This page provides information about, and links to, sources for tracing your family history. Many records are held in archives and repositories across the country, and this page aims to give a guide to where to find information, and in particular which Anglican sources are likely to be of use and how to find them. We hope this is a useful starting point for your search.
For records before 1837, church registers are your best option for family history. These consist of baptism, marriage and burial records for every parish in the diocese, and have been kept since the mid-sixteenth century – though many of the earliest registers are no longer in existence, and those that do exist are often almost illegible and very scanty in terms of information.
Later records from 1812 onwards are particularly useful: baptism registers recording parents’ names, and marriage registers giving father’s names, for example. But don’t forget that your ancestors may not have been members of the Church of England, or (more recently) may not have been married or buried by the church, or indeed baptised at all.
Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives is the Diocesan Record Office for the Diocese of Manchester. Central Library cares for the historical records and registers of parishes, including those of redundant parishes.
Most parish registers of the Diocese of Manchester (including Manchester Cathedral) are now available online at Ancestry.co.uk.
This includes digitised original registers and a name index of baptisms (1500s-1915), marriages (1500s-1930) and burials (1500s-1985). Free access to Ancestry.co.uk is available from any Manchester City Council library. Parish registers are not always complete and in some cases registers are still held by parishes.
Archives+ Heritage Collections Manager
Community and Cultural Services
Growth and Neighbourhoods Directorate
Manchester City Council
PO BOX 532
Tel: 0161 234 1979
Central registration of all births, marriages and deaths began in 1837 and basic information on registrations from this date onwards (name, quarter, page) can be accessed via indexes of births, marriages and deaths.
The national indexes are available online at Ancestry.co.uk (1837-2005) and Findmypast.co.uk (1837-2006). Local copies of the index are also available for free at LancashireBMD.org.uk and CheshireBMD.org.uk. Manchester Central Library holds a microfiche copy of the national index from 1837 to 2010.
Once you have found the required entry from the index a copy of the original certificate can be purchased from the Manchester Register Office (for the City of Manchester), or from the appropriate district register office. However please note that the Manchester Register Office and the majority of district register offices will not supply marriage certificates if the church is not known.
Download Guidelines for parishes on storing parish records.
The General Register Office provides ordering facilities for certificates and advice on research. There are also a number of commercial sites, many of whom advertise in magazines such as Family Tree.
If you are taking your first steps in family history or genealogy, these other sites will also be useful: BBC Guide to family history, The Society of Genealogists, and the national Church of England website.
See also 'Lancashire Online Parish Clerks' a website that provides free online transcriptions of Parish Registers, and supporting information. It could be a useful source for tracing a Lancashire family history. www.lan-opc.org.uk
This is a relational database documenting the careers of all Church of England clergymen between 1540 and 1835. Created by scholars from King's College London, the University of Kent at Canterbury and the University of Reading. You can visit the site here.