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Bishop Transcripts (BTs) (Parish)

Nature of Source

The system of parish registration of baptisms, marriages and burials in England began in 1538. The order to keep the registers was largely ignored until a decree in 1597 which compelled the parish authorities to comply with the law. Unlike Scotland, the English authorities also decreed that transcribed copies of the registers should be sent annually to the bishop's diocesan registry. The copies known as Bishop Transcripts (BTs) were required to be sent to the bishop within one month of Easter each year.

Bishop Transcripts are similar in nature to the parish registers but occasionally may include additional information and might contain an entry where the parish registers are not available, so they should always be consulted. Bishop Transcripts were not compiled during the commonwealth between 1641 and 1660 when the state assumed responsibility for registration with a new position created called the parish register, elected by parish ratepayers. Although the order to create Bishop Transcripts was made in 1598, some pre-1598 Bishop Transcripts do exist. Beware that Bishop Transcripts are often inaccurate and the survival rate is patchy but can offer an alternative when the parish registers are missing. Please note that a diocese often did not coincide with the county boundary.

Also see
Parish Registers-Baptisms
Parish Registers-Burials
Parish Registers-Marriages

Where Found

Period Covered

1598 - 1860

Genealogical Value

Baptism, marriage and burial dates; family relationships; addresses; occupations

Further References

Gibson, Jeremy. Bishops' Transcripts and Marriage Licences, Bonds and Allegations: A Guide to their Location and Indexes (6th ed): The Family History Partnership, 2013 (Preview available from Google Books, 4th ed) Buy Now on Amazon

Online Databases (Resources include: Diocese of Durham, England, Bishops' Transcripts, ca. 1639-1919; Lancashire Baptisms, Marriages, Banns and Burials, 1538-1986 including Bishop’s Transcripts; Bishops Transcripts compiled from sources held at the London Metropolitan Archives; Wiltshire Marriages, 1538-1837 transcribed and indexed from a variety of sources including bishop’s transcripts) (Resources include: Canterbury Cathedral Archives: Parish registers transcribed and indexed from different types of sources including bishop’s transcripts; Norfolk Bishop's Transcripts Baptisms, Marriages, Burials 1685-1941; Norfolk Archdeacon's Transcripts, 1600-1812 Baptisms, Marriage and Burials; Shropshire, Kinnerley & West Felton Bishop's Transcripts, Baptisms 1630-1685) (Historical Record Collections including Durham Diocese Bishop's Transcripts, 1639-1919: Cheshire Bishop's Transcripts, 1598-1900; Norfolk Bishop's Transcripts, 1685-1941; browsable images of Kent Bishop's Transcripts, 1560-1911; Northumberland Bishops Transcripts. The site incorporates the data formerly known as the International Genealogical Index and also data formerly sold on CD as the British Isles Vital Records Index. The former Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File can be found under the heading of 'Family Trees') (Parish Register Transcription Society. Indexes and transcriptions of parish registers and Bishop's Transcripts including Phillimore transcripts. See website for county coverage) (Cheshire Parish Register database: Transcripts of baptism, marriage and burial records as well as bishop's transcripts) (The Cheshire Collection: Bishop's Transcripts 1576-1905. The original records are held by the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies)
(Friends of Devon's Archives: 1744 and 1779 Replies to Bishops's Visitation Queries) (Wishful Thinking Parish Records Database: Transcripts of baptisms, marriages and burials extracted from a variety of sources including MIs and Bishop’s Transcripts and focussing on Derbyshire)

CD Roms

GENfair (Wiltshire Family History Society: Indexes and transcriptions of Wiltshire Bishop's Transcripts)