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Please note that a Database of Parish Records for the Black Country will be available shortly. These transcriptions will be from ORIGINAL records. This will be a work in progress and will be added to each month. We hope it will help you with your research before Civil Registration of births, marriages and deaths began on 1 July 1837 in England and Wales. Please note that we also have a Black Country Gravestones Photo Database which currently has 7000 names and is added to every quarter. Please send an email to mail@blackcountrygenealogyandfamilyhistory.co.uk if you have any questions. Best wishes, Jenni. 

Parish records are the most invaluable resource when researching a family history, in fact they are the most important source of information for the years prior to 1 July 1837, when Civil Registration began. However, they are also an extremely useful resource for the period after 1837 and in particular the period up to 1875 because this is the time when many births were not registered under the Civil Registration system. A brief summary of the introduction of parish records is given below.

In 1538, Thomas Cromwell, who was King Henry VIII's Vicar-General, ordered that registers of the baptisms, marriages and burials should be kept by the parish priest of that particular parish. Since that date, church registers have always been maintained apart from the period 1653 to 1660, when registration was usually undertaken by civil officers who, to confuse matters, were named 'Parish Registers'.

Unfortunately, not many parishes have surviving registers that are complete as far back as 1538. Despite the 1538 order, many parishes did not start to keep registers until many years later. Also many registers have been lost or destroyed. The paper used in the books since 1538 was of very poor quality causing many entries to be illegible, so in 1598, an order was made for the registers to be kept on parchment. The existing entries in registers were supposed to be copied onto parchment in addition to those entries which were for the period since Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne in 1558. However, some priests decided to copy only those entries made in the registers since 1558 and it is from this year that most registers survive. Some parishes did not undertake copying at all and later registers suffered from fire, damp, theft or loss. There are also gaps to be found in the registers during the period of the Civil War.

It is fortunate that from the late 16th century, most parish registers have survived and indeed up to the 19th century and later, registers have been deposited in diocesan archives. Since 1992, most old parish registers are now in County Record Offices, but in order that further damage does not occur to the original documents, most are only available to the public on microfiche or microfilm. Microfiche of parish registers are becoming increasingly available to purchase, but without a microfiche reader they serve no purpose. However, more are becoming available on cd-rom and are indexed, as are the books which are painstakingly transcribed by volunteers.

If you wish to purchase any transcriptions of parish registers, censuses, monumental inscriptions etc, I suggest The Birmingham And Midland Society For Genealogy And Heraldry. The website address is  http://www.bmsgh.org/bookshop/main.html. For online records of birth, baptism and marriage entries extracted from many parish registers, the International Genealogical Index (IGI) compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a useful online source to find your ancestors. Please bear in mind, however, that with every electronic database, there can be mistranscriptions of the original documents. The website address is http://www.familysearch.org/

In order to assist those who do not have a microfiche reader, I am transcribing some of the parish registers and monumental inscriptions. I hope you find the information I am adding useful and that it may help you to find that elusive ancestor!



Park Lane Presbyterian Church, Cradley Baptisms 1736-1800

Extract from Park Lane Presbyterian Registers



Marriages 1800-1803


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