Chronological Order for Parish Records
Please Note I have gleaned these facts from various sources, books, internet, apologies if any dates are wrong. It is aimed at showing how it becomes more difficult to obtain records as you get further back in time
Before 1538 baptisms were supposed to be written up weekly some monasteries did keep records. Only about 800 registers still exist with entries from as early as 1538
5 September, 1538 Thomas Cromwell, ordered every parson, vicar or curate to keep a register of every wedding, christening and burial in his parish.
1598 Bound parchment books for recording baptisms, marriages and burials were started by Act of Parliament to include previous entries, so these can start from 1538, but mostly from 1558. Entries were often in Latin and a duplicate set of entries had to be sent to the bishop each year (Bishop's Transcripts despite this there are no transcripts before 1662 in the Welsh dioceses).
1649-1660 Registration was by a Parish Register, the fee of one shilling discouraged many from bothering to register at all.
1660 Free church registration was restored but not enforced with the result that many events, especially marriages, went unrecorded. However, many children were baptised late which is a point to remember.
1694-1705 The Crown was granted a tax for five years on every birth, marriage and burial and an annual tax of 1/- upon bachelors and widowers over 25 years of age. These taxes were granted 'for carrying on the war against France This tax on registration resulted in non registration amongst the poor, or private baptisms in their homes.
1731 An Act of Parliament declared that proceedings in courts of justice should be in the English language from 25 March 1733 (this was assumed to aply to Parish Registers also)
In 1753 the Hardwicke Act made couples marry in a parish where one of them lived.The marriage was recorded in a book designed for this purpose, with spaces for signatures of bride, groom and witnesses. The marriage to take place in licensed buildings which were always churches or chapels belonging to the Church of England. Only the marriages of Jews and Quakers were exempt. Roman Catholics and Nonconformists still had to register in an Anglican parish for the marriage to be legal.
1783-1794 Stamp duty was imposed, poorer families again failed to always register.
1 Jan 1813 (Rose's Act 1812), registers became bound volumes of printed forms. Baptisms showed the name of the child and parents, father's occupation and where they lived. Marriages showed the name and parish for each partner and the names of witnesses. Burial records now gave the age and residence of the deceased.
1 July 1837 Civil Registration began on banns and marriage licences were no longer obligatory. Marriages could again take place in Roman Catholic and Nonconformist places of worship but a registrar had to be present, at least until 1898.
1874 Fines began for non registration of births.
1979 All parish registers had to be deposited with the local Records Office unless it could be proved that the parish itself had adequate storage facilities in which the registers could be preserved. Many parish registers have been indexed/published by Family History Societies.