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In 1538 Thomas Cromwell, the Vicar General, issued instructions to parish priests to record all marriages, baptisms and burials carried out in the parish. The priest was expected to record them in a register, and from 1598 he also had to make a copy to send to the bishop.
Unfortunately, not all these records have survived. Some parish priests were less thorough than others at keeping records; mice and water inevitably damaged some, and during the Commonwealth period there are considerable gaps, or from time to time things simply get lost. From 1837, the introduction of Civil Registration meant that record-keeping was much improved.
Parish records contain a variety of information, not just about those ‘matched, hatched and despatched’. There are also Settlement Records, which show the parish responsible for the care of paupers, widows, and orphans. Strict criteria had to be met and, if necessary, people were moved on to the relevant parish to be cared for.
The records of the Overseer of the Poor show what form the care of the poor might take, and the Churchwardens' Accounts show monies collected and disbursed, while Vestry Minutes can show the discussions which took place to disburse the available money, either to charity, church repairs or aid the needy of the parish.
Together, these records provide a glimpse of the lives of the less fortunate members of the parish, from those who require a little help to get through a difficult period, to those who struggle to survive and exist on the margins of the community.
This collection is a taster of what is to come.