Researching an Anglican clergyman

Introduction and general biographical works

This guide describes the main sources useful for tracing the career of a clergyman in the Diocese of Norwich, or for compiling a list of Norfolk parish incumbents.

Most sources are held by the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) and/or the Norfolk Heritage Centre (NHC).

General biographical works

The Church of England Clergy database gives information about the careers of Anglican clergy from 1540 to 1835. You can search the database by place or by name.

It includes details of ordinations, appointments to livings and (sometimes) educational qualifications. Dates of birth and death are occasionally given.

The database also includes details of the appointments of unbeneficed clergymen, curates, preachers and some schoolteachers.

The Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) includes biographical details and sources for the more notable Norfolk churchmen.

You can see the online version of the DNB at the NRO, NHC and at Norfolk libraries. If you are a Norfolk Library member, you can also see it at home via the Library Service’s online subscriptions service.

Nearly all Anglican clergy had attended an Oxford or Cambridge college by 1700 at the latest. Lists of graduates are published in:

  • A B Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to AD 1500 (available at NHC)
  • A B Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500 (NHC)
  • J Foster, Alumni Oxonienses (NHC)
  • J and J A Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses (NHC)

Alumni Oxonienses and Alumni Cantabrigienses are available to search online at Ancestry. This is a subscription website, but can be accessed free of charge at the NRO, NHC and King’s Lynn Borough Archives.

Entries generally provide educational and career details, including dates of ordination and the name of the ordaining bishop. These are very useful for tracing ordination papers: see below.

Often a father’s name is given and, very rarely, a place and date of birth.

For the period 1643-1660, see A G Matthews’ books Walker’s Sufferings Revised and Calamy Revised.

These contain biographies for Anglican clergy persecuted in 1642-60 and the Puritan clergy ejected from their livings in 1660-2 respectively. Please note these books are not held by NRO or NHC.

For local history publications about individual churches and clergy, visit the NHC.

At the NRO we also have a small collection of local history publications available on our searchroom shelves.