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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Baptist churches

Find out about Baptist churches and the Baptist records in Durham County Record Office.

About Baptists

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.

Marriages

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.

Deaths

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 nonconformist meeting houses had their own burial grounds.

How to find Baptist registers

Baptist registers at Durham County Record Office are on microfilm. To see them please make an appointment 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 Baptist church records 

To search for Baptist church records on our online catalogue go to Search the Catalogue
Type Baptist Church into the Keywords box and select Non-conformist Church Records from the Category drop-down list.
Catalogue search results - Baptist Church

To search for any references to Baptists in our catalogue type Baptist into the Keywords box and select Yes to include Word variations.
Catalogue search results - Baptist