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Churchwardens' Accounts (Parish)

Nature of Source

Records from the churchwarden accounts showing the money paid out for a variety of goods and services. The records also note expenditure on a wide range of matters such as road repairs, vermin control and the purchase of communion wine. The accounts will show details of payments to individual named craftsmen such as carpenters, glaziers, carpenters, decorators and stonemasons for the upkeep of the church and its surrounds. The churchwarden was responsible for the overall management of the church, its land and property. His duties included arranging the baptism of foundling children and the burial of strangers. Other details included payments to the poor of the parish. The churchwarden was assisted in his duties by one or more assistants known as sidesmen. It is probable that a churchwarden was listed in the diocesan directory which can be available at County Record Offices.

At times the churchwarden may also have acted as the overseer of the poor or the parish constable. Occasionally, early accounts could note a burial. Some accounts list the names of parishioners who rented property or land from the church. He also acted as the 'eyes and ears' of the parish on behalf of the regional church court which amongst other things dealt with moral misdemeanours by parishioners. His reports to the bishop were informative and record numerous names, however these reports were not kept in the parish chest. The accounts contain numerous names but searching for a particular name in the records can take time and patience.

Also consult the constable accounts for other parishioner names and addresses. The constable carried out a wide range of duties in his locality and was required to account for his expenditure. He also received instructions from the Justice of the Peace to carry out assignments on their behalf. The surviving records will describe named individuals with their occupations and family connections.

See also:
Apprenticeship Indentures
Bastardy Documents
Church/Ecclesiastical Court Records
Overseers of the Poor Accounts
Rate Books
Settlement Certificates/Examinations and Removal Orders
Vestry Minutes

Where Found

County Record Offices
The National Archives (Copies of churchwarden accounts were lodged with the central authorities if required for legal action)

Period Covered

1127 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names of the church wardens andother officials. Names of those paid for carrying out services on behalf of the parish. Names of those renting church property. Names of those receiving poor relief.

Further References

Cox, John Charles. Churchwardens' Accounts from the Fourteenth Century to the Close of the Seventeenth Century: Methuen, 1913 (Available to read online or download from the Internet Archive)  Buy Now on Amazon
Dymond, David. Short Guides to Records-Churchwardens' Accounts: Historical Association, 1995
Eastwood, David. Governing Rural England: Tradition and Transformation in Local Government 1780-1840: Clarendon Press, 1994  Buy Now on Amazon
Stephens W.B. Sources for English Local History. Cambridge University Press, 1981 (Preview available from Google Books)  Buy Now on Amazon
Tate, William Edward. The Parish Chest: Phillimore, 1983 (Preview available from Google Books)  Buy Now on Amazon
West, John. Village Records: Macmillan, 1962  Buy Now on Amazon
Check with local record societies for published editions of local churchwarden accounts.  

Websites (London Lives: Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor Account Books) (Borthwick Institute for Archives Research Guide: Churchwardens’ Accounts - Who are Churchwardens and what do they do?) (Church Wardens and their Accounts))

Online Databases (Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire Vicars and Parish Officers, 1332-1881; St. Michael's Parish Church, Bishops Stortford Churchwardens' Accounts, 1640-1785 containing lists of residents; West Bromwich Churchwardens' Books, 1678-1872; Lewes Church Accounts, 1522-1601;Arlington [Sussex] Church Accounts, 1455-1497)
(London Lives, Culture & Society 1680-1817. London Lives chronicles the lives of Londoners through the exploration of a variety of sources including criminal registers, session papers, ordinary’s accounts from Old Bailey, apprentice records, coroner inquests, workhouse minutes, Register of admissions to workhouse, clerks’ papers, Churchwarden's account books, Vestry minute books/vestry minutes, Register of removal orders, Pauper examination books/examination books, bastardy bonds and much more) (Dorset, England, Parish Poor Law Records, 1511-1997. The original records are held at the Dorset History Centre) (Warwickshire Parish Poor Law, 1546-1904: Churchwardens’ accounts in association with Warwickshire County Record Office) (Warwickshire, Miscellaneous Parish Records including churchwarden’s books in association with Warwickshire County Record Office) (Boxford Suffolk Churchwardens' Accounts, 1530-1561; Churchwardens' Accounts of Cratfield Suffolk, 1640-1660)
(Devon, Plymouth & West Devon Parish Chest Records 1556-1950. Records from the parish chests of Plymouth and West Devon including: Examinations, Jury Lists, Settlement Papers, Bastardy Papers and Overseers and Churchwardens’ Accounts)
(Churchwardens and Sidesmen of the Cathedral and Parish Church of Manchester, 1422-1911) (SoG Data Online: Llanaber, county of Merioneth churchwardens 1742-1790)

CD Roms

Anguline Research Archives (Churchwardens' Accounts of the Town of Ludlow in Shropshire)
East Surrey Family History Society (Churchwardens Accounts 1504-1645, Vestry Book 1610)