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Baptisms and Birth Records in the UK

What is a Baptism Record?

A baptism record is a any type of record or certificate that states the date and place an individual was baptised into a church. These records are available from 1538 onwards, and are recorded in Parish Registers. They are an invaluable resource for researching your family tree because the census and official records of birth, marriage and death do not go back further than 1837.

Recording a Baptism in a Parish Register

Until 1813, the amount of information given is very basic. This included:

  • Child's name
  • Father's name
  • Church/Parish where baptised
  • Date

It was very uncommon for the mother to be mentioned, as this was considered to be unimportant. Although later on, the mother's name began to be stated, so a record would look something like this: "Frederick the son of John Smith and his wife Anne was baptised".

If an illegitimate child was baptised, then the mother's name would be stated, with the word 'illegitimate' or similar in the margin.

In 1813, a new pre-printed parish baptism record book was introduced, and because of this, entries became more standardised. However, there was still no information recorded about the date of birth, although some Clergymen added this information, especially where the baptisms was for someone other than a child. You can find a date of birth on registers after about 1860.

The columns to be completed in the baptism register were:

  • Register entry number
  • When Baptised
  • Child's name
  • Parents name
  • Abode
  • Quality, Trade or Profession
  • By whom the ceremony was performed

For records after 1837, you will have to look at Birth Records.

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