Parish Registers and Phillimore Marriage records
Parish registers are the main tool to use in tracing your ancestors before census and civil registration commenced, and these records can go back as far as 1538.
Parish registers originally commenced in 1538 when Thomas Cromwell first ordered that in every parish, in England and Wales, a list must be kept recording all baptisms, burials and marriages. Initially, these records were kept on loose leaves but the rules were later tightened by James I ordering the records to be kept in parchment books. His order stated that all previous entries, back to at least the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in 1558, must be transcribed into the new books. Unfortunately, many parish clerks only did as instructed and the 20 or so years previous to 1558 were lost when the originals were destroyed. Some do remain complete back to 1538 - this explaining the variations in the start of parish registers.
There has never been any regulation as to the amount of information which must be recorded, so the records vary greatly, although in 1754 "Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act" introduced a set of printed forms which has helped keep records fairly consistent since that time. The Act was introduced in an attempt to make illegal all clandestine marriages for which no publication of banns, or a licence had been granted, and after 25th March 1754 were to be classed as void unless they had been performed in a church or chapel.
During the late 19th century many Parish Register Societies were formed with volunteers, mainly from the clergy, but also from the general public, getting together to transcribe the contents of these parish registers.
Many hundreds if not thousands of books were published in short runs, normally 100-200, which were provided to the subscribers of these societies. Most copies ended up in major libraries and private collections around the world, and are quite rare books these days. We have been collecting these when available and have a large collection which we are putting online.
William Phillimore Watts Stiff was born in Nottingham on 27th October, 1853, the son of Dr. William Phillimore Stiff, M.B., and his wife Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Benjamin Watts of Brigden Hall, Salop. He assumed the surname of Phillimore with his father in 1873, to commemorate his descent from the Phillimore's of Cam in Gloucestershire, where the family had resided since the 16th century. For most of his life he devoted himself to the study of genealogy and was a prolific publisher and editor, founding the publishing business of Phillimore & co. in 1897. He was responsible for the publication of over 200 volumes of Marriage register transcripts.
We currently have over 600 parishes from these volumes included on the site and many more to come.