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Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Bishops’ Transcripts

Since 1598, parishes were required to send copies of their parish registers to the bishop once a year. Not all parish clerks complied, but those who did gave us another source of BMD data. After the beginning of civil registration in 1837, the practice was phased out and was completely gone by mid-century.

I was saved at the Norfolk Records Office a number of years ago, when I couldn’t read the last name of my GGGG grandmother on her parish marriage record from the mid-1700s in Necton, Norfolk. A worker at the office looked at my microfilm reader’s screen and said it looked like “Beetle.” Since I had thought “Castle,” she suggested we see if it was clearer in the Bishops’ Transcripts (BTs). Yes, it was clearly “Beetle.”
(Note: Here is an attempt to tie this post with last about clergy in the COE (Church of England). England and Wales have two provinces within the church overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York. Under them are bishops who have religious jurisdiction over a diocese or group of archdeaconries, rural deaneries and parishes. Archdeacons sometimes in some places received annual copies of BMD records from parishes which were conveniently called Archdeacon’s Transcripts or ATs.)

Besides clearing up hard to read microfilm, BTs or ATs may cover periods when the original registers were lost or destroyed. It is hard to say which source is better. The BTs are transcriptions and have all the associated problems – entries skipped, numbers transposed. Generally, the parish registers are in better condition today.  On the other hand, making the copy for the bishop gave a parish clerk the chance to correct mistakes so they may be the most accurate. It would pay to check both, if possible or if there is a question. 
Most bishop’s transcripts are in the county records office. If the bishop’s seat is in a different county than the parish, you will need to find out which county office to approach. A simple email should do the trick. As familysearch.org puts evermore data online, look there as well.

Source:  Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company 2006.

 ©2012, Susan Lewis Well

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