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Archdeacons' and bishop's transcripts

These are contemporary copies of parish registers made annually by each incumbent and sent to the diocesan authorities.

Incumbents in the diocese of Norwich, before 1812, made the returns to their archdeacons for about six years out of every seven.

The exceptions were bishop's visitation years, when the transcript was sent to the bishop.

All transcripts were sent to the bishop from 1813 onwards. Therefore, which series of records you need will depend on which years you wish to search.

The earliest transcripts survive from 1600 onwards. However, there are many gaps in both series of transcripts.

Incumbents sometimes did not send them in to the authorities and some transcripts simply have not survived.

These records are available on microfilm and fiche at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) and the Norfolk Heritage Centre (NHC).

When to use the transcripts

It is usually best to use the parish registers if they survive, but the transcripts are useful if:

  • The parish register has been lost
  • The parish register is still in the parish
  • The parish register is too fragile to use
  • The parish register is thought to be incomplete
  • The parish register is difficult to read

The practice of sending copies of the registers to the diocesan authorities died out after the introduction of civil registration in 1837.

Some parishes did continue with the practice well into the 20th century, but it is very rare to find a marriage entry in a transcript after 1837.

The archdeacons’ transcripts (ATs)

These are arranged alphabetically by parish and are available on microfiche in our searchroom.

They are available prior to 1812 only, as from 1813 onwards all returns went to the bishop.

The earliest ATs survive from 1600 onwards, but for many parishes they do not survive until the 18th century.

It is easier to search the ATs first and fill in the gaps with the bishop’s transcripts if you are searching for an entry prior to 1812 and you do not have a specific year in mind.

The bishop’s transcripts (BTs)

The BTs are arranged differently to the ATs as they are in two series, for the Norwich Archdeaconry and the Norfolk Archdeaconry.

They are in yearly bundles within each archdeaconry and the parishes are arranged alphabetically on the microfiche/film for each year.

The pre-1812 BTs are available on microfilm, the post-1812 on microfiche.


  • Parishes which were historically in the county of Suffolk and the Archdeaconry of Suffolk are Belton, Bradwell, Burgh Castle, Fritton near Yarmouth and Gorleston. ATs and BTs for these parishes are held at the Suffolk Record Office.
  • Norwich parishes: to make it easier to search the whole city, all the ATs are grouped together by year, with the exceptions of St James Pockthorpe, St Mary in the Marsh and St Paul (these have their own series ATs). St Helen is another exception as no transcripts for this parish survive at all before 1813.
  • Great Yarmouth: as well as the ATs and BTs, Yarmouth has another alternative source in the form of the weekly register bills. These cover the period 1773-1841 and are often much easier to read. They are available on microfiche in the searchroom.
  • Castle Rising: ATs for this parish continue beyond 1812 up to 1818.
  • Great Cressingham: No ATs survive.
  • Thorpe St Andrew: all transcripts were sent to the bishop.
  • Emneth: this parish was in the Diocese of Ely. All ATs and BTs are among the Ely diocesan records at the University of Cambridge Library.