WARNING: The correct use of any item of parish data from this project requires initial reading of these GENERAL NOTES and then of the specific PARISH NOTES. It is recommended that if you intend to make extended use of this transcribed data, you print out the Notes.
For the Internal Procedures of the Project, see the Appendix to these General Notes.
When you use this programme and reach the database screen, you see the form filling access instructions. When you have submitted your query, and the output is on the screen you see a table of seven columns, each horizontal line in the table is the index to an entry. The column NOTES provides access to parish notes; the column PARISH states from which parish the entry arises; the column FULL provides access to the complete entry; and the next four columns give information from the register: date of entry, baptised’s (or deceased’s) surname, forename, and residence (often empty for earlier records). For marriage entries the names and residences of both parties appear (and you need to scroll right).
If you access a full record, then the data is presented in two columns. The left column gives the field name from the database, the right column the data in that field. Note that the first two fields contain database information which is not found in the register entry, and the third field gives the name of the parish (in code). It is important to note that these 4 character parish codes are separate from the four character residence codes used elsewhere. If there is no data in a field, then the field does not appear, except that the last field (named additional information) for each record appears whether or not it contains data. The fields vary according to whether you are searching Baptisms, Marriages or Burials. Here are a summary of the key fields.
Baptisms: Date / baptised’s forename(s) / sex / father’s forename(s) / mother’s forename(s) / surname / occupation or rank / residence / illegitimate (term) / father’s forename(s) / occupation / residence / birth date / age / multiples (twins|others) / private baptism / additional information [AI]
Burials: Date / forename(s) / surname / sex / status / occupation/rank / residence / relationship to next of kin / illegitimate (term) / first kin’s forename(s) / second kin’s forenames(s) / surname / occupation or rank / residence / date of death / age / cause (of death) / additional information [AI]
Marriages: Date / groom’s forename(s) / surname / status (marital) / occupation or rank / residence / age / signature/mark / banns or licence / bride’s forename(s) / surname / status (marital) / occupation or rank / residence / witness 1 / witness 2 / clergy / additional information [AI]
Hereafter PR = parish register; BT = Bishop’s Transcript. Each parish produced PRs and BTs, notionally from 1538 and 1597 respectively, but sections of each record have been lost or are defective.
The BTs notionally copy the PRs but many include different or independent information, as follows:
Further, BTs occasionally fail to record individual entries or items within entries recorded in the corresponding PR, but this is not normally noted in the transcription.
[While not affecting the transcription procedure, it may be noted that printed forms for PRs were used for most Marriages from 1754 and for Baptisms and Burials from 1813. No printed forms seem ever to have been issued for BTs.]
The three categories of parish registration, Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, are hereafter referred to as ‘events’. In the Notes the separate events are normally indicated by the abbreviations Ba, Ma, Bu.
Each single registered event, a single baptism, marriage or burial, is referred to hereafter as an ‘entry’.
Confirming the Introduction above, each entry contains data, in more or less standardised categories (e.g. date, forename, surname, sex), and each category is represented in the transcription by a ‘cell’, hence an entry consists of occupied cells. But the number of occupied cells (i.e. items of data) varies, especially over time. For instance, early registers contain limited data, leaving many cells blank. The list of cells for each event is given above.
The final ‘cell’ of a transcribed entry for all three events contains any information in the entry additional or supplementary to that in a standard entry. Often this cell is blank. But when occupied it may contain information on a wide range of matters, either in full or in CODE. Hereafter this cell is referred to as AI.
While most entries follow standard practice and can be transcribed and read off from the transcription without further explanation, the hundreds of thousands of entries that have been transcribed include thousands displaying anomalies, that is, problems of interpretation, first for transcription and then for the user. By definition the anomalies are multitudinous and infinitely varied! Allowing for them in the transcription required elaborate rules, and therefore now requires lengthy explanation - even although many anomalies very seldom occur. Anomalies affecting all three events are first explained below, followed by anomalies affecting only each separate event. For individual anomalous entries in each PR/BT, see the relevant Parish Notes.
Data in the PRs and BTs, other than that stated below to be expressed in CODES, is recorded in literal transcription, that is, in the original spelling. This includes personal names (for exceptions, see PERSONAL NAMES below), occupations, and many items in AI.
Each parish has Parish Notes. These include a list of Anomalous Entries, the interpretation of a particular item being affected by what is there stated. Before accepting any item of entry data, it should be checked against this list, to avoid an erroneous interpretation. It is also wise for the user intending to find and use any item of data from a parish to consult the Parish Notes of that parish before proceeding, since it alerts him/her to the extent of the various possible problems.
Warning. The Parish Notes of any parish are derived from information supplied by many individual transcribers. Whereas for the copying from the PRs of ‘factual’ data (dates, names, etc) the transcribers worked to strict instructions, and the editors exercised strict checking controls, for some of the ‘interpretative’ data in the Parish Notes the transcribers followed looser instructions (arising in part from the difficulty of foreseeing the problems at the time the instructions were drawn up), and in some instances they misread or disregarded them. The Parish Notes should therefore be treated as guidelines to problems, comprehensive for many parishes, less so for others, and in a small number of instances, with regret, quite inadequate (as will be signalled).
Many early registers were written in contemporary, simplified Latin, employing limited and often abbreviated formulas of no historical significance, but also using Latin forms for forenames. The period of use of Latin is indicated in the Parish Notes, but in error not consistently.
The earlier sections of many PRs do not separate out the three events (as is later normally done by placing them on separate pages and/or in separate sections of a register volume or in a separate volume), but instead insert the events together chronologically (that is, in the date order they occurred). The different events are only distinguished by the wording (e.g. ‘baptised’, ‘buried’), or, especially where the entry gives only a name, by an initial abbreviation (e.g. C = ‘christened/baptised’, B = ‘buried’). These abbreviated indicators are not themselves transcribed (although their existence may be signalled in the Parish Notes), but the entries are transcribed as so distinguished, in their correct categories. Such sections of PRs are described as ‘Mixed registers’.
(a) Occasionally in early PRs, in relation to one or more entries, no event signal is given, or one is not legible, hence it is impossible to know whether a particular entry is a Ba or a Bu (an Ma can always be distinguished by the appearance of two personal names, male and female, as the subject of an entry). In certain instances, but in error not consistently, the entry has been transcribed twice, once as a Ba and once as a Bu. The list of Anomalous Entries in the Parish Notes of each specific parish lists all detected anomalous Ba and Bu items. To alert the user to the extent of the problem, the Parish Notes of the relevant parish should be consulted before accepting Ba and Bu items. However, each relevant Ba and Bu item has a warning note attached.
(b) Very occasionally in PRs, a named Ba is followed by a Bu with a name lacking, but stated to be ‘the same’ or ‘the above/aforementioned’, etc. n such cases, the Ba name is applied to the Bu, and normally the statement will be fully transcribed in AI. or the same but wider problem, see 3.08(a) DITTO below.
(c) See also 3.08(b) DITTO below
No punctuation signs being available in the original computer programme, none are transcribed.
(a) Years, months, and days are given by a figure of seven numerals in the form YYY/MM/DD, i.e. year/month/day (the year date running from 537 to 870 (i.e. 1538 to 1870, the thousands digit not being shown; the month date from 01 to 12; the day date running from 01 to 31).
(b) An omitted day of the month or month of the year is represented by YYY/MM/00 or YYY/00/DD respectively. The year, because often given in the record only in page or section headings and not repeated in each entry, is very occasionally uncertain (being omitted or lost in a damaged page), and is then given in the transcription as 333/MM/DD.
(c) The seven numerals may appear with or without the slashes (e.g. 808/02/29 or 8080229).
N.B. Old Style (OS)/New Style (NS) Dates
Where registered dates 1 January to 25 March carry the year date of the previous 31 December (i.e., they are OS = Old Style), the year date is adjusted to the year date of the following 26 March (i.e., NS = New Style). The Parish Notes normally include a reference to the date when NS first appears in that register.
The instruction to adjust OS year dates was introduced at the start of the project to allow computer calculations, but is now recognised to have been unnecessary, and an error, as contrary to best editorial practice.
Personal names (forename and surname) are transcribed as written, that is, in the original spelling, with the following exceptions.
(a) Contraction signs (normally overline but occasionally including online punctuation signs such as a colon or full stop), normally occurring only in certain earlier entries, were unfortunately not available in the original computer programme and hence are omitted from the transcription. Parish and entry notes may draw attention to individual instances where an abbreviation sign appeared in the manuscript, and may indicate the appropriate extension, e.g. Preston for ‘Presto’.
(b) In early registers the forenames are sometimes in formulaic Latin.
N.B. It is very rare to find more than one forename before the later nineteenth century.
PRs, particularly those where entries are in columns, often use ‘ditto’ or ditto marks to save copying an immediately previous name (and/or other detail). In this transcript the missing name (and/or any missing detail) is instead inserted.
The majority of Ba and Bu entries refer implicitly to gender by using the contrasting terms ‘son of’ / ‘daughter of’ and ‘husband of’ / ‘wife or widow of’. These relationship terms, the gender confirmed by the forenames of the individual referred to, are signalled as follows.
Ages in years, months, weeks, hours, etc are transcribed as follows -
For terms for various ages, e.g. ‘child’, see CODES/General/Age below.
(a) Where Residence is stated in the form ‘of this parish’, that is, without the parish name being given, the name is instead inserted in the transcription. In the case of ‘both of this parish’, see also CODES.
(b) For an additional letter (P, C or T) at the end of the name of a place-name, see CODES/General/Residence below.
Up to 1812 parish clergy (the minister or curate), and sometimes also the churchwardens, often signed the register below a year’s entries (perhaps to confirm preparation of an annual BT) or at the bottom of each page; and from 1753 clergy names also appeared in marriage entries.
(a) Clergy names are assembled in the Parish Notes, against the dates at which signatures appear (which may not represent the full period of individual service). Only the names of incumbent clergy are listed, occasional locums being ignored. After about 1810 short-term service of curates became common, and these names have also been ignored. Occasionally reference is instead made to an existing list of incumbents.
(b) The names and dates of churchwardens are also assembled in the Parish Notes, but not always consistently. Where Churchwardens Accounts are extant, reference may be instead made to these and the list accordingly abbreviated.
(a) Private baptism (cell), the date entered, any further information in AI and see CODES.
(b) Multiple baptisms (cell), that is, the same day baptism of more than one child of the same parents, see CODES/Baptisms/Multiples below.
(a) Birthdate (cell) as Date in general (3.06 above).
(a) Terms for (e.g. bastard, base, etc), see CODES/Baptism/Illegitimacy below.
(b) in Name cell: A name following the forename of the child, when very occasionally other than the mother’s surname (e.g., ‘Mary Smith daughter of Mary Jones’), is inserted as a second forename.
(c) in Baptism Father’s Surname cell: Paternity code R is added after Name when required.
(d) in AI cell: Paternity(e.g., ‘reputed child of’), very occasional, see CODES/Baptism/Paternity below.
Very occasional, see CODES/Baptism/Received below.
e.g. ‘child of’, in some early PRs given in Latin, for terms see CODES/Burial/Relationship below.
Occasionally named parents of the deceased have different surnames, see CODES/Burials/Personal Names below.
See CODES/Burial/Twins below.
TERMS, see CODES/Baptism/Illegitimacy above
N.B. The form of marriage entries was standardised nationally from 1754.
(a) Marriage entries may indicate the form of authorization, that is, by banns, by licence (occasionally), or (very occasionally and additionally) by certificate. For these, see CODES/Marriage/Forms of Authorization below.
(b) Occasionally details of banns, licence or certificate appear in a pre-1754 register entry. Formulaic statements (e.g. ‘Banns published on three several Sundays before [a stated date]’ are not transcribed. Specific statements (e.g. ‘Published by Wm Hughes Rector’) are recorded in AI, and see CODES/Marriage/Forms of Authorization below
(c) Very occasionally the dates of the three Sundays appear in a pre-1754 entry. If the dates are consecutive, this is indicated in CODE, but if otherwise in full in AI.
(d) The printed-form marriage register between 1754 and 1812 provided within each marriage entry for the recording of details of banns. In error, the project when drawn up made no allowance for this and these details have not been transcribed. Strictly, therefore, the project has transcribed marriage entries but not the full marriage registers.
Uncertain: The residence of the couple is sometimes not given separately for each party but is in the form e.g. ‘William Burgess and Betty Birtles of X’. Particularly if the register is other than that of X parish, this form of entry makes it less than certain whether the single statement ‘of X’ applies to each party. See CODES/Marriage/Residence below.
[Use of the term ‘residence’ is convenient but it should be understood that the term ‘of’ has an uncertain meaning - ‘of’ by present residence, ‘of’ by last residence, or ‘of’ by locality of birth?]
The printed-form marriage register from 1754 required ‘signatures’ from groom, bride, clergy and witnesses.
(a) Where the party’s spelling of surnames does not match that inserted by the clergyman elsewhere in the entry, both are indicated, and see CODE/Marriage/Personal Names below.
(b) Where the groom, the bride or a witness does not sign but makes a mark, the name transcribed is that written in by another party present, normally the clergyman, and this is signalled by a CODE.
Categories of BT items, explained above (1.01), are identified as follows.
Note that to search for all entries of a surname, e.g. MELNER, it is necessary: (a) to search for MELNER using the standard parish code or "All Parishes". This deliver all *MELNER records as well, but sometimes in perturbed order, (b) to search for any MELNER variant e.g. "MILNER" that might be valid using the standard parish code or "All Parishes" and to look in the AI cell for MELNER, and (c) to consult the Parish Notes for any MELNER entries.
The transcription procedure uses codes. This was in part required by the capacity of the equipment available when the project began, and if the project were starting today the number of codes would be much reduced. The list of codes below is intimidatingly long. But the number of codes actually used in any sequence of entries tends to be small (as transcribers find) and these codes are fairly obvious and rememberable (e.g. DA = daughter of). The list below is therefore for reference. That is, when an uncommon code is encountered, it can be decoded from the list below, which refers first to General Codes (covering all three events) and then to Codes covering each of the specific events, Baptisms, Marriages, Burials.
Almost all extant PRs are now deposited at the Cheshire Record Office or since 2009 more correctly the Cheshire Archives and Local Studes Service (CALS) Record Office (which is also the Diocesan Record Office) and all have been microfilmed. All extant BTs are also deposited at the CRO but have only recently been microfilmed. Note that some parishes have lost at least one volume of PR entries, while a handful of parishes have duplicated copies of a volume; and that gaps of a series of years occurring within the sequence of entries are not uncommon, particularly for the Commonwealth period. The Project transcribes photocopies (‘hard copy’) taken from the PR microfilm, to a standard format. Where the photocopy is signalled by a transcriber as impossible or seriously difficult to read, a Project Team at CRO checks the manuscript PR and/or the BT. This team reads and where necessary transcribes BTs as well.
The Project transcribes material from the earliest PR entries for each parish up to the end of 1871 or as appropriate. The starting date varies between parishes, older parishes commencing in the sixteenth century, a number of more recent parishes in the nineteenth century. The end date, 1871, was the official cut-off date for much archive material when the Project began. The BT material, consisting of annual returns from individual parishes commonly but inconsistently includes long gaps when returns are lacking, either not sent in from the parish or lost.
A team of editors checks returned transcriptions for technical points (e.g. overlap, use of wrong codes or cells by the transcriber). The material is then written to disk using a standard programme, since the 1980s, by volunteers working from home. Editors then check and collate the data for consistency and technical lapses.
The data are validated in a computerised two stage process. Stage 1, checks internal consistency and for data formatting error. Stage 2, checks data against event expectation and the CPRdb data validation standard.
When a parish is ‘complete’; that is the data for all three events: baptism, marriage, and burial; have been through the processes described, and the transcriber notes have been collated and edited, the data are bulk loaded to the “CPRdb” database management system.
Disked material is loaded into the master database, from which the data displayed on the Internet is drawn.
Many separate systems have been and are involved in this; see the technical background description of the project, available elswhere on this website.
Many of the minor limitations in the transcription are due to computer programme capacities in the 1970s when the transcription format and standards were drawn up and active transcription began. The initial enthusiasm of transcribers was such that a significant volume of transcribed material had been prepared in this original format by the time more advanced programming and systems became readily available.