the last visitation.

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