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Parish Registers

What are Parish Registers?

In many countries throughout the world, Catholic parish records were written in Latin even into the twe​ntieth century. In some countries registers of protestant churches, such as Lutherans and Anglicans,  were also maintained in Latin. Since the keeping of records as part of the civil registration systems did not start until the nineteenth century, parish records constitute an invaluable source of information about individuals. These re​cords can be divided into two categories: Non-Sacramental records and Sacramental records. ​

Non-Sacramental Records:

Beyond recording the sacraments performed in the parish, administratiive record of parish activities exist, including faternal order books, church censuses, account books, and local history documents.

Sacramental Records:

Since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Catholic parish priests have been required to keep record of certain sacraments in bound register books. These include records of baptisms or christenings, marriages, deaths or burials, and confirmations. Parish entries appear in two basic formats; tabular and paragraph. The former generally have columns with the headings in Latin with the information written within the columns written in Latin, although the grammar does not always precisely follow the proper grammatical  function indicated. Paragraph formats generally contain more information about procedures followed and parties participating in the sacrament, although they are more challenging to read..

Even lthough the specific requirements for keeping parish registers have changed from time to time, the formats of baptisms, marriage and death/burial entries have stayed basically the same. This tutorial will introduce you to those formats; focusing on the specific information contained in each entry and where within the entry that information can usually be found.

Click on the links below to start learning more about these magnificent sources of genealogical and demographical information.

Types of Sacramental or Parish Registers

Click on the type of record below to learn more and see sample images with transcriptions and translations.

Baptism Records​​

Marriage Records

Marriage Investigations

Burial Records

Additional Resources
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