Sunday, June 15, 2014

Are there hidden gaps in parish registers?

Help Desk
Colin's question about the birth places of the Rev. Thomas Charles Hose looked straightforward enough - but when answering a question other unexpected issues come up.

 On the 1st November 1866 Thomas baptised his son Arthur at Little Wymondley and the entry in the register is followed by the words:  
I, Thomas Charles Hose, Incumbent of Little Wymondley certify that the above is a true copy of the Register of Baptisms solemnized in the parish of Little Wymondley during the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty six.
Witnessed my hand this 12 day of July 1867
J.C. Hose 12/7/67
So what was going on? The register was meant to be the master record of baptisms in the church - so why is this "a true copy of the Register of Baptisms" ??? The most likely explanation is that Thomas had been keeping a private register rather than enter the baptisms directly into the official register, and had, in July 1867, copied the entries over.

This raises a possible source of error in baptismal (and burial registers). When a wedding was held (at least after the Hardwicke Marriage Act of 1753) the register had to be filled in at the time because the register needed to be signed by the couple and witnesses. The register is not needed at a baptism or burial service, but is completed afterwards. Not only could the minister forget to record it - but it seems that a number of ministers wanted the registers to look neat and tidy and wrote the details in a private notebook and entered a whole batch of entries at one time. This practice opened the possibility of all kinds of additional errors and omissions - especially when the minister died before he could update the register.

Little Wymondley
In the case of Little Wymondley the patronage arrangements had changed in 1863 and prior to this date there may have been an unofficial parallel register. (Further investigation is needed as while FindMyPast shows individual pages of the register it does not allow scrolling through for unusual entries or patterns of entry.)

For more information - including details of Thomas Charles Hose and his family - READ ON ...

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