Abbreviation for Parish Register, these registers recording baptism, marriage and burial data and are particularly useful before the introduction of birth, marriage and death registration in 1837.
Occasionally other kinds information can be found, e.g. confirmation.
Entries vary, both with different requirements over time and according to the whim of the person who entered the data. The details that vary include whether or not ages are given for burials, occupation in all entries (of father for baptism, head of household for burials, usually only of groom if at all for marriages before 1837), marital status, etc.
In the early days of PRs in the C16th entries are most variable. Some early records have very little detail, e.g. baptisms without parents names, whilst others contain more than is found later, e.g. father’s names for marriages, not found again until 1837.
Where PR data is found made available on FamilySearch, by country FHSs etc. it is often described as a transcription, when really the data is an index lacking some of these details.
The registers was the responsibility of the parish priest, but sometimes delegated to the parish clerk. A requirement was to keep the registers in a chest in the church, but churches are often damp and this has led to the unfortunate deterioration of some. I haven’t tried to measure it, but my impression is that this has been more of a problem in Devon than Kent (the two counties where I have done most research) and this is as you would expect, Devon in the west being a milder, damper county than Kent in the east.
Copies were provided to the diocesan Bishop (Bishop’s transcripts or BTs) and to the Archdeacon (Archdeacon’s transcripts or ATs). These can be of particular use when PRs don’t survive or are illegible, and may be of use when e.g. a blank space was left for a name in the PR and never filled in; the person creating the transcript may have included it. In general we all make mistakes so transcripts are likely to be a little less reliable than PRs, and corrections made to PRs after the transcripts were made are very unlikely to appear in the transcripts.
« Back to Glossary Index