The parish record is a record kept by the incumbents of each parish under the jurisdiction of the Church of England, recording baptism, marriage and burial from the mid-16th century to the present. Not all records exist, especially from the early days of recording, but millions of records are indeed the main source of information we have provided to the general population of the UK over the past four hundred years.
The record was kept in England and Wales in 1538, and a decree was issued to King Henry VIII by Vical-General. Baptism, marriage and funeral should be recorded for each parish, although the form of the record at the beginning was not specified and there were inevitably many early losses or discards. In 1597, during the reign of Elizabeth I, it was pointed out that books made of kraft paper or parchment should be used, and all records that were at the beginning of Elizabeth's rule should be copied into these books. Therefore, most parish registration dates are 1558 [the year Elish Elizabeth entered the throne], not 1538, but there are some earlier registrations.
Every entry must be copied and sent to the bishop of the local parish every year. These records are called Bishop's Transcripts and are a valuable resource for today's historians if the original registry is missing or corrupted.
During the civil war in the mid-17th century, different local registrants were used – the pioneers of today's civil registration – but after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, many local registrants failed. As a result, many parishes have a gap of about 20 years in their records – this is called the "British Commonwealth Gap."
The printed paper registrant was introduced to the marriage in 1754 and later baptized and buried in 1813. This standardizes the information that must be collected.
Most older parish registrants are already in the county record office, but some are still in the parish priest. Many people have already used microfilm and indexing, but not all. When researching registrants, it's best to go back to the original document because they are not always properly indexed. There may be other information in the original that is not included in the index – for example, the age of the person at the time the event occurred.