COUNTY SPECIFIC RESOURCES
A collection of various resources specific to each county
Parish Registers, Census, Directories, Maps, etc.
|When we study British genealogy, we refer to the original divisions of
Britain, for it is within these divisions that the records were created.
Some definitions are required to avoid confusion.
County names often, but not always, have the term "shire" as part of the name. Shire means county. Therefore, unlike in the USA, we never use the word "county" as part of the name. There is no such name as "Nottinghamshire County". It is just plain "Nottinghamshire". There is just one exception - Durham is known as "County Durham". It's all down to our terminology, for example:
The traditional counties, as listed here, were so until 1974, with later changes occurring in the 1990s. This is why, for genealogy purposes, we use the old traditional counties. The original records relate to these traditional counties.
Think of a county town as being the "capital" of a county. It is not always the largest town in the county, although is often so. Counties that include the word "shire" usually (but not always) have a county town as part of the name. For example Gloucester is the county town of Gloucestershire, and Nottingham is the county town of Nottinghamshire. Chester is the county town of Cheshire, and Lancaster is the county town of Lancashire. The exceptions (in England) are:
Hundreds and Wapantakes
Counties are divided into sub divisions known as Hundreds (or Wapantakes). These terms and divisions are not in common use today. But you will encounter them in historical records. Many books relating to counties, such as county directories of the early to mid 1800s are divided into Hundreds, and then towns and villages in alphabetical order within them. Although the Hundreds are not in common use today, many of them are still electoral districts, for example Broxtowe and Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire.
Each county is divided into parishes. A parish is a community that was set up in early Norman times in England. Norman lords were each given the responsibilty of the land and people within their parish. Each of them built a parish church (most of them in the 1100s) and most of these parish churches survive today. In 1538 instructions were given to keep registers of all baptisms, marriages and burials in each parish church. These records form an extremely important reference for our family history studies.
Some older towns had several ancient parishes, for example in London, Bristol and Nottingham. As towns and cities grew, many of the old town parishes were further sub-divided into new parishes (each with its own parish church), most of which were founded between 1830 and 1900.
OK.... there had to be a complication. In 1837 a new type of district was introduced. This coincided with the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. (Note, not baptisms or burials which were still recorded, along with most marriages, in churches). These new Registration Districts did not coincide exactly with county boundaries. The early censuses were conducted under the county and hundred system, but those after 1841 were organised by the same Registration Districts as births, marriages and deaths. That's why, in the censuses, some towns and villages show up "out of county".
Copyright ©2004 Rod Neep