Every record includes a transcript and an image of the original sacramental register. The details found in each record can vary depending on the age of the document and the details recorded at the time of the event by the parish priest.
Records year range
Images may provide additional information such as your ancestor’s parents’ names or burial plot. The original registers were recorded in Latin, the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some Latin words and translations you may find in the records.
Common Latin words or phrases found in England Roman Catholic parish burials
Aetati - age
Anno - year
Cognomen - surname
Die - day
Ex - from
Mensis - month
Sepultum est in - buried in
The England Roman Catholic parish burials range from as early as the 1650s until 1907. Records after 1907 have been restricted by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which placed a 110-year closure period on all sacramental records. The records found in this collection come from the Birmingham Archdiocesan Archives and Westminster Archdiocesan Archives. Some parishes within these dioceses have retained their sacramental registers and are not included here.
As of 2001, there were approximately 4.2 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales. The religion has flourished since the 18th and 19th centuries. Prior to that time, Catholics endured persecution and restriction of their religious life in England for centuries. In the late 18th century, Parliament began to pass relief acts, which ended restrictions on Roman Catholics in England. In 1791, the Roman Catholic Relief Act legalised the practice of Catholicism. Further acts were passed and barriers removed, such as the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, which allowed Catholics to sit as Members of Parliament, and the Universities Test Act of 1871, which allowed Catholics to enter universities.
After the reestablishment of the Catholic hierarchy in 1850 by Pope Pius IX, the dioceses of Birmingham and Westminster were formed. Westminster diocese includes Greater London boroughs north of the River Thames and across to the River Lea in the east. Westminster is one of the smallest dioceses in geographical size but one of the largest in population. At the time of its creation, the Archdiocese of Birmingham had 73 missions with about 35,000 parishioners. It did not take long for both dioceses to grow with the arrival of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, and Italy, as well as with large numbers of English converts to Catholicism.
As the Catholic population grew, more churches opened and some in unexpected places. St Anne’s of Alcester Street in Birmingham was founded in 1849 in an old gin distillery. The area had a large congregation of Irish immigrants. A new church was built and opened in 1884. St Joseph in Nechells was opened as a cemetery chapel for the local burial ground. However, due to the growing population of the area, Sunday Mass was said in the cemetery chapel every week. Later, a school opened on the site, and a new church was built in 1872 to accommodate the large congregation. The records show Mary Caffrey, aged 7 years 1 month, and 8 days, as the first person to be buried at St Joseph in 1850.