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Parish Register Conundrum

Discussion in 'Comments on the latest newsletter' started by Pauline, Nov 23, 2019.

  1. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Peter asked what we would do if were to discover an historic parish register in the possession of an ordinary citizen.

    I would try and encourage them to deposit the register in the appropriate archive. If they were reluctant to do this, then I would suggest that they at least allow an archive to digitise it, and advise on care and storage.

    I would also be interested to know how the register came into their possession. People may be reluctant to hand over items which they have paid for, or believe to be of monetary value.

    So I would make sure that they were aware that it is possible to retain ownership when depositing items at archives.
    • Agree Agree x 5
  2. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    I’ve been giving this some further thought, especially about how it is that an ordinary citizen now has this register. If it is a Church of England register, then these are owned by the parish, or if it’s from a redundant church, then probably by the diocese.

    This raises the question as to whether it has been stolen in the recent or distant past, and that the person who now has it may unknowingly be in possession of stolen property.

    The question of ownership may be less clear with non conformist registers, but I do wonder if the church, diocese or local archives should be made aware of the existence of the register to see what they advise. They may also be the best people to take any further action.

    Obviously we only have the barest minimum of facts about this at present, and knowing more might lead to a better answer.
  3. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    It is a Church of England register.
  4. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    OK, thanks.

    In that case it can't be owned by a private individual, and however it was acquired, I'm pretty sure it will still belong to the parish.
  5. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    watching and wondering over this discussion I find myself asking
    Is this a hypothetical question to get us thinking and talking, or an actual case?
    Is it an English Church of England Register or from some other country where the Church of England is established, such as Jamaica, Australia, NZ etc.?
  6. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    In the newsletter item on this Peter wrote "It's not a hypothetical question". So I guess that answers this one for us. :)
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    The thought occurs might it not be an old parchment style Parish Register, long since copied by Parish Clerks into new style -post 1812 - Registers? Most of the old Registers I believe were then discarded or destroyed and it is not not beyond the realm of thinking to imagine some may have found there way into the families of Parish Clerks or Clerics as private possessions.
  8. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Old registers were sometimes copied for various reasons - maybe if they were falling apart or in a very poor condition - although pre-1813 registers were not usually copied into the post-1812 style registers, nor was it done routinely. And there is no doubt that some clergy and/or parish clerks were careless about the registers they had custody of.

    However, I don't think this changes the essential principal here, and that is that whether lost, stolen or otherwise misappropriated, Church of England registers still belong to the parish, and need to be returned if found.

    Also, as well as the issue of ownership, in the wrong hands more recent parish registers could be used for fraudulent purposes.
  9. Susan48

    Susan48 LostCousins Star

    Just a thought - is the register listed in Phillimore?
  10. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Or the National Index of Parish Registers? Or the archives catalogue?

    These may well offer clues, such as whether this register is known to be missing, and if so, since when.
  11. Jeremy Wilkes

    Jeremy Wilkes LostCousins Star

    My inclination would be to notify the incumbent or the priest in charge, or the churchwardens if neither is in office (the proper custodian), and the secretary of the parochial church council if he or she can be identified (the P.C.C. being the owner), with copies to the archdeacon and the diocesan archivist.
  12. Pauline

    Pauline LostCousins Superstar

    Jeremy's post above reminded me that I'd been meaning to ask if there was any update to report on this yet. I presume something has been done about it?
  13. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I haven't heard any more from the member who alerted me to this issue. If and when I do there will probably be a follow-up article.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1

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