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Oxfordshire Family History Society

Lecture Notes

The Parish Chest - its contents and officials

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The Parish Chest - its contents and officials

That was the title of the lecture given to the Society on 24th September 2001 by Jean Debney.

Jean has kindly allowed us to put her handout sheet onto our web site for those who were unable to attend the meeting.

If you have the free Adobe Acrobat reader installed on your computer this PDF copy of the sheet will be more convenient for printing.


The “Parish Chest”, with its three locks, was used to store not only the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials but also a great variety of other records produced by and for assorted parish officials.

The office of churchwarden is an ancient one, but between the sixteenth and the nineteenth century, the parish gradually became more involved in the local government of their area, especially where manorial control was weak. Over the centuries, various acts of parliament also increased parish responsibility, such as the maintenance of the poor, highways, law and order, etc.

The majority of these records are to be found in the local diocesan (county) record offices. However, their survival depended not only upon the local mouse population, but also the housekeeping enthusiasm of various people keen to clear away old ‘rubbish’.

This talk aims to introduce you to some of those parish officials and the records they produced - with special emphasis on those sources which include personal names.


... using BAPTISM Records for FH, P M LITTON (FFHS, 1996)
... using MARRIAGE Records for FH, PM LITTON & CR CHAPMAN (FFHS, 1996)
... using DEATH & BURIAL Records for FH, L GIBBENS (FFHS, 2nd, 1999)
T BENTON: Irregular Marriage in London before 1754 (SOG, 1993)
BOURNE & CHICKEN: Records of the Church of England (1991)
C R CHAPMAN: Sin, Sex and Probate: Ecclesiastical Courts, Officials & Records (Lochin Pubs, 1992)
T V H FITZHUGH: Dictionary of Genealogy, (A & C BLACK, 4th, 1994)
W FOOT: Maps for Family History - Readers' Guide no.9 (PRO, 1994)
GIBSON Guide: Bishops' Transcripts & Marriage Licences (FFHS, 5th, 2000)
GIBSON Guide: Marriage & Census & other Indexes (FFHS, 8th, 2000)
GIBSON Guide: Specialist Indexes for family historians (FFHS, 2nd, 2000)
... to Poor Law Documents before 1834, A COLE (FFHS, 2nd, 2000)
... to Church Registers, L GIBBENS (FFHS, 1997)
LDS CHURCH: The I.G.I. - on microfiche, CD-ROM or Web-site (various dates)
E L C MULLINS: Texts & Calendars (RHS, 2 vols, 1958 & 1983) - Parish registers, etc. in print
E L NICHOLS: The International Genealogical Index, 1992 ed (SOG, 1995)
S RAYMOND: English Genealogy (FFHS, 3rd, 1996)
S RAYMOND: Genealogical Bibliography - by county (FFHS, various dates).
J RICHARDSON: Local Historian's Encyclopedia, (Historical Publications Ltd, 1993)
M E BRYANT ROSIER: Index to Parishes in Phillimore's Marriage Registers (FTM, 1991)
P SAUL: The Family Historian's ENQUIRE WITHIN (FFHS, 5th, 1995)
IHGS: Parish Register Maps - English counties, Wales (3) & Scotland (12) (IHGS)
SOG: County Sources at the Society of Genealogists, by county (various dates)
SOG: Marriage Licences: Abstracts & Indexes in SOG Library (LS-2) (SOG, 1991)
SOG: List of Parishes in Boyd's Marriage Index (LS-3) (SOG, 1994)
SOG: National Index of Parish Registers - series, by county
W E TATE: The Parish Chest (Phillimore 1946, 1983)
WILTS. FHS: The Compleat Parish Officer (Wilts FHS, facsimile reprint [1774] 1996)
WILTS. FHS: The Handy Book of Parish Law (Wilts FHS, facsimile reprint)


IGI - International Genealogical Index
IHGS - Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies
NIPR - National Index of Parish Registers
SOG - Society of Genealogists

Jean DEBNEY (May 2001)
8 Huckleberry Close, Purley on Thames, Reading, Berks RG8 8EH
Tel: 0118 941 3223; e-mail <jeandebney@onename.demon.co.uk>

Registered Charity Number 275891

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