Reference Centre, Genealogy 101

Quick Reference Charts - R E C O R D S


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What is it? The period of time for which a learner of a craft or trade was bound to an employer who was sometimes referred to as a master.  The terms of the apprenticeship were dictated by the individual craft or trade guild to which the learner had applied.  Formal documentation of the apprenticeship does exist for some occupations in some countries.  Some areas also required a tax to be paid upon entering into an apprenticeship.  It is usually the books of taxation that continue to exist today. 

Apprenticeship documents will provide the name of the apprentice, the craft or trade to which he or she is to undertake, the length of time of the apprenticeship and the name of the employer.  Rules of conduct of the apprentice and the benefits to be enjoyed by the apprentice may also be included.  In some documents, particularly if the apprentice was not of full age, the name of one or both parents of the apprentice and his or her place of residence will also be included.

In England the Overseers of the Poor in each parish were responsible for apprenticing orphans and children of paupers within that parish.

Where can I find it? Public national or provincial/county archives, record offices and at some designated libraries and university libraries.  Some records in England may be found at parish, local and borough archives.  Some records are available through the LDS FHL.

In England taxation books and records can be found at the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office), Kew, Surrey.

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Archaelogical Societies

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What are they?  Archaelogical societies are generally county, provincial or state-wide in organization and scope.

These societies are concerned with the recordal and publication of material relating to sites and facts of historical importance and interest through quarterly, semi-annual or annual journals.  Although most societies are concerned with ancient history, many societies also publish research material on families of the recent past as well as transcripts of church registers, other historical document classes and monumental inscriptions found in cemeteries and in churches, usually under the "Transactions" designation.

Where can I find it?  Public national or provincial/county archives and at some libraries and university libraries.   Some records are available through the LDS FHL. Some societies are now publishing portions of their past journals on-line.

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Bibliographies are a list of published books and journals as well as of unpublished papers which relate or have references to a specific subject or author.  Bibliographies can be broadly based such as bibliographies that pertain in general terms to researching one's ancestry.  Bibliographies can also be very narrow in scope such as the entries found in The Genealogist's Guide or the Periodical Source Index for a particular surname.  Bibliographies can also relate to a particular subject such as beer brewing and/or the ale industry in general.

In structure, bibliographies will include sufficient publication information about each entry to enable one to contact the publisher directly or requisition a book through a library or bookstore.  The bibliography will cite the name of the author of the book, the book's edition number, volume number if the original work was published in as a series, and the page number on which the subject matter is discussed.

Most reference, public and university libraries have a selection of bibliographies. Bibliographies will also be found in published reference books at the end of the text.

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A biography is the written life of a person.  Generally, biographies have been written about most people who have achieved distinction in some field - sports, occupational, political, entertainment - throughout history.  Biographies can be complied on the basis of a common denominator such as those dealing only with actors in the movies or in theatre, or they can range across all spectrums on a national level.

Noted biographical collections include the Dictionary of National Biography (published for British, Canadian and American citizens separately), Who's Who, Who Was Who, Who Was Who in History, et cetera.

Most reference, public and university libraries have a selection of biographies.  Some biographical collections are also available through the LDS FHL.

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Burgess Rolls

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An alphabetical list, by surname, of the male inhabitants of a town, village, borough, et cetera who are free and own land, houses or other buildings within that place.  The burgess rolls were compiled annually for determining those individuals who were entitled to vote for local representatives, or at other specific intervals for various purposes. The list usually includes the address, or other description, of the property by which the freeman has his tenure as a burgess.

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Cemetery records

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The records that are required to be maintained by public cemeteries encompass an array of individual and different documents and registers:

1)  registers of plot owners that record the names of the individuals who purchased the plot, the price paid and the date on which the plot was purchased;

2)  a burial register that records the persons buried in a particular cemetery plot along with the dates of death and burial - the burial register or companion register may also record the place of birth of the person interred as well as the names of his or her parents;

3)  a cemetery plan or map showing the location of individual plots;  and,

4) a next-of-kin recording the names and addresses of the persons currently responsible for the cemetery plot.

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Governmental legistation requiring the recordal of all persons and or institutions within a specific geographic area, either country-wide, county-wide and, in some instances, of a city, town or other smaller geographical division.  Census are generally taken on one specific day in a calendar year with all information that is recorded reflecting the circumstances that existed at that time.

Typically, census records the names of all persons living within each household of a specific geographic area.  The information concerning each person that is required to be recorded can vary widely from place to place and from time period to time period.

Informative census returns will include full name of each person in the household, ages, relationships to the head of the household, occupations, marital status and place of birth.

Throughout Great Britain census was conducted on a country-wide basis.  Current (past 100 years) census returns are closed to search pursuant to privacy legistation.

Throughout Canada the census was conducted on a country-wide basis.  Current (past 92 years) census returns are maintained by Statistics Canada and are closed to search pursuant to privacy legistation. Similar circumstances exist for census returns throughout the U.S.A.  However, only the past 72 years of census returns are closed to public search.  See also Census Quick Reference charts on this site.

Historical English and Welsh census can be obtained from the National Archives at Kew, Surrey.  Scottish census can be obtained from the Register General for Scotland in Edinburgh, and so on.  Historical census returns may be deposited at a national, provincial, county or state archive or record office.  Historical census returns can also be found at designated libraries, including the LDS FHL.  Most British and North America census are now either freely available as transcripts online (see our Census Quick Reference Charts for England, Wales, and Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the U.S.A.) or are available on commercial subscription websites.

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Change of Name

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A change of name can only be effected, legally, in Canada and the U.S.A. through an application to the courts in the province or State of residence.  Affidavits are required by the person desiring to change his or her name, as well as by several witnesses that can attest that the change of name will do no injury to another party.  Publication of the intended change of name must also be made in local newspapers, unless otherwise dispensed with by the court.  Lastly, a Court Order will made to formally effect the change of name.

In Britain, there is no law to prevent one from changing his or her name.  A change of name is simply effected by using the new name that is chosen.  In order to establish legal proof of the new identity, however, a Deed Poll is required to be filed with the Supreme Court in London.  An index was been published during 1905 by W. P. W. Phillimore and E.A. Fry to changes of name that were effected from 1760 to 1901.  Many large reference libraries on both sides of the Atlantic have the index in their collections:  An Index to Changes of Name under authority of act of Parliament or Royal license, and including irregular changes from I George III to 64 Victoria, 1760 to 1901, published in 1905. This book is now also available on the Internet Archive.

British changes of name were, and still are, advertised in The Gazette, the official newspaper for all notices of a legal nature. The Gazette is now published online and can be searched and viewed free of charge.

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Church records

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A vast array of registers and documents are referred to as church records and their individual titles tend to vary from religion to religion.  The most familiar, of course, are the registers of baptism, marriage, marriage banns, and burials.

In Quaker and Baptist sects do not maintain baptism and burial registers. Instead those are replaced by registers of births and deaths for the members of their congregations.  Quakers also have monthly, quarterly and yearly summaries of all births, marriages and deaths that occurred in their respective meetings.

Also included among church records are the records for payments made in order to maintain and/or furnish the church, the clergy, and the parishioners.  There are also minutes of church body meetings to be found, known variously as Vestry minutes, Kirk Sessions (Scotland), or simply known as minutes of meetings.  Membership rolls, pew rent rolls, confirmation rolls, attendance rolls, parish magazines or digest and trust agreements can also be found concerning any one particular church.

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Citation Index

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A citation is a quotation of a passage, book or author previously published in support of a particular conclusion being reported in a current work. Citations commonly appear throughout a book as footnotes or at the end of the text as endnotes.  A citation specifies the name of the previous author, his or her subject matter and the book or journal in which the cited author's work appeared.

A Citation Index is a compiled list of citations found in all of the articles and books that had been published in a specific field over a given time period arranged in alphabetical order of author and subject matter.  Citation Indexes have been compiled for Science, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.

Because each entry in a Citation Index links to a previously published work a modern researcher or author can have access to information that may have been drawn from a very old source by an historical author.  For example, in the book Life on the English Manor, a study of peasant conditions 1150-1400, H. S. Bennett, F.B.A., chapter XI, page 309 discusses the case of John Rogers an absentee from a manor who was brought before the manorical court in 1437.  H. S. Bennett includes several citations referring to various records that state the dwelling places of absentees:  Tooting Bec Rolls, 235;  Hales Rolls, 230;  Ramsey Cartulary III, 252, 257;  Ingoldmells Rolls, 38, 104;  Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous II, 34, 473;  Econ. Documents (Tawney), 72 and Banstead [Surrey], 149 where a serf tells of his four sons and two daughters. "John who is a carpenter, and is engaged, and his fiancee dwells at Southwark;  the second is called John, and is a butcher and dwells at Bletchingly;  the third is called William, and he knows not where he dwells;  the fourth is called Richard and dwells at Handon in Hedenhall and sells timber boards.  Joan is married to G. Taylor and dwells at Claydon, and the other daughter, Emma, is married to R. Halcote and dwells in Bletchingly."

Most reference, public and university libraries have a selection of Citation Indexes.  Some are also available through the LDS FHL.

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Citizenship records

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This group of records refers strictly to the documentation that is required to be filed or produced by a foreigner after his or her arrival in a foreign country and does not include passenger list, arrival or landing records, et cetera.  Citizenship records include the following:

  • Declaration of Intentions to become a citizen (Canada and U.S.A.);

  • Letters Patent of Denization (Britain);

  • Act of Parliament (Britain)

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Civil Registration

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Governmental legislation requiring the registration of all births, marriages and deaths of all citizens within a specific geographic area, either country-wide, county-wide and, in some instances, of a city, town or other similar geographic division.  Certificates of births, marriages and deaths are typically issued in several formats upon the immediate registration of the event ;but can also be ordered at a later time.  All events record the name of the person concerned and the date and place of the event.  Additional information will also be recorded.

Typically, birth certificates include the names of both parents including the mother's maiden surname.  They may also include the occupation of the father and the residence address.

Typically, marriage certificates will include the names of one or both parents of the bride and groom.  Occupations, ages and residence addresses of the bride and groom and their parents may also be included.

Typically, death certificates include age at death, last place of residence and the name and address of a witness.   Some death certificates include date and place of birth of the deceased as well as the name of his or her parents.  Information on death certificates varies widely from place to place.  Death certificates also tend to be more informative the more recently issued they are.

Most civil registration events can be accessed through an index of events.  Indexes can range from alphabetical by surname for a specific period of time, such as for one year, a particular span of years or by smaller increments of time, such as a quarter of one year or by month.  Indexes and certificates in some countries are protected after a certain year by privacy statutes and cannot be viewed or obtained except under certain circumstances.  See also Civil Registration Quick Reference Charts on this site.

Government registration offices.

Throughout Great Britain registration is on a country-wide basis.  English and Welsh certificate can be obtained from the Office of National Statistics in London.  Scottish certificate can be obtained from the Register General for Scotland in Edinburgh, and so on.

Throughout Canada registration is on a provincial basis.  Therefore, certificates must be obtained from the provincial Registrar General or from a provincial Department of Health.  Similar circumstances exist for registrations throughout the U.S.A.

Historical certificates and indices may be deposited at a national, provincial, county or state archive or record office.

Indexes to civil registration events can be found at the government office, and at designated libraries, including the LDS FHL.  Some indexes are being published on-line.

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Company records

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Company records are not particularly helpful to a strictly genealogical search but can be useful if one is constructing a biography or posthumous curriculum vitae of an ancestor's career.  The type and extent of company records that are maintained differ from country-to-country.  The ability to access current or historical company records also differs from country-to-country.

Generally, there will be two categories of company records to consider.  In the first category are those records that were required to be filed with governmental agencies such as incorporation, business name registrations, elections of officers and directors of the company, as well as annual statements of a company's activities both fiscally and corporately, such as changes in officers, directors and shareholders.

In the second category there will be those records that are generated by a company during its' day-to-day operation, which among other papers, includes personnel files.  Personnel files are generally not required to be kept for more than 20 years beyond an employee's termination of employment.  Exceptions to this can, of course, be found particularly amongst companies that have maintained an historical archive of its' operations.  In this category will also be found any applications for special licences that were pursued by the company to enable it to perform its' business functions.  For example, a construction company required special licences to permit it to carry on that type of business as well as licences and permits required to proceed with a specific construction project.

In both categories of company papers one can expect to find elections or nominations that appoint individuals to various offices within the company.  Those types of documents will include full names, the then current residence addresses, extent of shareholdings within the company and may include occupation if the person was not directly employed by the company.  Incorporation or other business start-up documentation will include a statement concerning the principals of the business and may include relationships to other officers, directors or shareholders of the company, as well as an indication of where company offices may be located.

In Canada and the U.S.A. companies can be incorporated on either the provincial or state level as well as on the federal level.  In either country you will have to first approach the appropriate regulatory agency to see if the company is still in operation.  If the company is in operation you may find that you will have to prepare a formal request for documentation through a "certified" companies' search agency.  Regulations on the extent of historical material as well as for the release of that and current material vary widely from place to place.

If the company is still in operation you may wish to attempt canvassing the current directorship or Secretary of the company to see if the company would be willing to permit you to examine it's past books.  Shareholders of a company are generally permitted free access during normal business hours to examine the current books of a company.

In the cases, of dissolved historical companies, in both Canada and the U.S.A. there is no legislation that exists that requires the deposit or otherwise safekeeping of company documentation beyond the requirements of the respective Income Tax legislations.  However, some companies may have taken it upon themselves to have their records deposited with a local university, public library or provincial, state or federal archives office.

In England and Wales company records have been maintained by the Department of Trade and Industry since the 1850s.  You should read the information leaflet available from The National Archives titled Registration of Companies and Businesses in order to gain a sense of the scope of records available and their access points.  You should also do a search of the PROCAT catalogue at the National Archives.  The former Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (now merged with the former Public Record Office) had maintained an index of the surviving records of some 12,000 companies that had operated between 1760 to 1914.

Surviving records of Scottish companies can be found at Companies House in Edinburgh or through The Business Archives Council of Scotland at Glasgow University.

Records of companies in Ireland were required to be maintained at the Companies Registration Office in Belfast, Northern Ireland and at the Public Record Office for the Republic of Eire in Dublin.

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Coroners' records

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Coroners' inquests are held only if there is some unknown or unusual aspect surrounding the death of an individual - such as the cause or mode of death, and, in some cases, the lack of a body.  Coroners' records include the post mortem report, affidavits by witnesses, transcripts of testimony of witnesses and professional individuals - doctors, police, et cetera, the writs sued out to call an inquest and to require the attendance of certain individuals at the inquest, physician's reports, other exhibits that may accompanying testimony of a witness or be used to illustrate the events concerning the mode, time and place of death of a deceased individual.  In Britain, coroners' records are considered to be the private property of the coroner and therefor, are quite often destroyed when the bulk of the coroner's other business and personel records are destroyed.  Many do survive though but it is best to seek details of the inquest from a newspaper contemporaneous to the time of the deceased's demise.

Coroners' records in Canada and the U.S.A. are public records but are subject to closure rules in accordance with any Privacy Statute that may be in force from time to time in a particular province or State.  Some of the coroners' records may have been filed with probate court documentation in order to justify the granting of Letters Patent or Letters of Administration.

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County Histories

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County histories can be found that relate to most provinces and states in North America and to most counties in England.  However, those of Canada and the U.S.A. do not follow a standard format as is the case of the county histories pertaining to England's counties.

County histories in Ontario, for instance, were prepared for the country's Centennial celebration during 1967 and typically contain information concerning the first settlers of that county, notable topographical, geological, and architectural features found throughout the county.  The depth of information concerning any one topic varies widely from county-to-county.  Additional Ontario county histories were prepared by numerous Women's Institute members and are known by the name of Tweedsmuir Histories.  These particular histories are more of a collection of genealogical and biographical information of many families in a particular county.

County histories were prepared for many counties in various States throughout the U.S.A..  Information varies widely from history-to-history.

The Victoria History of the Counties of England were first produced during 1899 following original research in many sources by various contributors.  The topics covered for each county are fairly consistent and range in time period from Saxon times to then current information.  As can be expected from the depth of information included, each county is dealt with in multiple volumes.  The first volume typically contains information of the pre-history of the county, together with the ecclesiastical and economic history thereof.  Subsequent volumes tend to contain in-depth descriptions of each city, town and village in that county including, usually, mention of the notable, famous or infamous inhabitants, houses, farms and estates.  Maps, plans and illustrations of every nature are plentiful throughout the volumes.  Not all counties are yet completed.

County histories concerning Canadian and American counties can be found at public and university libraries.  These can also be found at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C..  The Family History Library at Salt Lake City, Utah has copies of most published county histories and many are available via loan on microfilm or microfiche to Family History Centres worldwide.

The Victoria County Histories can be found in various public and university libraries throughout the United Kingdom.  Original volumes currently in print can be purchased from Oxford University Press in Oxford, England.  Some of the older volumes are available for free download from the Internet Archive.  The Family History Library at Salt Lake City, Utah has copies of most published county histories and many are available via loan to Family History Centres worldwide.

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Estate records

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Do not confuse Estate records with the records of a landed estate that are used to record the day-to-day management of the affairs of a person, organization or other entity.  For these latter types of records see Land records section below.

Estate records are the documents that are required by a court in order to permit the full and proper administration or probate of the estate of a deceased person.  Among these records are:

  • the Will,

  • Letters Probate - signifying that a person died testate, that is with a Will having been drawn,

  • Letters of Administration - signifying that a person died intestate, that is without a Will having been drawn,

  • Letters of Administration with Will Annexed - signifying that a person died testate but that the original Executor(s) named in the Will were unable to act in carrying out the probate of the estate,

  • an Inventory of the personal moveable and immoveable assets of the deceased,

  • Nominations of Executors - used if two or more Executors were named in the Will but only those additional Executors are unable or unwilling to act in that capacity,

  • Appointment of Administrator - used if all Executors named in the Will are unable or unwilling to act and it becomes necessary to appoint a third party to act on the administration of the goods of the deceased,

  • Appointment of a Guardian, in England referred to as Curation and/or Tuition Bonds - used if the last remaining parent of an underaged child has died to appoint a person to see to the care and control of the child(ren),

  • Release of Executor/Administrator - signed by a person who receives a bequest that was stipulated in a Will, to release the Executor/Administrator from any further obligation to that person,

  • Executor/Administrators Accounts - accounts prepared that details the payments made out of the proceeds of the deceased person's estate as well as the receipts from debtors of the deceased person. These accounts can include the location of the cemetery at which the deceased was buried as well as the name of the funeral director retained for the burial service.

  • Affidavits of Beneficiaries - documents prepared and sworn to by the various beneficiaries of a Will, stating their name, place of residence and relationship to the deceased.

Historical estate records, with court docket indices, may be deposited at a national, provincial, county or state archives or record offices.  Some are also available through the LDS FHL.

Current estate records will be held at the appropriate court office.  In Ontario those courts are called the Superior Court (Surrogate Division). In other provinces and in some U.S.A. states they are known simply as County Surrogate Courts or Courts of the Prothonotary.

In England current Estate records are filed with the various District Probate Registeries and with the Principal Probate Registry.

In most cases, indexes to the various current and historical probate case files have been prepared and are open to public search.

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Family History Centres

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Approximately 3,000 small research libraries established throughout the world by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints through which one can research their ancestry.  Researchers can requisition microfilm and microfiche research material via an online account from the Family History Library at Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.. All microfilms and microfiche must be viewed at a Family History Centre so you will be prompted, when setting up your online account, to select an FHC that is closest to you.  Each Family History Centre also has a certain amount of basic research material already on-site.  See FHC Table of In-House Resources also on this website.

No charge is made for use of the facility but a small rental charge is made for each microfilm and microfiche resource ordered. You will be required to pay for the rental fees with a valid credit card at the time you place your order online.  Each centre may also levy a small charge for photocopying or computer printouts to copy research material.  Hours are minimal and each centre is staffed by volunteer church members who may or may not be well versed in the methods of genealogical research. Again, I would emphasize that all research materials and resources must viewed at a Family History Centre.

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Finding Aids

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Any published or unpublished list of resources that can be used for easier access to research material for one's ancestry.  Indexes of any group of documents, such as a census index or an index of newspaper announcements, are classified as finding aids.  Library and record office catalogues are a type of finding aid.  Record Office catalogues list the name of a particular group of records and provide a location call number for that record group.

NIDS (National Inventory of Documentary Sources, published by Chadwyck-Healey and largely available through the LDS FHL and most university and major public libraries) is a finding aid.  NIDS is primarily published on a county/state basis and provides a synposis of each document within a particular record group that has been deposited at a county/state archive or record office.  NIDS entries also include the record office call number of the document and the date or place at which the document was originally created.

Union Catalogues of holdings of various universities are also finding aids.  The National Union Catalogue (NUC) lists the holdings of most university libraries throughout the U.S.A..  These holdings may or may not be searchable on a particular university's on-line catalogue. The National Union Catalogue Manuscript Collection (NUCMCC) details the holdings of manuscript collections only of most university libraries throughout the U.S.A.  The Index to NUC and Index to NUCMCC lists the same information but also arranges it by specific university so that the holdings of one university can be read at one time.

Bibliographies and Citation Indexes can also be used as finding aids.

Most reference, public and university libraries have a selection of finding aids related directly to their own resources or to more widely-available resources.  NIDS, record office catalogues ;and many indexes are also available through the LDS FHL and on the internet.

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Pallot's Index

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Pallot's indexes are comprised of two separate groups - marriages (the most familiar one) and births (the least known).  During 1818 record agents in London who specialized in Chancery work and intestacy cases, in order to make their own work easier, began to make an index of marriage entries from the numerous London parish registers.  Eventually, the body of index work, for the benefit of the Institute of Heraldry & Genealogy Studies at Canterbury, Kent, England, was put into the hands of Mr. Pallot who then worked for Messrs. Andrew & Company.  Indexing work continued and information from some births and obituaries that had appeared from 1795 through 1837 in Gent's Magazine were added as well as some English birth, marriages and deaths from overseas sources.

For the most part, Pallot's Marriage Index contains more than 1.5 million marriages being all marriages that took place between the years 1780 and 1837 in 101 of the 103 original parish churches of the Church of England within the City of London.  There had been 103 ancient parish churches within the square mile of the City of London.  Many of the original registers that had been used to compile the index were destroyed by fire during the First and Second World Wars thereby making Pallot's Marriage Index the only source of record for those marriages. Prior to the Second World War, the birth index was nearly as well represented as the marriages. However that index was severely damaged during the war and only some 100,000 entries now survive.

In addition, marriages and births from Church of England parish churches in more than 2,500 parishes in 38 counties outside London were also indexed, including Greater London, Kent, Surrey, Essex, and Middlesex.  Marriages and births were included from some non-conformist chapels as well as some marriages from Boyd's earlier marriage index.

Where can I find it?  Part of's paid-for British Collection which can be searched for free at any worldwide LDS Family History Centre or your own local public library that has internet access and has taken a institutional subscription to Ancestry.  Pallott's indices are also available at the Society of Genealogists in London, England while the original index now belongs to The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, 79-82 Northgate, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1BA England.

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Phillimore's Atlas & Index of Parish Registers

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This book is a tremendous aid in finding one's ancestors as it contains maps that show pre-1974 boundaries of counties and parishes in England, Wales and Scotland. This book also delineates the probate and ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the various parishes, including the Peculiars as those existed prior to 1 January 1959. This book was originally published as Phillimore's Atlas & Index of Parish Registers in 1984, with subsequent editions appearing in 1995 and 2003. This book was first published without the designation of "Phillimore's" in 1974 and re-issued in 1976.

The first of the book section contains detailed topographical maps for each county faced by maps showing the parishes for that county, in alphabetical order. The second, or back, section of the book enumerates the parishes with details of the parish registers deposited at the county record office. Mention is also given of any independent indexes that may be available for each parish and where they can be located. Most large archives, public and academic libraries throughout the world as well as some LDS Family History Centres have this book in their adult reference or research collections. This book can also be purchased from and through various other avenues and bookstores on the Internet.

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