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A parish is a town or village which has its own church. Many
years ago, the parish was at the centre of the system of local
government in Britain. Some areas of the country still have
The parish was organised by a group of people known as the
Vestry. This name comes from the room in the church where they
usually met. Until Victorian times, the Vestry appointed the parish
officers, such as the overseers (who looked after the poor) and the
churchwardens (who looked after the church). They also collected
and spent a local tax called the poor rate.
When Elizabeth I was queen, the government made a law that said
all churches had to make a note of everyone they baptised
(christened), married or buried. These notes were kept in a big
book called a parish register.
Medway Council has put all its
parish registers online on CityArk. You can look at some
examples here: (select each image to show a larger version of the
Baptism of Frances Ward
From 1812 onwards, baptism registers had to record the date of
birth and baptism, the child's and parents' names, their "abode"
(where they lived) and the father's occupation.
Marriage of Richard Mason and Mary Jacobs
- Richard is "of full age" while Mary is a "junior" (under 21
- Mary cannot write her name, so puts a cross (X).
Burial of George Hayward
- The 1881 census shows George's family living at 9 River Street,
- His father was a general labourer in the Dockyard.
Visit us at Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre,
Clock Tower Building, Former Civic Centre site, Strood, Kent ME2