Parish registers

In 1538 the keeping in parishes of registers of baptisms, marriages and burials was first ordered and these parish registers are usually the best records to consult for searches before 1837 provided that the parish - or at least the neighbourhood - in which, for example, a burial occurred, is known.

The area comprising the modern city of Salford included from the mid-16th to the early 19th centuries the following:

  • most of Eccles parish
  • Little Hulton township
  • a part of Deane parish, a parish separated from Eccles parish in 1541
  • Broughton and Salford townships
  • parts of Manchester parish

Eccles parish comprised the townships of Barton-upon-Irwell, Clifton, Pendlebury, Pendleton and Worsley. Maps showing the boundaries of these parishes and townships during this period are contained in J P Smith's The Genealogists' Atlas of Lancashire (Henry Young and Sons, Liverpool, 1930).

The maps of counties in The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers by C Humphrey-Smith (Phillimore, 1984) display the geographical areas of parishes and other church jurisdictions, including some jurisdictions concerned in the proving of wills.

In the 19th century, as populations grew, parishes increased in number too. Information on parishes of the Church of England in Manchester and its neighbourhood as they are today can be obtained from The Manchester Diocesan Year Book (Manchester Diocesan Board of Finance, published annually).

The official place of deposit for original parish registers in the Salford area is Manchester Central Library. Microfilm or other copies of many church or chapel registers for the area of the present city of Salford are kept in Salford Local History Library.

Early parish registers were sometimes written in Latin and entries might be in the style of handwriting called 'the secretary hand' until late in the 17th century. Before 1 January 1752 the day on which the year legally began was 25 March and a register may, for example, after listing entries in December 1691, have entries for days such as 3 January 1691 or 22 March 1691, days which we would regard as being in the year 1692; in modern copies of these registers, such days are often shown as 3 January 1691/92, 22 March 1691/92, etc.  

The arrangement of entries in early registers varied, but from 1754 marriages had to be entered in separate, printed registers as was the case with both baptisms and burial registers from 1813.

From the late 16th century a copy of the register entries should have been sent from each parish in a diocese every year to the bishop of the diocese or to his officials. Some Lancashire parishes continued this practice into the 19th century.  The bishop's transcripts - as these copies are called - for Lancashire parishes are in the Lancashire Record Office.  

Among the transcripts are those for Deane, Eccles and Manchester, plus some Salford chapelries within Eccles or Manchester parishes.  Other copies of parish registers have been prepared and many have been published by such societies as the Lancashire Parish Register Society.

But suppose you do not know in which set of registers to look to find an entry? You are searching for, say, an entry for marriage, but you do not know in which parish or even in which neighbourhood the ceremony took place. This is a common problem with using these records. There were over 9,000 parishes in England, even before the great increase in numbers of parishes in the 19th century, and in practice there was much unrecorded movement of people from one parish to another.

The following notes have been added to help in searches for entries in parish registers, particularly for entries for marriages.

A common practice was for marriages to be solemnised in the parish where the bride was resident while, for people living near Manchester, a frequent choice for the marriage ceremony was up to 1874 Manchester Collegiate Church (or the Cathedral as it became in 1846).

The practice of applying for licences for marriage has left records which may be useful. The applications for licences and the accompanying 'marriage licence bonds' in the records of Chester diocese have been printed by the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society in volumes which include indexes to names and places. A number of indexes contain entries for marriages, notably the 'International Genealogical Index' (IGI) of last names. A copy of the IGI for Lancashire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire can be consulted at Salford Local History Library.

Religious congregations other than those of the Church of England, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, often maintained registers, especially from the 18th century. Those of which Salford Local History Library has been able to obtain a copy are listed in Parish Record Holdings as noted above.

Townships were parts of parishes which, in the north of England, had responsibility for relief of the poor and other functions. Their records often contained useful lists of names, especially the rate books recording payment of the rates imposed to carry out a township's functions. The rate books of townships and local authorities in Salford city archives are for various dates in the 19th and 20th centuries. Microfilm of the earlier of these rate books and some other township records have been placed in the Salford Local History Library.

In the first half of the 19th century the administration of poor relief was taken over by bodies called Unions which continued until 1930. The City Archivist has minute books for Salford Union but the admission and discharge registers of the Union workhouse, ordinarily the records with the largest numbers of names, have not survived.

Salford Union comprised the areas of the townships of Salford, Broughton, Pendleton and Pendlebury. The records of Bolton Union which included Little Hulton township are in the custody of the Bolton Borough Archivist, c/o Mere Hall, Mere Hall Street, Bolton, BL1 2QT, telephone 01204 331185. The records of Barton-upon-Irwell Union, which was set up in 1849 and included the remainder of the area of the present city of Salford, are in the Lancashire Record Office.

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