Thursday, September 13, 2007

Parish Registers vs Bishops Transcripts

I mentioned bishops transcripts a few blog posts ago. Newbies might appreciate knowing a bit more about bishops transcripts, and how they differ from parish registers.

Parish registers are the primary source of information about key life events that took place within the parish church (baptisms, marriages and burials). Exactly what information was recorded about these events depends on the timeframe it occurred (generally the later it was the more information you will get) and the clergyman involved in recording the entry. Some vicars were more conscientious about recordkeeping than others, and some were simply more opinionated than others! The vicars of Wing were generally pretty good with recordkeeping and there are certainly comments and other pieces of information over and above the norm scattered throughout the parish registers.

In order to gain more visibility about what was going on at parish level, each diocese requested that an exact copy of the records be made each year and sent in to them. These were known as bishops transcripts. While they are supposed to be an exact copy, obviously mistakes and omissions may have occurred in preparing the transcript each year. On a happier note, if the original parish records were subsequently damaged or lost the bishops transcripts can act as a replacement source of information for genealogists. It may not be apparent from the parish records that such a loss has occurred, so if you are looking for a particular entry in the parish registers and don't find it you should probably also check the bishops transcripts if available, on the offchance that the entry does exist there.

The practice of making bishops transcripts ran up until 1837 when civil registration came in. Wing's surviving bishops transcripts run from 1600 to 1842 with some gaps, most notably the 1672 to 1701 period.

The reason I used bishops transcripts in my comparison with the IGI baptisms was simply because I happened to have them at hand, as I was checking to make sure there wasn't a missing marriage for one of my MUNDAYs in there. I'm now transcribing the actual parish registers for baptisms for that same period, so can report that the BTs and the PRs are fairly consistent with each other. There is the odd entry missed out from the BTs, a few dates (generally the month for some reason) recorded differently, and minor spelling variations (Anne vs Ann, or Ascott vs Ascot) but definitely much less variation between the PRs and the BTs than there was between the BTs and the IGI!


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