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Where Can I Find My Clerical Ancestors? – Genealogy Problem Solver

Where Can I Find My Clerical Ancestors?Where Can I Find My Clerical Ancestors?

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When searching parish registers we record the entries for our ancestors noting down names, when and where the event happened etc., but do we look at who the Vicar, Rector or Curate was? Possibly not, but then when we discover that we have a clerical ancestor those names we have ignored in the register suddenly become a person, and someone to track and note through the years. And of course we want to know all about them. So the answer to the question “Where Can I Find My Clerical Ancestors?” is that there are a number of sources you can look at online.

Clergy of the Church of England database

In my opinion this database is the first port of call for information about clerical ancestors. Established in 1999 it gathers together records from over fifty archives in England and Wales. Coverage is from the reformation to the mid 1800’s. The database gives name, where educated, parishes served and date of death. Be aware that one clergyman may well have several entries so do check all occurrences of the name.  Click Here for the Clergy of the Church of England database.

Where Can I Find My Clerical AncestorsCrockford’s Clerical Directory

Crockford’s is the Who’s Who of the clerical world, it is still published today. Established in 1858 by the son of a clergyman a new edition is printed every few years. The directory contains biographies of Anglican clergy through the U.K.  Ancestry offers a database that is made up of a selection of Crockford Directories dating from 1868 – 1932 so quite a long time period. The information you can expect to find is name, where studied, work history and time period he performed his duties. The name of a clergyman was only removed from the directory when he died so that can be helpful establishing a death date.  Click Here for Crockford’s Clerical Directory

Where Can I Find My Clerical Ancestors The Surman Name Index

The Surman Index is a biographical card index of Congregational ministers which was donated to Dr William’s Library in 1960. If you have non-conformist ancestors you need to familarise yourself with Dr William’s Library – I will be writing a post about this library very soon. The index comprises a card each for 32,000 ministers who served between the mid-seventeenth century to 1972 with dates, education, ministries and the source of the information. The coverage is for England and Wales, but does include some ministers who trained or served abroad. Also included are some 17th and 18th century Presbyterians.

The index is hosted by The Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English and the website has details of The Dissenting Academies Project which may interest those with non-conformist ancestors. Click Here for The Surman Name Index.

Where Can I Find My Clerical AncestorsNon-Conformist Registers

The registers of births, marriages and deaths of non-conformist congregations are held at the National Archives, Kew. In 1837 the registers were gathered in by the government so that they could be preserved and authenticated. Courts were unwilling to accept certificates issued by churches and chapels other than the Church of England, so at the beginning of civil registration they were collected. They are as follows:-
  • RG4 – General Register Office: Registers of births, marriages, and deaths surrendered to the non-parochial registers commission of 1837 and 1857.
  • RG5 – General Register Office: Birth certificates from Presbyterian, Independent, and Baptist registry and from the Wesleyan Methodist Metropolitan registry.
  • RG8 – General Register Office: Register of births, marriages, and deaths surrendered to the non-parochial registers commission of 1857, and other registers and church records.

 Ancestry has indexed images of the above registers and additional Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers for the period  1567-1970. Click here to access these registers.

 FindMyPast the above registers for the time period 1689 – 1837. Click here to access these registers.


The National Archives, Kew have an online guide regarding non-conformist registers. Click here to access the guide.  

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