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

Presbyterian Churches

Information about Presbyterian churches and Presbyterian records in Durham County Record Office.

About Presbyterians

Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists 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 non-conformists to worship in their own meeting houses.

Baptisms and Births

The registers of all non-conformist churches were kept less systematically than those of the Anglicans and many contain entries for vast areas. The registers contain records of baptisms or births. The births of non-conformists 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 non-conformists' 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 non-conformists but most non-conformists married in the parish church. After 1754 all non-conformists except Jews and Quakers, who were specifically excluded, were required to marry in the parish church and no marriage registers for Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists should exist from 1754 to 1837. After 1837 non-conformists 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.

Burials and 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 non-conformist meeting houses had their own burial grounds.

How to Search for Presbyterian Records

Presbyterian registers are on microfilm and to see them you must Make an appointment and book a microfilm reader.

Search Church Registers for details of the registers we keep.

Many registers of non-conformist churches have been transcribed and/or indexed.  See Indexes and transcripts (Non-conformist and Miscellaneous) in the Guides to Records section of our Information Leaflets.

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

To search for any references to Presbyterians in our catalogue type Presbyterian into the Keywords box and select Yes to include Word variations.