A common query that I receive is along the lines of “I am trying to find the whereabouts of the registers for … Church which was named on my great-grandparents’ marriage certificate in November 1887. I am trying to trace the baptisms of their children as I have had difficulties in finding their birth certificates”

For this kind of question I normally first look in Catholic Missions & Registers, 1700-1880 published by Michael Gandy[i]. This is a series of six volumes covering England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man as follows:

  1. London and the Home Counties
  2. The Midlands and East Anglia
  3. Wales and the West of England
  4. North East England (out of print)
  5. North West England
  6. Scotland (out of print)

My copies of these volumes were published 1993 and the London and the Home Counties volume was revised in 2003. The volumes are arranged by county and there are entries for each mission for which registers are known in order of earliest date. So for example, in Volume 5 in the Lancashire section we find:

1875 RAINFORD, St Helen’s. Corpus Christi. Orig: B1875+ M1877+ Conf1877+ DBur1875+ (PP)

This shows that the original Baptism (B), Marriage (M), Confirmation (Conf), Death and Burial (DBur) records for St Helen’s Church in Rainford exist from the stated years and continue to the present date (+). At the time of writing the records were with the parish priest (PP).

If the records had been copied or moved (perhaps to a diocesan record office, or the county record office) then this would have been shown.

Remembering that the information was published in 1993 it is important to check that nothing has changed and, in this particular case, I would check that the registers have not been deposited with Lancashire Archives who are responsible for the archives of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Lancaster, Liverpool, and Salford.

At this point there are usually three situations:

1) The records exist and have been deposited in a records office or other archive

2) The records exist and are with the parish priest

3) No records exist – either none are known, or they were destroyed, for example in a fire

In future posts I will provide some hints and tips to help with the first two situations.

[i] Available from Michael Gandy, 140 Hampden Way, Southgate, London, N14 5AX at the price of £6.70 per volume including postage and packing