Church & Clergy

Clergymen are notoriously difficult to track down! They moved about a lot! But there are plenty of books and other publications that will make your research much easier.

These include The Clergy List, Crockford’s Clerical Directories, College Alumni records, County Directories, bishops’ records and even parish registers.

The Clergy List – Cox

‘The Clergy List’ was published yearly from around the early 1800s; it was later superseded by the Crockford’s Directories. Effectively, it is a listing of all clergy that were living at the time, together with details of where they were working.

It contains the names and livings of clergymen in England, Wales and Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, military, naval and prison chaplains, as well as those working all over the British Empire. It also lists the benefices in England and Wales, their values, populations and patrons.

These books are extremely rare, and likely to be found in major libraries only.

Facsimile copies are available from Parish Chest.

Crockford’s Clerical Directories

Crockford’s Directories replaced the Clergy Lists 

Crockfords directories are a superb source of information for those with ancestors in the clergy. The contents are similar to the earlier Clergy Lists but are much more detailed, giving vital personal information about each individual, such as where they studied, when they matriculated and all of their previous posts (including foreign posts) and also his full address at the time of publication.

The directory was first published in 1858, and yearly thereafter, and indeed, is still being published.

Older copies are very difficult to obtain, and can be found only in major reference libraries.

A selection of Crockford’s Directories can be obtained from the Parish Chest.

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae
Published 1854 Neve/Hardy

One of the more obscure references.

“An Essay towards deducing a regular succession of all the principal dignitaries in each cathedral, collegiate church or chapel in those parts of Great Britain called England and Wales, from the first erection thereof to this present year MDCCXV; Containing the names, dates of consecration, admission preferment, removal or death of the Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, Precentors, Treasurers, Chancellors, and Archdeacons in their several stations and degrees. To which is added the succession of the Prebendaries in each Prebendal Stall (of most of those erected at the Reformation, and) continued down to this time. As also, of the Heads or Masters of each College or Hall in either of our famous universities from their first settlement to this time. The Whole extracted from the several Registers of the respective Cathedral or Collegiate Churches or Foundations, as also from other authentic Records and valuable Collections never before published.”

Available from the Parish Chest.

College Alumni Records

Almost all clergymen attended the universities of either Oxford, Cambridge, or for Ireland, Dublin.

Alumni Oxonienses

“Alumni Oxonienses : The Members of the University of Oxford 1500-1886. Their parentage, birthplace and year of birth, with a record of their degrees. Being the Matriculation Register of the University. Alphabetically arranged, revised and annotated by Joseph Foster.”

Alumni Oxonienses contains the biographical details of clergymen who studied at Oxford between 1500 and 1886, published in eight large volumes.

Typical examples:
Chandler, Richard, s. Daniel, of Elston, Hants gent. QUEEN’S COLL., matric 9 May 1755, aged 18; demy MAGDALEN COLL. 1757, B.A. 1759, M.A. 1761, fellow 1770, proctor 1772, B. & D.D. 1773, classical antiquary and traveller, vicar of East Worldham and West Tisted, Hants, 1779, of Tilehurst, Berks, 1800, died 9 Feb., 1810. Bloxham, vi.

You will often find references to:

Their father’s name
The school they attended, and their school master
Dates of attending school
Date of entering university
Date of graduation, with type of degree
A list of churches where they were the incumbent
Date of death

A superb amount of information. Of particular interest is the list of churches where they were the vicar. Clergymen often travelled all over the country and abroad, and this is an easy way to trace their movements.

The Oxford Alumni is a very rare and difficult to obtain set of books, usually only to be found in a few major libraries. To own a copy of one’s own is virtually impossible. A copy of the books was re-published in 1999 with a retail price of £750.00, so we won’t count those! However, facsimile copies of the originals are available on from Parish Chest at a reasonable cost.

Alumni Cantabrigienses

NEEP William. Adm. sizar (age 17) at St. Johns [Cambridge] April 26 1704. S. of William, deceased. B. at Southwell, Notts. School, Southwell (Mr Benson). Matric. 1704; B.A. 1707-8. Ord. deacon (York) Aug. 1709; priest, 1711. V. of Bawtry, Notts., 1711. Head Master of Southwell School, 1714-20.

Similar to the Oxford alumni, this one covers those attending Cambridge University. Again, this set of volumes can usually be fouind only in major libraries. (The books are still under copyright, and therefore have not been reproduced on CD).

Alumni Dublinenses

An incredibly rare book. A register of the students, graduates, professors and provosts of Trinity College, in the University of Dublin from 1637 to 1846.

Although, as would be expected, it contains mostly Irish people there are also many included who were from England, Wales and Scotland. The biographical details are not as comprehensive as in the Oxford Alumni. This book is also available on CD.

This book is also available from Parish Chest.

County Directories

Directories virtually always contain details of clergymen in each place. Many also state the amount of the “living” of a vicar. In the private residents section, the directory will also state the clergyman’s private address.


Directories exist from around 1790 (although there are some earlier localised directories), and run right through the 1800s and 1900s.

Directories in more detail and how they can help with family history research

Bishops’ Records

Each Bishop kept his own records of happenings within his diocese. These records are usually stored at a county record office, and are rarely in published form. They do, however, form a very important source of information about clergymen.

“On 24 January 1716, Neep was called into the Chapter house and admonished by the residentiary, the Free School having of late been much neglected by the school master. It was then decreed that this admonition should be entered in the Register, and that the corrupt rules (as they are extant in Latin, and hung up now in a frame, in Mr Popely, ye Organist’s House; the substance of which was then laid before the Chapter) by which the School has been of late governed, be abolished: and in their stead, these hereafter be observed by ye Master and Scholars.”

Parish Registers

Original parish registers often contain notes about the clergymen and their families. If you find you have a clergyman in your family tree, then it is always worth looking at the registers for the period during which they served, and also on the front and back pages of each register, where there may be additional notes recorded.

For example:

William Neep was buried at Southwell, Nottinghamshire on 19th January 1717(18) (as recorded in the Southwell burials register). Corroborating evidence for the burial is found on the front cover of the burials register for Bleasby, Nottinghamshire which has a note: “19/1/1717 Mr William Neep was buried”. The registers at Bleasby were countersigned by William Neep from 1712 through to 1716, and it is wonderful to have examples of this man’s handwriting for the family history file.

August 9th 1568
“These be the wedings in the tym of Thomas Williamsonne Curat in this Churche since the tym of his first cuming hether unto the day of his departure from hense That is to say from the fes of Ste Michaell the arkangell In the yeare oif our lord 1568 until his departynge”.

“I am sorry to add, that there are also I fear great inaccuracies till Sepr. 1 1806, when I appointed Mr. William Hough Parish Clerk, and from which time I hope the Register will be found correct. John Bristow, Vicar.”

Sometimes a parish register may give a complete list of incumbents together with relevant dates.

It is very common for a vicar to record the baptisms and marriages of his children in a very special way, with additional illuminations to the handwriting. Copies of them make lovely pages for your family history file.

Lots of parish registers from Parish Chest.

If you need help tracking down the right clergy, why not ask the British Genealogy Forum and see what they know? All you need to do is sign up for free and ask away!