Browse images of baptism, marriage, and burial records from the English county of Hertfordshire. Findmypast’s browse feature allows you to look through the Hertfordshire parish record books from cover to cover. View the parish list to learn which parishes are included in this collection.
Each result will include a parish register book. The information found in each book will vary depending on the events recorded as well as the age and condition of the book. Early parish registers recorded births, marriages, banns and deaths in one composite volume. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the practice of recording life events continued to change and eventually parishes were mandated to record events in separate books.
Below is a list of what you may find recorded for each occasion.
Before civil registration began in 1837, parish registers were the main resource for recording vital life events. Thomas Cromwell, the Vicar General of the newly established Anglican Church of England, mandated in 1538 that all parishes were to keep records of marriages, baptisms, and burials. Often these records were kept in a single book. The book was to be kept in a coffer, a small chest, locked by two keys. One key was held by the minister and the other by the church warden. Entries were to be made every Sunday after service. The church would be fined if records were not kept up to date.
In 1753, the Hardwick’s Marriage Act required marriage records to be kept in a separate book with individual entries for each marriage. In 1812, printed registers were provided to parishes to record all life events in separate volumes.
In England, the 1235 Statute of Merton states, "He is a bastard that is born before the marriage of his parents." The use of the word bastard continued through the 16th century, with the Poor Law of 1576 forming the basis of English bastardy law. It aimed to punish the child’s unmarried mother and putative father and to relieve the parish from the cost of supporting the mother and child.
The language changed in the 20th century, with the introduction of the Legitimacy Act 1926, which legitimized the birth of a child in England and Wales if the parents later married each other. The act refers to the child of unmarried parents as the illegitimate person.