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The details you can generally (but not always, as the occupation and address in particular were sometimes omitted by the clerk) expect to find in the full results are:
- Entry number
- Date of baptisms
- Date of birth (if given)
- Child’s fornames
- Child’s surname
- Names of mother and father
- Source reference number and notes from the margin
Understanding Your Results
You can normally expect to find the following information for each entry:
Date of Birth, Date of Baptism, (sometimes as much as 40 or 50 years afterwards), Surname, Christian name, Parents’ Christian names, Address, Occupation, Entry number and Source reference number.
The source Reference Reference number referred to is the number of the roll of microfilm at the London Metropolitan Archives, (see Contacts page), that you can view for yourself.
The absence of any of the above information can mean either that the entry was blank or illegible. The baptisms of the children of single women in particular are unlikely to record the name of the childs father.
Multiple matches indicate that either a name is particularly common in the population as a whole, such as Smith or Jones, or that they are all part of the same family. There are numerous examples throughout the Registers of whole batches of children being Baptised at the same time.
There are also many examples of families recording the Baptisms of their children from one generation to the next. It is not at all unusual for a family to have lived and worked in the same area for over 400 years.
If you are fortunate enough to have Watermen & Lightermen amongst your Ancestors, you are very likely to be able to discover a vast amount about them. Extensive archives exist about the ‘Aristocrats of the Thames’.
If you are convinced that your Ancestors did indeed come from the Docklands we recommend you first search the archives of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen, as this will tell you which parishes they lived in. Remember that pre 1836, Parish registers are the only place where you will obtain details of your Ancestors Baptisms, Marriages and Burials.
The Parishes bordering St Peter’s are:
St George in the East, Cannon Street Road [out of Stepney 1729]
St Paul Shadwell, High Street, [1656, out of Stepney 1669]
St John Wapping, Church street[1617, out of Stepney 1694]
All of these Parishes are descended from the original mediaeval Parish Church of St Dunstan’s, White Horse Street, Stepney.
The importance of parish registers to family historians
Before civil registration started in 1837, you have more chance of finding an ancestor in a parish register than in any other source.
Parish registers began in 1538 when a law was passed requiring the clergy to record baptisms, marriages and burials. It was further decreed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1597 that all existing records should be copied into “fair parchment books, at least from the beginning of this reign”. Thus began a practice that endures to this day.
Although there was much resistance to the practice at first by some of the clergy on the grounds of cost, it quickly became universal. England at that time was still almost exclusively a Catholic and still largely a feudal society. The Church held enormous sway in the lives of the people. The new Church of England continued the practice of recording baptisms etc and it is this body of information that is of most use to family historians.
The bulk of these records have now been deposited by the various churches into the care of County Record Offices. For the London area, (with the exception of the City of London) that’s the London Metropolitan Archives. Most have been microfilmed and some indexed.
Our databases are derived from these microfilms. Each has been transcribed by an experienced transcriber and fellow family historian. In addition, each transcriber has a geographical connection with the the area.
The function of the Church in the early registers was to record events that were connected with the church. Hence, dates of baptism, marriage and burial were recorded and not dates of birth and death.. However, from the 18th century onwards, dates of birth and death were increasingly recorded in the parish registers.
The discovery of an ancestor in a parish register is an exciting event. Not only do you find a date for a specific event, like a birth date, but you pin a whole family down to an area and often a trade. If there’s one entry in a register there’s likely to be more. A search of the nearby parishes is also likely to be fruitful.
*Please note that we cannot be held responsible for any mispelling or errors made by visitors using our database facilities. Refunds will be given at the discretion of the Docklands Ancestors’ Management.
You may also wish to view the entire transcription of a parish on CD. This is certainly advisable where there maybe variants of a surname as it may work out to be even more economical for you. Please click here to view the Docklands Ancestors Series parish registers on CD.
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