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Follow these links for:

- Hungerford Parish Registers - transcriptions held by HHA

- Hungerford's on-line Parish Registers - available via this website.

What are Parish Registers?

Parish Registers are records of the baptisms, marriages and burials of people in a parish. They often form an invaluable part of family history research as well as being helpful in other social history research (such as epidemics, military action and so forth).

When did they start?

On 5 September 1538, following the split with Rome, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's Vicar General, ordered that each parish priest must keep a book, and that the Parson, in the presence of the wardens, must enter all the baptisms, marriages and burials of the previous week. The book was to be kept in a "sure coffer" with two locks (one key for the vicar, the other for the wardens). A fine of 3s 4d was to be levied for failure to comply. Many parishes ignored this order, believing it to be the forerunner of some new tax.

The order was repeated in 1547 with the stipulation that the fine was to go to the relief of the poor.

From 1598 records were to be kept in 'great decent books of parchment' and copies or 'Bishop's Transcripts' of new entries were to be sent each month to the diocesan centre. Previous records (especially from the first year of Her Majesty's reign (1558)), often on scraps of paper, had to be copied into the new books, but many had deteriorated and were unreadable. The costs of the new books were to be met by charging for entries; this was opposed by many parishes and the act was not enforced until 1603. Finance was to be born by the Parish, and the books were to be kept in a chest with three locks. The week's entries were to be read out each Sunday after evensong.

During the English Civil War (1643-1647) and in the following Commonwealth period, records were poorly kept and many are now missing after being destroyed or hidden by the clergy. During 1653-1660 the registering of births, marriages and deaths was taken over by civil officers (confusingly called Parish Registers), but the registers were returned to the churches following the Restoration in 1660.

In order to encourage the wool trade, an act was passed in 1678 making it compulsory for all corpses to be buried in a shroud made of wool, an affidavit having to be made (and recorded in the register) that this had been done.

In 1694 the costs of each entry were drastically increased in order to finance a war against France (Marriages 12d => 1s 6d, Burials 4d => 4s, Baptisms 4d => 2s). In 1696 a tax of 6d had to be paid for any birth not reported within five days, and vicars were fined £2 for neglecting to record a birth; this was abandoned in 1706.

In 1711 it was ordered that the pages of registers were to be ruled and numbered (generally ignored) and in 1733 entries had to be made in English rather than Latin.

Prior to 1751 (when the calendar was reformed), the register year would go from Lady Day to Lady Day (25 March) so, for example 31 December 1740 would be followed by 1 January 1740 (actually 1741).

In 1754 Lord Hardwick's Marriage Act came into being. A separate Marriage Register was to be kept (later with pre-printed forms), and Banns were enforced and Clandestine Marriages made illegal.

The average age at marriage during the Georgian Period was 27 years.

In 1763 the minimum age for marriage was fixed at 16 (earlier only with a Licence from the Bishop) and parental consent was needed for anyone under 21. A stamp duty of 3d was imposed on entries from 1783 to 1794 but was exempt for paupers.

In 1812 an "Act for the better regulating and preserving Parish and other Registers of Birth, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, in England" (Rose's Act) was passed. It stated that "amending the Manner and Form of keeping and of preserving Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials of His Majesty's Subjects in the several Parishes and Places in England, will greatly facilitate the Proof of Pedigrees of Persons claiming to be entitled to Real or Personal Estates, and otherwise of great public Benefit and Advantage". Separate, printed registers were to be supplied by the King's Printer, and used for baptisms, marriages and burials. These are more or less unchanged to this day.

In 1853 the Cemetery Act allowed for civic cemeteries, many churchyards being full to overflowing.

[The above text is largely derived from Wikipedia "Parish register"]

What about Parish Registers for Hungerford?

Hungerford Parish Registers are available from 1559 (Christenings and Burials) and from 1562 (Marriages). They are held locally in the HHA Archives in a variety of formats:

Printed Transcriptions (Ref: M):

- Christenings, Marriages, Burials 1559-1619 (Norman & Joyce Hidden, 1984)
- Baptisms 1619-1700 (inc unbaptised births 1696-1718) N Hidden & B Clark
- Marriages 1619-1732, Burials 1619-1700 (Norman & Joyce Hidden, 1985)
- Marriages 1732-1836 (Betty Clark, 1986)
- Burials 1700-1796 (Betty Clark, 1986)
- Christenings, Marriages, Burials 1870-1934 (by John Allen)
- Christenings, Marriages, Burials 1935-2005 (by John Allen)

Printed and bound Transcriptions (Ref: P):

- Christenings, Marriages, Burials 1559-1619 (Norman & Joyce Hidden, 1984)
- Baptisms 1619-1700 (inc unbaptised births 1696-1718) N Hidden & B Clark
- Baptisms 1700-1799 (Betty Clark, 1985)(Corrected copy)
- Baptisms 1800-1899 (Betty Clark)
- Marriages 1619-1732, Burials 1619-1700 (Norman & Joyce Hidden, 1985)
- Marriages 1732-1836 (Betty Clark, 1986)
- Marriages 1837-1869 (Eileen Bunt, 2009)
- Burials 1700-1796 (Betty Clark, 1986)
- Baptisms in Wesleyan Methodist Chapel 1837-1903

On-line transcriptions:

Work is ongoing to make these Parish Register records available on-line through the Virtual Museum.

Baptisms:

- 1559-1619 (Norman & Joyce Hidden, 1984)
- 1619-1700 (inc unbaptised births 1696-1718) N Hidden & B Clark
- 1700-1799 (Betty Clark, 1985)(Corrected copy)
- 1800-1899 (Betty Clark)
- 1870-1934 (John Allen)
- 1935-2005 (John Allen)

- Denford Baptisms 1832-1920 (sorted by date)

- Denford Baptisms 1832-1920 (sorted by father's surname)

Marriages:

- 1562-1619 (Norman & Joyce Hidden, 1984)
- 1619-1732 (Norman & Joyce Hidden, 1985)

- 1732-1869 sorted by Date of Marriage, Groom's Surname, Bride's Surname

- 1870-1934 (John Allen)
- 1935-2005 (John Allen)

Please note that Hungerford Marriages are also available as part of the Berkshire Marriages Index. The 2nd Edition, 1538-2006 CD is available through the Berkshire Family History Society at www.berksfhs.org.uk.

Burials:

Please note that Hungerford Burials are also available as part of the Berkshire Burial Index. The 7th Edition 2008 CD is available through the Berkshire Family History Society at www.berksfhs.org.uk.

Many people now find the best way of studying family entries in Parish Registers is through on-line specialist websites, such as Ancestry.co.uk

Miscellaneous notes and observations from the Parish registers:

- 1741-42: A very high number of deaths were recorded in 1741 (65) and 1742 (61). This may be related to the national outbreak of "spotted fever" nationally between
1700-42).
- 1757: A high number of deaths were recorded in 1757 (42) - possibly related to winter floods in January.
- 1758: A very high number of deaths were recorded in 1758 (57) - possibly related to very wet weather, poor crops and resulting poor diet.
- 1759: 72 deaths (the highest in 50 years). Parson Woodward recorded "widespread fever" in January - although the peak burials were in the summer - 28 in July and August.
- 1794: Smallpox epidemic in Hungerford - 23 deaths, beginning on 31 July (a soldier Thomas Kindler), ending 26 October (Richard Shepherd, clerk of the Parish).
The Vestry Book records that smallpox was brought into the town by a regiment from Ireland. The soldier died in the Pest House, and the disease spread from there. After this, innoculation and, soon after vaccination was introduced in Hungerford (see Joseph Cundell).

See also:

- Berkshire Marriages Index, 2nd Edition, 1538-2006 CD available through the Berkshire Family History Society at www.berksfhs.org.uk.

- Berkshire Burial Index, 7th Edition 2008 CD available through the Berkshire Family History Society at www.berksfhs.org.uk.

- Parish register stats - 1700-1739

- Population and Censuses

- Ancestry.co.uk

HHA Archives:

- Hungerford Wesleyan Methodist Circuit - Volume 1: Baptisms 1810-1880

- Hungerford Wesleyan Methodist Circuit - Volume 2: Baptisms 1881-1937 and Marriages 1886-1897

- Hungerford Primitive Methodist Circuit - Baptisms 1869-1937

- Causes of Death & Old Medical Terms (as recorded on Death Cetrtificates)