View of St. Denys' Church from Goadby Ha

The Parish Registers of St. Denys's Church

Parish Registers were first used during the reign of Henry VIII when chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, ordered that every wedding, baptism and burial was to be recorded. Sadly, few records exist from this time and the register for Goadby Marwood, which covered this early period through to the mid-1600s, has been lost. The earliest records we have for the village date from 1656, although we know from Nichols’s History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester that the first entries in the earliest register dated from 1542.

The amount of information provided in parish records varies. Sometimes a baptism record may provide the address and occupation of the father as well as the full names of both parents including the maiden name of the mother and the child’s date of birth; at other times, just the date of baptism and the child’s and father’s names will appear. The information recorded often changed with a change of Rector or Parish Clerk. For example, Goadby’s Parish Register shows that on 22nd January 1697, the then Rector, Timothy Chamberlain, was buried. Subsequent entries in the register often include information not previously recorded such as the father’s occupation.

The Goadby registers highlight the shocking child mortality rates of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, with infants often being buried within days of their christening. Whilst the death of a child would have been a sad event for the family concerned, it would not have been all that unexpected, and in many cases the next child born was given the same name as his or her dead sibling.

A number of changes took place in the mid-1700s which make interpretation of the parish registers of the period particularly difficult. In September 1752, Britain implemented The Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use, which switched our use of the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. In order to achieve the change 11 days were omitted, thus, the day after 2nd September 1752 was 14th September 1752.

The Act also changed the date for the beginning of the New Year. Prior to 1752 the year began on Lady Day, 25th March. Lady Day is one of the Quarter Days which are still used in legal circles today. These Quarter Days, which divide the year in quarters, are: Lady Day (25th March), Midsummers Day (24th June), Michaelmas Day (29th September) and Christmas Day (25th December). Thus, the day after 24th March 1750 was 25th March 1751. The Act changed this so that the day after 31st December 1751 was 1st January 1752. As a consequence, 1751 was a short year as it ran only from 25th March to 31st December. These calendar changes resulted in an odd anomaly which is still with us today; for tax purposes, the financial year still officially starts on April 6th - Lady Day plus the omitted 11 days.

On 1st July 1837, a civil registration system for births, marriages and deaths was introduced in England and Wales. From this date on, registration was undertaken by civil registrars who reported to the Registrar General at the General Register Office in London, now part of the Office for National Statistics. Today, copies of an individual’s birth, marriage or death certificates can be obtained by any member of the public.