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Caring for parish church records

Selecting records for preservation

The nature and quantity of records varies greatly from parish to parish.

This makes it difficult to lay down hard and fast rules as to which documents should be kept and which may be destroyed.

Please contact us for advice if you are in any doubt.

Records which should be preserved

  • Registers of baptisms, marriages, burials, banns and confirmations
  • Registers of services
  • Orders of service for special services held at the church (one copy of each)
  • Documents relating to property, such as title deeds, terriers, maps and plans
  • Documents relating to the church fabric, especially:
    • Major restorations and alterations, including quinquennial survey reports
    • Church log books
    • Faculties
    • Specifications
    • Plans
    • Correspondence
    • Photographs
  • Papers concerning special parish projects
  • Papers regarding benefactions
  • Papers relating to legal rights and duties and to disputes
  • Union of benefice papers, plurality orders and pastoral schemes and orders
  • Parish profiles, compiled during vacancies in benefices
  • Vestry minutes
  • Parochial Church Council minutes, detailed agenda and reports
  • Parochial Church Council account books and annual statements of account
  • Churchwardens’ accounts
  • Records of the Overseers of the Poor (including overseers’ accounts, rate books, apprenticeship indentures, bastardy papers and settlement papers)
  • Records of the surveyors of the highway
  • Records of the parish constables
  • Records of local charities
  • Records of local schools
  • Parish magazines, church guides, and publicity material produced by the parish (one copy of each issue)
  • Minutes, accounts, etc of auxiliary organisations, such as the choir, bellringers, Mothers’ Union, Sunday School

For legal reasons, all financial records should be retained for seven years.

Records which can be destroyed

These documents can be disposed of when no longer needed for administrative purposes.

  • Marriage and baptism certificate counterfoils
  • Banns, burial and disposal certificates
  • Baptism and banns applications
  • Parochial Church Council cash books, paying-in books, bank statements, bills, used cheques and other subsidiary financial records
  • Correspondence regarding routine parish administration and routine financial matters
  • Insurance policies
  • Circular letters sent out by other organisations