Baptisms, Marriages and Burials

Parish Registers

Parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials generally begin between 1538 and 1598, and continue to the present. Each church kept its own set of registers, so there can sometimes be gaps in the records, where volumes have been lost, damaged, or due to the disruption caused by the civil war and its aftermath (1640-1660).

The earliest registers combine baptisms, marriages and burials in sections of the same volume, and are sometimes written in simple Latin. The amount of information is limited to names and dates and varies considerably between different parishes.  Separate registers of pre-printed forms were introduced for marriages in 1754, and for baptisms and burials in 1813.

Most Cheshire parish registers over hundred years old (and many recent ones) have been transferred from parish churches to the Record Office, where they can usually be seen on microfilm. You can check what we hold on the Cheshire Parishes map on our website. Some Cheshire Parish registers have been transcribed and some indexed and this can help with deciphering entries that are difficult to read.

Also on microfilm are the abbreviated copies of baptism, marriage and burial records for most parishes sent annually to the Bishop of Chester until the late nineteenth century. These are known as ‘BTs’ (bishop’s transcripts) and can be useful when the original register is lost or difficult to read

Marriage Licences 1606 to Present

Couples usually marry after the reading of banns in their home parishes – a licence would be needed if either party were under 21 or if they needed a quick or private marriage. Since 1754 a parish marriage record should state whether it was authorised by banns or licence.

Bonds and allegations (part of the licensing process) can provide extra information on the parties to a marriage, such as ages, occupations, places of residence and sometimes parents’ names. Licences for the Archdeaconry of Chester (Cheshire and South Lancashire) survive from 1663 and are held at the Cheshire Record Office.

Useful Links

Tip – In our experience the Family Search index that forms the basis for searches of the Cheshire Collection has errors and omissions. The Cheshire Parish Register Project is very accurate, but more limited in areas covered. Try all indexes, and check the records yourself if possible.