In 1538, Thomas Cromwell ordered parishes to maintain baptismal, marriage, and burial records, and keep them in a ‘secure coffer’ – with the keys to be held by the priest and churchwardens. Legislation followed in 1598, requiring the transcription of all loose-leaf records into books, with particular emphasis on those recorded since Elizabeth I’s accession (1558), which is why so many surviving registers start in that year. The order also required both churchwardens to witness the entries and send a copy to the diocesan bishop each year.
On 26 November 1897, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Fishwick convened a meeting at Chetham’s Hospital in Manchester with the aim of forming ‘a Lancashire Parish Register Society to print the registers of the ancient parishes in the county’. The Society was born out of concern that these valuable records, which were still held by the incumbent of the parish, might be lost, destroyed, or simply deteriorate as a result of inadequate storage.
The aim was to transcribe the original registers, compare them with the bishops’ copies, and publish them in book form. Each volume contains three indexes: names, place-names, and miscellaneous. The latter largely comprises occupations, but may contain unusual biographical information, such as ‘monoculus’ (one-eyed) – noted for two separate burials in Newchurch, Rossendale, in 1691. Sometimes a bishop’s transcript is at variance with the register, and this is shown in editorial brackets.
Bury, St Mary the Virgin was published in 1898 as Volume 1, and the Society’s objective is to publish all the registers up to at least 1837, and in some cases a little beyond. We have so far transcribed all the surviving 16th- and 17th-century registers, with the exception of Hoole, St Michael, which is in preparation, and we have made large inroads into the 18th- and 19th-century rural parish volumes. Volume 200, which is, appropriately, the final volume for Lancaster Priory, will be published shortly.
We are desperately short of transcribers at present, so please get in touch if you can help the Society. This is interesting work, as the growing industrial conurbations of Liverpool and Manchester remain to be done. Members receive a copy of every publication, which can amount to three volumes a year, and all volumes are now available on CD.
Further information: http://www.lprs.org.uk
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