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Archives and Special Collections: Sources for Family History: Bishop's Transcripts

About the Records

Transcripts of parish registers are popularly known as Bishop's Transcripts.  They are contemporary copies of Church of England parish registers, recording baptisms, marriages and burials. Parishes were required to copy (transcribe) their registers annually, and to send the copies (transcripts) to the Diocesan Registry.

Original parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials do not form part of the Durham Diocesan Records, but are kept either by individual parishes or (normally) at the Durham County Record Office. The Bishop's Transcripts supplement the parish registers that survive at the County Record Office, and in some cases fill gaps. The handwriting within the Bishop's Transcripts is sometimes also easier to read than in the original registers.

The Bishop's Transcripts relate to the whole diocese of Durham (County Durham and Northumberland).  More information about the diocese of Durham is available under Church of England Records.  But to summarise, Bishop's Transcripts are available for the following areas:

  • County Durham north of the Tees, including Darlington, Hartlepool, Stockton, Gateshead and South Tyneside boroughs and the city of Sunderland
  • Crayke in North Yorkshire (until 1837*)
  • Allertonshire in North Yorkshire (until 1813*):  Birkby, Brompton, Cowesby, Deighton, Hutton Bonville, Kirby Sigston, Leake, Northallerton with Romanby township, Osmotherley, Otterington North, Rounton West, Nether Silton, Thornton-le-Street and Worsall High
  • Alston and Garrigill in Cumbria
  • Thockrington in Northumberland (until 1837*)
  • Hexhamshire in Northumberland (after 1837* only):  Allendale St Cuthbert, Allendale St Peter, Allenheads chapelry, Bingfield St Mary, Carrshields (or High West Allen), Hexham, Ninebanks (or Low West Allen), St John Lee, St Oswald in Lee and Whitley chapel
  • Northumberland (the rest, including the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and North Tyneside borough)

*For later Bishop's Transcripts from Crayke and Thockrington, or earlier ones from  Hexhamshire, consult the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York.

For most parishes, the surviving Bishops' Transcripts cover the period from approximately 1760 until the mid-nineteenth century. Very few transcripts of marriage registers were made after civil registration was introduced in 1837.

Background information on the Bishop's Transcripts is available within our Administrative Histories for the Durham Diocesan Records.

Printed indexed transcripts of some parish registers are available in our local collection, but many more can be found with County Record Office collections, the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society and at findmypast.com.

Family History Information

Bishop's Transcripts list those who have been baptised, married and buried within Church of England parish churches and churchyards, in date order. For the earlier period, little more than names and dates are included (and usually parents' names for children baptised). From 1813, standard forms are used, which include:

  • names of both parents for baptisms
  • place of abode and age at death for burials
  • place of abode of both parties for marriages.

The unique feature of parish registers for Durham diocese, and therefore also of the Bishop's Transcripts, is the additional information recorded for baptisms and burials from 1798 to 1813. During this period, Bishop Shute Barrington required parishes to record additional information as follows:

  • for baptisms: date of birth, numerical position of child in family, mother's maiden name, native parish of both parents
  • for burials: date of death, trade, status and age of deceased, sometimes maiden name of married women.

Note that most of this additional information is not included in the post-1813 registers of baptisms and burials.

The list of Bishop's Transcripts is within the episcopal administration section of the Durham Diocesan Records catalogue (under reference DDR/EA/PBT or using the navigation links at left hand side).

This list does not include any names, just lists of parishes and chapelries with dates of the transcripts.  For most parishes, only the outside dates of the transcripts are listed.

Availability online (digital images)

Digital images of almost all the Bishop's Transcripts are available at the familysearch website.

When using the images on familysearch, note:

  • The images have not been indexed, so will not be found by carrying out a surname search on familysearch. They are only available for browsing on that site.
  • You will have to sign in to access the images. If you do not have an account on familysearch, you will first need to set one up. This is free of charge.
  • familysearch is an external site and is the responsibility of the Genealogical Society of Utah, not of Durham University.

Access to original sources

The collections mentioned above are located at Palace Green Library.  Our current opening hours are below.

  • Monday to Friday: 10am to 5pm
  • Saturday: closed
  • Sunday: closed

For further information on visiting to use the collections, please see our Visiting Guide.

See separate Libraries and Site Information guide for further information on Palace Green Library.

Contact us

Sources elsewhere

Printed indexed transcripts of some parish registers are available in our Local collection, but many more can be found with County Record Office collections, the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society and at findmypast.com.