Cornwall:- Church Records

Anglican Church Records.
  • The Lambeth Palace library has call books for the Archdeaconry of Cornwall 1713-1749 (Court of Arches Exhibits Ff 35c-v). The call books record dates of induction of incumbents of parishes and could be of interest to those with clergyman ancestors.
  • The list of surviving Cornish parish registers and their availability, appears as part of "Church Records" detail on each parish page.
  • The Church of England (Anglican) have a website providing information about, and links to, sources for tracing your family history. Much of what is covered will be held in archives and repositories across the country but their pages aim to give a guide to where to find information, and in particular which Anglican sources are likely to be of use and how to find them.
  • Records of the Diocese of Exeter, (which included most of those relating to Cornwall up to 1875), 13th-20th centuries (including bishops' registers of institutions, ordinations, licences, and consecrations, faculties, marriage bonds and allegations, tithe maps and apportionments, glebe terriers, consistory court act and deposition books, testamentary and other papers) are available in the Devon Record Office.
  • Further information about English Church records is available from GENUKI.
  • Original/copies of the Parish Registers of Cornwall are available at the Cornwall Record Office, which also has a more complete collection of Bishops Transcripts. A Source list is available from the Office itself (County Hall, Truro, TR1 3AY).
  • The Cornwall Centre (Kresenn Kernow) holds copies of the Bishop's Transcripts on microfilm for the majority of parishes in Cornwall. Most date from the mid-sixteenth century to approximately 1670/80, from 1737-1740 and from 1773-1812. The Library produces a list of holdings.
  • Parish register information in the UK is increasingly being transcribed onto Internet websites by the Free Registration Project which is searchable.
  • The OPC Project for Cornwall are transcribing parish records: baptisms, marriages and burials; these are on-line.
  • Cornish Parish Registers - background and details of what is available from Cornwall FHS.
  • The LDS Church have placed some baptisms, marriages and (a very few) burials on their FamilySearch site. Researchers should be aware that less than 70% of Cornish parish registers have been filmed by the LDS.
  • The IGI Batch Numbers are available on-line.
  • A list of Cornwall's Parish Registers, which are in the Library of the Society of Genealogists, is now on-line.
  • Phillimore Marriage transcripts of Cornish parish registers are available on-line by the UK Genealogy Project. They are increasingly included on the Cornish OPC website.
  • Church of England clergy are listed on-line.
Non-Conformist Records.
Jewish Records. There is an on-line database listing Jewish records of marriages and burials available.
Specific Information - Baptism Records.
  • You may come across quite a few burials (usually children and infants) where the Vicar has made a note in the burial register "lay baptism". A cross-check of burials with the baptism registers reveal none of the lay baptisms are recorded in the register, presumably because the baptism was not performed by the Vicar or had taken place in the Parish Church. 'Lay baptisms' were/are confined to life-threatening situations in which it was unlikely that a priest could attend before the child died; in those circumstances anyone can administer baptism. If you are unable to locate a baptism record in any parish register, it may be worth checking the burial registers to see if the Vicar was notified that a lay baptism was administered.
  • Some baptisms in Cornwall, including those in non-conformist chapels, are listed in the OPC database.

Specific Information - Marriage Records.
  • General. Until 1929, the minimum ages people could marry were 12 for girls and 14 for boys; in 1929 both ages were raised to 16. The consent of parents was required for those under 21.
    Apart from Jews and Quakers, most people had to get married in the parish church. Parishioners were usually married by Banns, which meant that details of the proposed marriage were announced from the pulpit (of both the groom and bride's parish churches) for three consecutive Sundays prior to the marriage and a challenge issued in the usual way: "If any man knows reason why these two should not be joined etc........".
    The delay and public aspect of Banns could be avoided by the purchase of a Marriage Licence (usually from the Archdeaconry Court). Marriage by Licence meant that the couple could be married without Banns being called thus saving time in many instances. Perhaps the groom was leaving the district (member of the navy, or other reason), and they wanted to be married before he left, or perhaps the lady was pregnant, or it might be one of the local 'gentlemen' who worked 'up-country' and only had a short time in the parish, or maybe it was because they could afford to pay for a licence.
    Church records include a register of Banns, which are often kept with marriage registers.
  • Methodists. From 1 July 1837 Methodists could get married in their own Chapel if it was licensed for marriages BUT the Superintendent Registrar of the area had to be present and record the details in his own register. Before this date, except for Jews and Quakers, all marriages could only take place in the Church of England (Anglican) churches.
  • Registry Offices. It was also possible from 1837 to have a civil marriage in a Register Office. On 30 June 1837, two Acts of Parliament became law: the Marriage Act 1836, and the Registration Act 1836 (6&7 Will. 4 c86). By these two Acts, covering Births, Deaths and Marriages, the Guardians were directed to provide a register office and to appoint Registrars of Births and Deaths. The Marriage Act provided the opportunity, for the very first time, of marrying with a civil ceremony. The Clerk to the Guardians was given a right of appointment to the office of Superintendent Registrar, and the power of appointment of Registrars of Marriages. Arrangements for carrying out periodic censuses also devolved upon the Superintendent Registrar and the Registrars. That register of marriages was kept by the Superintendent Registrar also. The registers held by at the Register Office cannot be seen, but Index books can be viewed at an hourly cost.
  • Specific links to on-line marriage information can be found in both Ted Wildy's Marriage Witness Index for Cornwall, and the OPC database..
  • Anglican Church Registers. Most Church of England marriage registers for Cornwall (up to about 1900) have now been deposited with the Cornwall Record Office, which is the legal requirement.
  • Non-Conformist Church Registers. Marriage registers for Non-Conformist Chapels in Cornwall are NOT available until the 1890s. The only place to find a marriage in a chapel is to apply at the local Register Office asking the Superintendent Registrar to search his/her own book, and pay for the certificate.
Specific Information - Burial Records.
  • Cornwall Parish Registers Burial Search is available on-line. However, the list is fairly limited but is being added to.
  • Some Cornish burials have been transcribed by the Cornish Forefathers Society, and are in the OPC database.
Specific Information - Cremation Records. Cremation is now a civil matter rather than a church matter. PENMOUNT CREMATORIUM is a publicly-owned, self-financed facility administered by the Cornwall County Council. It is ideally situated two miles from the city centre of Truro on a secluded country estate of twenty-eight acres, eleven of which having been developed as Gardens of Remembrance. Their cremation records are on-line. The records appear to have started in 1956. To access these records, you need to click on Book of remembrance and proceed as instructed. You would have to go through the pages serially if you don't have specific dates because there is no index.