Book Review: Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians. By Stuart A. Raymond. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £14.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2017. 232 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Until the late seventeenth century, every man and woman in England was a member of the Church of England. Legally, that continued to be the case for several centuries, although in practice Non-Conformists and Roman Catholics denied their membership. Even today Anglican priests recognize they have an obligation to serve everyone within their parish. Thus, everyone, at least into the nineteenth century and earlier, can claim Anglican ancestors.

The Church of England is the established church of England and Wales, plus Ireland, but not Scotland. The records of Ireland and Scotland are not included here. This book focusses on the records created within the dioceses and parishes of England and Wales, although other records are mentioned when appropriate.

The first section in the book provides context of the institution. It provides a brief outline of the history of Anglicanism; describes the structure of the church, how clergy and laity operate within it, and why the records that we use were created. There is also a chapter on the preliminaries of research regarding the use of record offices, books, libraries and the internet. This is a good introduction to English research methods and sources.

The following two chapters examine what researchers are most commonly seeking, that is references to the baptism, marriage and burial of their ancestors.  The first looks in detail at the registers themselves, while the second looks at alternative records for the same information such as bishops’ transcripts, banns registers, marriage licence [MELISSA – correct English Spelling for record] records, monumental inscriptions, etc. The next two chapters examine additional records produced by the parish and diocese, such as: churchwarden accounts; vestry minutes; seating plans; tithe records; confirmation registers; visitation records; diocesan courts; records of loyalty; and more, introducing lots of lessor known or utilized records.

The next three chapters take a more in-depth look at specific topics. The church ran the English probate system until 1858, which is explained, along with guidance on how to find what is needed. This is followed by a discussion of Anglican charities, missions and religious orders. Then, for those with Anglican clergy in the family, there is a good chapter on the numerous sources that make tracing these individuals easier than tracing lay family members.

The books final chapter looks at additional sources that might provide clues or information about the clergy or church members, such as: Charles Booth’s interviews; diaries; Compton Census; 1851 ecclesiastical census; Glynne’s church notes; newspapers; Queen Anne churches; school records; and more.

Numerous bibliographic and web link references are included throughout the book, to take the researcher to more in-depth resources. Multiple indexes arranged by place, name and subject also simplify the location of material. This book is up to Mr. Raymond’s usual high standards of a practical, comprehensive, clearly written research guide. It is highly recommended.

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