Find out about Congregational churches and the Congregational records in Durham County Record Office.
Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians have their origins in the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century but no registers maintained by them exist before 1641, when, with the relaxation of persecution, registers were started.
After 1662 dissenters were again attacked, but in 1688 the Toleration Act allowed protestant nonconformists to worship in their own meeting houses.
Baptisms and births
The registers of all nonconformist churches were kept less systematically than those of the Anglicans and many contain entries covering large geographical areas. The registers contain records of baptisms or births.
Births of nonconformists were often recorded in the parish registers but were not necessarily identified as such. Often the only indication given is that the child’s birth rather than his baptism is recorded. Acts of 1695 and 1700 required the birth of nonconformists’ children to be notified to the Anglican clergyman and a record to be kept in a special book, but the instruction was rarely carried out.
Before 1754 some marriage entries do occur in the registers of nonconformists but most nonconformists married in the parish church.
After 1754 all nonconformists except Jews and Quakers, who were specifically excluded, were required to marry in the parish church and no marriage registers for Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians should exist from 1754 to 1837.
After 1837 nonconformists were allowed to solemnise marriages, but a registrar was required to be present so there was no specific need to maintain a register. These marriages are recorded in the civil registration records. In 1898 an ‘authorised person’ was allowed to take the place of the registrar, so church registers are more likely to exist from that date.
In some registers some deaths were recorded but burial was usually in the parish churchyard and was accordingly recorded in the parish register. From the eighteenth century some non-conformist meeting houses had their own burial grounds.
How to find Congregational registers
Congregational registers at Durham County Record Office are on microfilm. To see them please and book a microfilm reader.
Search Church Registers for details of the registers we keep.
Many registers of nonconformist churches have been transcribed and/or indexed. See our guide to Indexes and transcripts (Nonconformist). When you visit us you can search these indexes, which are located in the microfilm room.
How to search the online catalogue for Congregational church records
To search for Congregational church records on our online catalogue go to Search the Catalogue.
Type Congregational into the Keywords box and select Non-conformist Church Records from the Category drop-down list.
To search for any references to Congregationalists in our catalogue type Congregational into the Keywords box and select Yes to include Word variations.