Parish Records

Parish Records

The Society has an ongoing programme of transcribing baptisms and burials from parish registers for Wiltshire. The transcriptions have been published as books, fiche, compact disks and as databases on the internet. For details of which formats are available for each parish look at our Parish Registers leaflet. Where the original contained alternatives or corrections these are recorded and are immediately apparent when searching the books, fiche and CD. The databases on the internet contain an entry for each variant and they are cross referenced.

Where it has been assumed that entries in the register and Bishop’s transcript are for the same person despite there being differences, it is the searcher’s responsibility to accept or reject this assumption. All information has been transcribed so there is no need to view the original simply to look for extra information, however, while every care has been taken in the preparation of these publications, users are advised to view the original registers and Bishop’s transcripts (or facsimiles thereof e.g. microfiche) to check and form their own interpretation.

Transcribing teams continue to meet at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Chippenham each week to work from original records and they will be pleased to welcome any helpers. For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or ring ring 01793 852662.  

Background to Parish Registers

Parish Registers were started in England in 1538. A law had been passed ordering the clergy to record baptisms, marriages and burials and early records were kept on parchment or paper. No records were kept before this date except a few monks recorded the events of prominent families. It was not however until 1598 that the records were required to be kept in books, and parishes were instructed to backdate them to 1538. Few did so, and only eleven Wiltshire parishes have records that survive from 1538.

Bishops Transcripts By 1598 it had become the recognised practice for the incumbent to send to the Bishop a copy of the years' entries in the parish registers. These copies are known as Bishops Transcripts or BTs. Where they have survived they are useful, not only when the original registers have been lost, but even when they have survived, as the Bishops' Transcripts may provide different or additional information. Some pre 1598 survivals are classed as BTs in the catalogue. As BTs are contemporary with the parish registers they present the same handwriting problems.


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