November 15th, 2011

Are you the Son (or Great-Great Grandson) of a Preacher Man? (Part 2)

Seeking a Clergyman Ancestor in Britain

Previously I wrote about finding an ancestor who was a clergyman and highlighted some useful resources from Ireland that I used to find him. Writing about my experience got me thinking that there are probably a good number of people who may have ancestors who were clergymen, priests or other types of religious leader or shepherd. I have since decided to search for and share with you Ecclesiastical records from countries other than Ireland that may help you to find your own ancestor if he served as a clergyman. In this instalment I’ll investigate British Ecclesiastical Records, and in a subsequent blog reveal sources of American and Canadian Ecclesiastical records that may help you uncover whether or not you are the son, grandson, great-grandson, or at least related to, a preacher man! Let’s begin with the Church of England.

Lambeth Palace Library

The Archbishops of Canterbury established this historical record office and library and it has become the principal repository of the Church of England’s documented history. Its collections have always been available to the public for research purposes since 1610. The oldest records held by the library date from the 9th century, and recently the early collection of library of the City of London clergy (Sion College) was given to its care. The website is an excellent resource for those researching their clergyman ancestors especially from the 17th century to present, and information available includes archival, manuscript and printed resources.

Parish Registers

Clergymen are people too! Like anyone else, records of their births, deaths, baptisms, marriages or adoptions can be found in the same records collections as for anyone else. It is more tan likely that a member of the clergy was baptised, married, or buried as a member of his or her religion, and as such that information would be kept in parish registers.

Higher Education Records

The overwhelming majority of Church of England clergy were graduates of major universities. Prior to the nineteenth century, most of tem would have attended either Cambridge or Oxford University, and the registers of those establishments will include biographical data on their members. Some of those registers have been published in book form, and can be ordered from
One such publication is Alumni Cantabrigienses, composed by J and J.A Venn. It is a biographical listing of every known student, graduate or official at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest era until 1900. This publication can also be searched online at under Schools, Directories and Church Histories, though a subscription to the website is required in order to access it.

Another useful publication also available at is Alumni Oxonienses also to be found at There are two volumes, both compiled by J. Foster, the first covering the years 1500 – 1714, the second encompassing the period from 1715 – 1886. They list al of the members of Oxford University for their respective time periods and include information on their parentage, births and degrees awarded.

Clerical Directories

Clerical Directories are a sound source of accurate genealogical information on clergy members, and there are several that are available. The most comprehensive however is deemed to be Crockford’s Clerical Directory – containing the biographies of more than 26,000 Anglican clergymen in the United Kingdom and further detailing Welsh, Irish and English districts, churches and lots more. There is an online version available at the Crockford’s Website, and some of the information can be accessed for free, otherwise a subscription is required.

Local reference libraries may also hold various Clerical Directories. Some to look out for are:

  • Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Revenues, report 1835
  • The Church of England Year Book… (London, 1883-Present)

Some further publications that may be of value and which are available on are:

  1. Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae (England and Wales)
  2. Fasti Ecclesiae Hibernicae (Ireland)
  3. Scottish Episcopal Clergy, 1689-2000

As a footnote, some of these indexes may now be found online at The Institute of Historical Research, and although at this point incomplete, are completely free to use.

Catholic Clergy in England

It is important to remember that before the Reformation of the early 16th century; the United Kingdom was largely a Catholic nation. Catholicism was established in England and Wales in the early 6th century and as such most of the early British clergy were in fact Catholic. Thanks to British History Online, many records of Catholic priests are available to researchers online. The records are in the form of the previously mentioned Fasti Ecclesiae and cover the periods from 1066 – 1300 and 1300 – 1541. Each period as nine volumes of names full of Catholic clergy from across England and Wales, making it pretty much a one-stop-sop for those seeking Catholic clergyman ancestors. On their Homepage select Subjects, and then in the drop-down menu choose Ecclesiastical and Religious History to unveil a wealth of material that will keep you busy for eons!

In the final blog of this series I’ll share with you where to find records of clergy members in the United States and Canada. Until then- Happy Ancestor Hunting!