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. The register for Goadby Marwood, which covered this early period through to the mid-1600s, has been lost although some patchy records for the period do exist as documented transcriptions. 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 second register dates from 1656.
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 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 include information not previously typically 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 so bringing the country in line with most of our European neighbours. 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, are: Lady Day (25th March), Midsummer’s 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. Lady Day used to mark the start of the tax year, however, the introduction of the new calendar and the loss of the 11 days in 1752 meant that this date was changed to 5th April to avoid losing 11 days of tax revenue. Another change was made to the date in 1800 because of a mis-match over leap years in the new and old calendars with the date being changed to 6th April where it remains to this day.
On July 1st, 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.