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Published in 1909 by the Wykeham Press, The Parish Registers and Parochial Documents in the Archdeaconry of Winchester was edited by the then Archdeacon of Winchester, William Andrews Fearon, D.D., and the Curate of Burghclere, John Foster Williams, M.A.
Containing some 204 printed pages, the title of this publication, as the authors themselves admit, is a little misleading. On the first count, this publication is, although fascinating, an inventory of the Hampshire parochial records held in the Archdeaconry of Winchester; and on the second count, the inventory conducted by Messrs Fearon and Williams ceases in 1812 for parish registers and 1800 for parochial records. Having said this, this fully-searchable CD-Rom republication had a lot to recommend it, not only for those interested in the available parish and parochial records for County Hampshire.
For readers not solely concerned with the parish and parochial records of Hampshire, but interested in parish records and how and why they were compiled in a more general sense, Fearon and Williams extremely lengthy introduction extending to nearly half of the publication will be of some little interest. Beginning with Thomas Cromwell's injunctions of 1538 instructing every parson, curate and vicar to keep a book of records for every Christening, Wedding and Burial performed the introduction shows how ecclesiastical neglect until 1812 at least, meant that these edicts were summarily ignored. Indeed, the extent of 'missing' Hampshire registers is a case in point. At the time of Cromwell's injunctions there were some 200 parishes in Hampshire, but records for only twenty from this date are extant and the general consensus would appear to be the parish clergy simply dismissed the need to keep records.
The editors provide insights into the writers of the registers and also the general forms adopted in the three different categories of records kept: Christenings, Marriages & Burials. Regarding Christenings, the editors point the perfunctory nature of most records, barring those children from important local families and note that levels of literacy in parishes can be gleaned from the numbers of brides and grooms who were able to sign the Marriage Register. Of most interest are notes in parish Burial Registers, which often include ages, causes of death, character of the deceased, descriptions of their funerals and even local gossip.
Some twenty pages or so of the publication are given over to the parochial records of the Churchwardens, the recording of 'Royal Briefs', usually as a result of a natural disaster, the glimpses of daily church life, local customs and parish history that could be gleaned from the parochial accounts and the impact on the records wrought by events such as the Reformation, Civil War and the rule of the Commonwealth and plague. There follows a complete inventory of the extant Parish Registers and Parochial Records for Hampshire down to 1812 and 1800 respectively, concluding with a general index to the introduction.
The Parish Registers and Parochial Documents in the Archdeaconry of Winchester must appeal to genealogists and historians in general with an interest in Hampshire, but the introduction is to be heartily recommended for the light it sheds on the uses and information that may be found parish and parochial records in general and more especially for those of Hampshire.
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