A follow-on from the previous post giving more information from Jim Lancaster. The enquirer was asking if there is a list of what is available online.
Sadly there is no such list. It would a major task that would need someone
to commit themselves solely to it. Michael Gandy spent several years
compiling his volumes and his task was not as vague. He compiled a list of
all the missions (no mean feat in itself) then contacted all the parish
priests of those churches to find where their registers were deposited. Not
all priests responded and he had to contact some several times. He would
also have contacted the various record offices to check their holdings. A
comparable listing of on-line registers would be much more difficult, given
the unorganized nature of record transcriptions.
The British Isles have always been seen by Rome as three distinct entities,
no matter what the politics of the day stated. The Church in Great Britain
is divided into two, England and Wales, and Scotland; and Ireland North and South) as a separate entity. All three are separate with their own hierarchies, etc. I have little knowledge of Catholic history in Scotland or Ireland. A major source for the chronology of the development of Catholic missions in Great Britain is the Catholic Directory, an annual publication. This started in the early 1800s and
covered London initially and developed to cover Great Britain (England,
Wales and Scotland). The Catholic Directory are now two separate volumes
one for England and Wales and one for Scotland. Ireland has its own
I referred to Gandy’s books because these list all the known chapels and
their registers, IF they exist. If a register is not listed, there is no
point in looking for it on the internet. Canon Law requires each parish
priest to maintain his registers in a safe condition. Most dioceses issue
advice as to how this is done, but the dioceses often differ in this advice
according to their circumstances. Some dioceses collect the registers no
longer needed for religious purposes into the Diocesan Archives (I think
Northampton is one such) whereas others recommend that the old registers are
deposited in the local County Record Office. The three Lancashire dioceses
(Liverpool, Salford and Lancaster) have agreed that parishes in Lancashire
use the Lancashire Archives in Preston as the place of safety – except for
parishes in the City of Liverpool and they use the Liverpool Record Office.
Ancestry, FindMyPast, etc., have been active in acquiring access to
deposited registers. Some of the Diocesan Archivists have agreed to this
and have made transcripts. etc., available to one or more of these groups.
As far as I know there is no listing of these.
At the time civil registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths commenced in
England (Scotland is different) the Registration Commissioners requested
that non-parochial chapels submit their registers for authentication so
that the information (pre July 1837) could be used in courts of law. Most
Free Church chapels submitted their registers for authentication, many on
the understanding that the registers would be returned, but very few RC
chapels submitted their registers (I think, mainly from north-east England).
The only Lancashire chapel to submit its registers was Blackburn (St Alban).
The registers were not returned and have eventually found their way into the
National Archives. They are listed in TNA catalogues as Class RG4. There
was a repeat request made in 1858 and these registers are in Class RG5 or
RG8, I think. These deposited registers are now available on both Ancestry
and FMP .
Many local family history societies have transcribed some Catholic registers
but these are not usually available on line as the sale of the transcripts
help to support the FHS. Some societies are selling information on the
internet through one of the major sites. Most of these are listed in the
GenGuide site I mentioned in my earlier note.
It must also be remembered that the civil law between 1756 and 1837 required
all marriages to be solemnised in a licensed Anglican church before an
authorised Anglican minister if they were to be recognised in law. Except
is very rural areas there were no Catholic burial grounds and Catholics were
usually buried in the local Anglican church. Often the fact that the
persons involved were Catholics (Papists) is not mentioned in the register.
As the various transcribing agencies each has its own aims and agenda, there
is little coordination of the activity. Even within one team there may not
be a planned program of transcribing. It usually depends on what the
volunteers can access easily. As an example, I have attached a listing of
the RC material that is currently available on LancashireOPC.
FamilySearch has a listing of the records it includes. Searching that list
for a specific church will show if any of its registers have been
transcribed for FamilySearch.