Parish Register Abstract

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THE Second object of the Population Acts of 1801 and 1811 was to ascertain the Increase or Diminution of the Population by means of the PARISH REGISTERS; and to effect this object certain Questions were appointed to be answered by the officiating Minister of every Church and Chapel in England and Wales. The former Population Act extended to Scotland also; but it appeared in the sequel, that few Registers are kept in that Country, only 09 Returns having been received in consequence of the Act of 1801: so that it was useless to repeat that part of it.

The Questions respecting the Parish Registers were as follows:

QUESTIONS addressed to the OFFICIATING MINISTER in England, by whom a Return is to be made to the Bishop on or before the Twentieth Day of June One thousand eight hundred and eleven.

1st. What was the Number of Baptisms and Burials in your Parish, Township, or Place, in the several Years 1801, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10; distinguishing Males from Females?

2d. What has been the Number of Marriages in your Parish, Township, or Place, in the several Years 1801, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10?

3d. Are there any Matters, which you think it necessary to remark, in Explanation of your Answers to either of the preceding Questions; especially, Whether any and what Annual Average Number of baptisms, Burials, and Marriages, may (in your Opinion) take place in your Parish, without being entered in the Parish Register?

The Clergy of England and Wales were enabled to answer the two first of these Questions by having recourse to the PARISH REGISTERS, which have been established in England ever since the Reformation.

When it was enacted in the Reign of Henry VIII. that the Church of England should be no longer subject to the Pope, Thomas Cromwell was appointed the King's Vicegerent for Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction; and in that capacity issued certain Injunctions to the Clergy in the year 1538.

Oue of these Injunctions ordains that every officiating Minister shall, for every Church, Jeep a Book, wherein he shall register every Marriage, Christening, and Burial; and the Injunction goes on to direct the Manner and Time of making the Entries in the Register-Book weekly; any neglect therein being made penal: and in the first year of Edw. VI. (Anno 1547) all Episcopal authority was suspended for a time, while the ecclesiastical Visitors then appointed went through the several Dioceses to enforce divers Injunctions, and among others that respecting Parish Registers.

This Injunction was again repeated in the beginning of the Reign of Elizabeth, who also appointed a Protestation to be made by the Clergy, in which, among other things, they promised to keep the Register-Book in a proper manner.

The Canons of the Church of England, which are now in force, date their authority from the beginning of the Reign of James I. (Anno 1603). One of them prescribe very minutely in what manner Entries are to be made in the Parish Registers; herein reciting the Injunction of 1538, and ordering an attested Copy of the Register of each successive Year to be annually transmitted to the Bishop of the Diocese or his Chancellor, and to be preserved in the said Bishop's Registry.

This Canon also contains a retrospective Clause, appointing that the ancient Registers so far as they could be procured, but especially since the beginning of the Reign of Elizabeth, should be copied into a Parchment Book, to be provided by every Parish. This wise regulation appears to have been carried into full effect at the time; so that the ancient Parish Registers now extant, usually commence with that Queen's Reign, and some of them earlier, quite as far back as the Date of the original Injunction. That part of the Canon which, directs the Register Book to be kept in a Coffer in the Church, is not enforced, as it was found by experience that the Book was liable to be damaged by the moisture prevalent in uninhabited Buildings, and also to be purloined with the other contents of the Church Coffer. The Register-Book is at present usually kept in custody of the Officiating Minister, at his own House, if resident on the Benefice, otherwise in that of the Parish Clerk.

Many Inconveniencies having arisen from the undue Solemnization and Registry of Marriages, an Act was passed in the 26o Geo. II. "for the better preventing of Clandestine Marriages," which directs a certain Formula for the Registry of Marriages, to be attested and signed by the Minister officiating, the Persons married, and two or more Witnesses; and declares any Erasure or Mutilation of the Marriage Register, or any False Entry therein, to be Felony without Benefit of Clergy, which implies a capital Offence: nor can a Marriage be legally solemnized in any Chapel consecrated since this Law was made. A retrospective Relaxation of the Act in this particular case took place in 1781, under an Act1 by which Marriages already solemnized in such Chapels were declared to be valid; but the Registers of such Marriages were ordered to be forthwith removed to the Parish Church.

The Marriage Act of the 26o Geo. II. was not in force until the 25th March 1754; so that little more than Three Fourths of the full number of Marriages in that Year could be brought to account under the former Population Act: But for all succeeding Years the Marriage Register may be deemed correct; next to that the Burial Register; and lastly the Register of Baptisms: And it will be found most convenient to treat of each distinctly, and in that order.

The number of Parish-Register Returns supposed to have been received from England and Wales in 1801 (including the Supplement) was 11,065; but this was beyond the truth, and from the following causes:

The mode of distributing the Schedules among the Clergy (though, for more important reasons, the best that could be devised) was the chief source of error in this respect. Two printed Schedules were delivered to every Overseer of the Poor, the one for his own use, adapted to the Enumeration Return, the other for the officiating Minister, containing the Formula, adapted to the Register Return.

This kind of distribution was suitable to small Parishes not divided into Townships; and in large Parishes so divided, not unnecessary, considering that very many Townships possess Chapels, at some of which, a Register is kept quite distinct from that of the Mother Church: nor does this last circumstance take place according to any fixed rule, annual Copies of the same Chapel Registers being incorporated in the Parish Register, or not, at the discretion of the Incumbent of the Mother Church.

From all these circumstances, it is evident that the best chance of procuring a general Return in 1801 was by such a distribution of the Schedules as above described: but a consequence now appears to have resulted from it, not foreseen, and indeed unsuspected, until the Returns of 1811 were compared with the List of those, of 1801. On this occasion, several of the apparent deficiencies, especially in the Northern Counties, were found to arise in the following manner: The same Clergyman receiving several Blank Schedules, one from the Overseer of every Township in his Parish, naturally enough concluded, that he was called upon to distinguish the Baptisms, Burials, and Marriages of each particular Township, and thereby returned more than one Schedule from the same Parish Register, probably after much labour in the discrimination.

Another cause, arising from the manner in which the Parish-Register Abstract of 1801 was formed, contributed further to augment the apparent number of Returns. On that occasion the Parish Register Returns, as received from the several Dioceses, were arranged according to their several Counties and Hundreds, in conformity with the Enumeration Abstract, and entered without hesitation, the Deficiencies not being at that time suspected to be of such amount as to affect the general result. Further examination, however, and comparison with the Enumeration Returns, brought to light so many Deficiencies, that a resolution was taken to make an effort for the better completion of the Parish-Register Returns. The effect of this appeared in a Supplementary Abstract, in which are collected Returns from no less than 495 places. This operation has been productive of an Overstatement, caused by the kind of authority referred to on that occasion, which was the Liber Regis of Bacon. In that Book the Names of many places are spelled so differently from modern usage, that several applications were made for Returns, which in reality had already been received and entered; and in so far as this accident took place, that is, in 150 instances, the Supplementary Returns are real Duplicates.

The knowledge of this inaccuracy in the Supplement, and that the Parish-Register Abstract in general had necessarily been formed with a degree, of expedition not permitting sufficient investigation, was a cogent reason for proceeding more cautiously on the present occasion; and this was the more necessary, as the Return of 1821 was to be compared "with that of 1801, which standing alone, and being intended merely to show the Increase or Diminution of the Population; during the last Century, was not much "less effectual for its own particular purpose, although a considerable proportion of the Parish Register Returns were not brought to account, the result of a comparison of the several years with each other not being much affected by it. This consideration, though a sufficient excuse for attending to expedition rather than to the completion of the Returns of 1801, was no longer valid in 1811; and particular care was taken accordingly, both by marking the name of every supposed Benefice and Curacy on a set of County Maps, and checking the Returns by that criterion, as well as by all other authorities which could be obtained. This was a labour of some Months; and in pursuance of the then object in view, more than 2,100 applications were made to officiating Clergymen, or in default of answer from them, to the respective Overseers, whose names were known from the Enumeration Schedules. These applications produced 857 Returns (for thus large was the deficiency at first); nor can it be expected to be much less on any future occasion, unless the mode of distributing and returning the Clergymen's Schedules can be put on a different footing, as may safely be done now that a satisfactory knowledge of all the Returns due has been acquired. If the Schedules were distributed in like manner as the Form of Prayer for a General Fast, and returned by the Post, to the Privy Council Office, the formation of the Parish Register Abstract (a work in which much time for arrangement, copying, examining, and adding, is necessary) might be commenced earlier than that of the Enumeration Returns.

The care which has been best owed on the present Collection of Parish Registers is satisfactory in the result, as having-produced the List now appearing in the Abstract, and in which the defect can scarcely exceed Three or Four in the 11,159 Registers of Churches and Chapels therein enumerated; and the aggregate number is probably not less correct, since undiscovered Duplicates may be supposed to balance undiscovered Deficiencies. In all cases where the on-Return of a Parish Register was found to arise from the want of a Church, or from any other permanent cause, the circumstance is mentioned in the Notes of the Parish-Register Abstract, which are chiefly intended to give the reason why a few places called PARISHES or CHAPELRIES in the Enumeration Abstract, do not make Return of Parish Registers. These Notes, it may be expected, will save a repetition of much fruitless investigation on any similar occasion; especially as they also mention many Chapels which have been found on enquiry to have no Register, or only a temporary Register annually incorporated in that of the Mother Church, or which for any other reason is certainly included in the Parochial Return. The Number of Parish-Register Returns really obtained in 1801 was 10,643 or 516 less than are entered in the present Volume.

Thus much it has been necessary to say respecting the augmented Number of Registers, from which Returns have now been procured. But it was of much more importance for general purposes to institute a Comparison of the Annual Number of Baptisms, Burials, and Marriages under the Act of 1801 and that of 1811; in feet to ascertain the correction necessary to be applied, before the latter can be safely used in sequence or continuation of the former; and it is requisite to explain the nature of this operation, in order that every one may be enabled to judge in what degree to depend upon the Result.

First, the Parishes and Places lo which Registers are erroneously ascribed in the Parish-Register Abstract of 1801, to the number of 281, were ascertained by comparison with the present Abstract; also the Duplicates of 1801 (arising from a cause already explained) to the number of 141; and the additional Returns of 1811, to the number of 516; also those of Dissenters, &c. to the number of 49.

For the Duplicate Returns of 1801, and for the additional Returns and Dissenters' Returns of 1811, the Annual Average Number of Baptisms, Burials, and Marriages, for the last Ten Years (1801-1810) being next ascertained, the former were deducted from the latter: the Balance remaining to be added to the General Summary of 1801: and this process may safely be carried backward throughout the whole of the last Century; as a Twentieth part of the Parish Registers indiscriminately taken will of course exhibit nearly the same ratio of Increase as the other Nineteen parts.

The Annual Average Number of such Additional Baptisms (9,181) Burials (6,250) and Marriages (1,626) is as One in Thirty-two of the Average Number of Baptisms from 1801 to 1810; as One in Twenty-one of the Burials; and as One in Fifty of the Marriages: and Additions in these proportions have accordingly been made to the Numbers appearing in the Parish-Register Abstract of 1801; as appears in the following TABLE which for convenience is made to extend to the present time.

Parish Register Abstract of 1801   Additional   Corrected TOTAL Parish Register Abstract of 1801   Additional   Corrected TOTAL Parish Register Abstract of 1801   Additional   Corrected TOTAL
1700 152,540 + 4,767 = 157,307 132,728 + 4,577 = 137,305
1710 139,379 + 4,356 = 143,735 140,308 + 4,838 = 145,146
1720 155,060 + 4,846 = 159,906 160,424 + 5,532 = 165,956
1730 161,468 + 5,046 = 166,514 176,493 + 6,086 = 182,579
1740 168,957 + 5,280 = 174,237 166,973 + 5,758 = 172,731
1750 180,184 + 5,632 = 185,816 154,686 + 5,334 = 160,020
1760 187,068 + 5,846 = 192,914 155,637 + 5,367 = 161,004 56,714 + 1,134 = 57,843
1770 206,960 + 6,467 = 213,427 174,383 + 6,013 = 180,396 61,464 + 1,229 = 62,693
1780 221,562 + 6,799 = 228,361 191,736 + 6,612 = 198,348 63,048 + 1,201 = 64,309
1781 224,123 + 7,004 = 231,127 189,372 + 6,530 = 195,902 62,518 + 1,250 = 63,768
1782 218,022 + 6,813 = 224,835 180,914 + 6,238 = 187,152 61,834 + 1,237 = 63,071
1783 214,579 + 6,706 = 221,285 181,989 + 6,275 = 188,264 64,988 + 1,299 = 66,287
1784 222,709 + 6,960 = 229,669 187,921 + 6,480 = 194,401 67,583 + 1,352 = 68,935
1785 237,229 + 7,413 = 244,642 185,470 + 6,396 = 191,866 70,146 + 1,403 = 71,549
1786 235,323 + 7,354 = 242,677 179,058 + 6,174 = 185,232 67,639 + 1,353 = 68,992
1787 237,653 + 7,427 = 245,080 178,718 + 6,163 = 184,881 69,067 + 1,381 = 76,448
1788 243,085 + 7,596 = 250,681 181,345 + 6,253 = 187,598 68,659 + 1,373 = 70,032
1789 243,001 + 7,594 = 250,595 179,384 + 6,186 = 185,570 69,310 + 1,380 = 70,696
1790 248,774 + 7,774 = 256,548 178,731 + 6,163 = 184,894 69,263 + 1,385 = 70,648
1791 247,765 + 7,743 = 255,508 180,452 + 6,222 = 186,674 71,167 + 1,423 = 72,590
1792 261,262 + 8,164 = 269,426 182,609 + 6,297 = 188,906 73,450 + 1,469 = 74,919
1793 256,027 + 8,001 = 264,028 196,865 + 6,788 = 203,653 71,451 + 1,429 = 72,880
1794 249,029 + 7,782 = 256,811 191,149 + 6,591 = 197,740 70,390 + 1,407 = 71,797
1795 247,218 + 7,726 = 254,944 203,328 + 7,011 = 210,339 67,489 + 1,350 = 68,839
1796 249,000 + 7,781 = 256,781 184,534 + 6,363 = 190,897 71,674 + 1,433 = 73,107
1797 259,964 + 8,124 = 268,088 184,929 + 6,377 = 191,306 73,526 + 1,471 = 74,997
1798 262,337 + 8,198 = 270,535 181,313 + 6,218 = 187,531 77,919 + 1,558 = 79,477
1799 258,685 + 8,084 = 266,769 183,267 + 6,319 = 189,586 76,036 + 1,521 = 77,557
1800 247,147 + 7,723 = 254,870 201,128 + 6,935 = 208,063 68,481 + 1,370 = 69,851
1801 237,029 204,434 67,228
1802 273,837 199,889 90,396
1803 294,108 203,728 94,379
1804 294,592 181,177 85,738
1805 292,201 181,240 79,586
1806 291,929 183,452 80,754
1807 300,294 195,851 83,923
1808 296,074 200,763 82,248
1809 299,989 191,471 83,369
1810 298,853 208,184 84,470

The above Table of course cannot be made absolutely correct, without procuring Returns (from 1780 to 1801) from all the Duplicate and Additional Registers; and if that shall be deemed proper on any future occasion, the same Returns might be made to extend to every preceding Tenth Year of the last Century, in uniformity with the Returns of 1801.

With regard to the Parish-Register Abstract, it may he proper further to remark, that the Number of Benefices in England and Wales is by no means equal to the Number of Parishes; because in many instances Two or more Parishes are permanently united as one Benefice; and in the. Diocese of Norwich, which includes Norfolk and Suffolk, the Diocesan has the privilege of granting a personal Union of Parishes, on account of the small extent and Value of many Benefices in those Counties.

The PARISH-REGISTRAR ABSTRACT has been framed with special Reference to the SUMMARY of each County in the ENUMERATION ABSTRACT; so that every Total of Persons which there appears, may be compared with a corresponding Annual Total of Baptisms, Burials, and Marriages; and an Annual Average of these for each entire County may be obtained by the easy process of dividing the Total (which appears under each County Summary) by Ten: and further to facilitate general Calculations, the Annual proportion of the Baptisms, Burials, and Marriages to the Population of each County, is also given. (See p. xxix.)

Every place which has made Return of a Register is distinguished in the Parish-Register Abstract as Rectory (R.) Vicarage (V.) Chapelry or Curacy (C.)



THE solicitude of the Female and her Family, aided by the precision and seventy of the Marriage Act, leaves no occasion to suspect any deficiency in the Marriage Registry from negligence; and the deficiency from other causes cannot be very important.

Some few Persons are known to evade the provisions of the Marriage Act by a Marriage in Scotland; but the Registry of Marriages in England is not much affected thereby, because the Family of the Female who has been thus irregularly married, usually cause such Marriages to be afterwards solemnized according to the Law of England.

The Marriages of Dissenters of every denomination take place in the Established Church; excepting those among Quakers, who are permitted to intermarry in their own Congregation. To these may be added the Jews, who marry according to their own peculiar ceremonial. But neither of these religious Sects are numerous: and with these exceptions, the Marriage Registry of England and Wales may be deemed complete, and unexceptionable.

Consequently the Returns made, pursuant to the Population Act, ought to comprehend almost the total Number of actual Marriages; and the above causes of the small deficiency arc not (all of them) likely to be removed.

A great variation in the annual Number of Marriages is caused by the circumstances of the times, and especially by the price of provisions; and in the Ten years from 1801 to 1811, the difference arising from this cause is perceptible; so that no safe inference concerning the Increase or Diminution of Population can be drawn from the comparison of any single Years with each other: But the average Amount of the Marriages for five years together, or for a longer period, is the best evidence on the subject, because the Register of Marriages may be deemed perfectly correct.

As it is intended throughout the present Observations to give the most important Results of the Act of 1801 as well as of 1811, the following TABLE has been framed in order to exhibit the average Amount of the Marriages for every Five and Ten Years since the Marriage Act has been fully in force. It will appear in the sequel of these Remarks, that Results drawn from this Table would be very similar to the Results drawn from, the Registered Baptisms.

In the year 1755 the number of Marriges(adding Supplementary Fiftieth part) was 49,379
Number of Marriages in each Year, from 1755 to 1780 PERIODS Medium Average of Five Years Medium Average of Ten Years
1756 50,972 1764 63,310 1772 60,337 1755 to 1760 inclusive 52,666 56,275
1757 48,300 1765 59,227 1773 59,769 1760 to 1765 inclusive 59,883
1758 50,672 1766 57,043 1774 60,512 1765 to 1770 inclusive 59,043 59,892
1759 55,537 1767 55,324 1775 62,473 1770 to 1775 inclusive 60,741
1760 57,848 1768 58,331 1776 65,462 1775 to 1780 inclusive 64,238 65,479
1761 58,101 1769 61,825 1777 65,020 1780 to 1785 inclusive 66,722
1762 56,543 1770 62,693 1778 62,727 1785 to 1790 inclusive 71,363 71,784
1763 62,233 1771 60,612 1779 63,671 1790 to 1795 inclusive 72,205
For the Marriages in each Year, from 1780 to 1810, see p. xx. 1795 to 1800 inclusive 74,998 79,231
1800 to 1805 inclusive 83,463
1805 to 1810 inclusive 82,953 -



THE Registry of Burials may be supposed to be deficient on the following considerations:

  1. Many Congregations of Dissenters, inhabiting Towns, have their own peculiar Burying-grounds; as have the Jews, and the Roman Catholics, who reside in London.
  2. Some Persons from motives of poverty or convenience inter their Dead without any religious ceremony. But in estimating the deficiency from this cause, it should he considered that a place must be very populous before the establishment of cheap Burial-grounds can become a profitable speculation. Such there are in the Metropolis, in Bristol, and in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. But the Interments within the London Bills of Mortality may be nearly ascertained;2 and of the Interments at the Ballast-Hills near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a Register or Account is kept, of which a Return was received, and entered.
  3. Children who die before Baptism are interred without any religious ceremony, and consequently are not registered.
  4. Negligence may be supposed to cause some omissions in the Registers, especially in those of small Benefices, where the Officiating Minister is not resident.
  5. Many Persons employed in the Army, and in Navigation, die Abroad; and consequently their Burials remain unregistered.

The Annual Number of Burials, as collected in pursuance of the Population Acts of 1801 and 1811, authorizes a satisfactory inference of diminishing Mortality in England since the year 1780: The average number of Registered Burials (though considerably fluctuating from year to year) having remained stationary during Twenty-one Years, from 1780 to 1800; the first Five Years of which period, as well as the last Five Years, and all the Twenty-one Years together, equally average at about 392,000 Burials per Annum. From 1800 to 1805, the Burials average at 194,000 per Annum; from that time to 1810, at 196,000. It follows from hence, that about the year 1780 one person in 40 died annually; in 1790, one in 45; in 1800, one in 47; and in 1810, one in 49 or 50: And this improving Ratio appears to be indisputable; for although the Registry of Burials is certainly deficient, no cause can be assigned for believing that the Deficiency has been increasing in the last Thirty Years. Indeed the progressive Increase of Population in these Years has caused an augmented proportion of young persons; which circumstance may have contributed (but in a very small degree) to lessen the proportion of Mortality to the Population.



THE Registry of Baptisms is deficient from the same causes as that of Burials, and from most of those causes in a greater degree.

  1. Many Dissenters of every denomination (those especially who reside at a distance from any other Burial-place) from motives of decency or convenience bury their dead in the Cemeteries of the Established Church, though they baptize after their own manner, or not at all. The Question respecting Unentered Baptisms and Burials shows a difference of nearly Four to One in the degree of Deficiency, the Annual Average Number of Unentered Baptisms (as stated at the end of the several Counties) being 14,860; of Burials (setting aside London) 3.899. Nor does this represent the full amount or proportion of Unentered Baptisms, the Clergy of the most populous places, especially where many of the Inhabitants are Dissenters, usually declining to hazard an Estimate. A Burial Ground on the contrary is a visible object, and among the persons connected with it, the Clergyman can usually procure an Account (more or less accurate) of the Number of Interments.
  2. Some irreligious Persons, especially in large Towns, neglect the Rite of Baptism altogether.
  3. Some Children die immediately after Birth, unbaptised; these however not being registered among the Burials, the Comparison is not affected from this cause. But the great defect in Baptismal Registers arises from Private Baptism, which is carried to an extent net at all in the contemplation of the Founders of the Church of England; for the Canon ordaining Registers applies to Christenings, without further explanation; and this word is usually understood to mean Publish Baptism only. The practice of the Clergy is not uniform on this point; and it appears from the Remarks subjoined to many of the Parish-Register Returns, that the Registry of Private Baptisms is Denied in many places, from a conscientious desire thereby to induce persons to cause their Children to be publicly received into the Congregation. On the other hand, it appears that "the great cause and necessity" mentioned in the Rubrick as necessary to justify Private Baptism, is so little regarded by Parents in some places, that such Baptism (or Half-Baptism as it is popularly called) is become nearly general, and this whether it is intended afterwards to carry the Children to Church or not. Public Baptism is some times prevented by the difficulty of procuring Godfathers and Godmothers, many persons being deterred from undertaking this office by scruples of conscience; and sometimes it is prevented by an unwillingness or inability in the Parents to incur the expence which in some places is customary on the occasion. These are objections not easily surmount able: And upon the whole, the doubts and difficulties which envelope the Question of Private and Public Baptism, seem not unworthy of the notice of those to whom the remedy of such misapprehensions, whether of the Clergy or Laity, belongs.
  4. Negligence may be supposed to cause the same proportion of Omissions in the Registry of Baptisms as in that of Burials.

The whole Number of Baptisms collected for the purposes of the Population Acts of 1801 and 1811, appears to be 9,315,016: of these, 4,753,865 Males; 4,561,151 Females: So that the Baptisms of Males are 10,423 to 10,000 Females. The whole Number of Burials appears to be 7,116,033: of these, 3,557,401 Males, 3,558,632 Females; a remarkable equality in so large a number: And from hence it may be inferred, that the larger proportion of Males born, which may be taken at 4 per cent, very exactly balances the Number of those who die Abroad in the employments of War and Commerce.

1 21 Geo III. c. 53.

2 See Par. Reg. Abstr. p.200.

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