Parish registers are often considered to be the core family history source held at BRO. They are the predecessors to birth, marriage and death certificates: a church record of a baptism, marriage or burial. If you are lucky, they survive from 1538.
There are around 200 ancient parishes in Berkshire: we hold the registers for all but one. Taken together with around 100 Victorian or later parishes, if you have Berkshire ancestors, you may be able to discover nearly 500 years of family history.
The English parish church was a key secular institution until the Victorian period. It was responsible for poor relief, running local charities, and even local roads and law enforcement. As a result, the 'parish chest' contains a lot more than just the registers. Most of our catalogues of parish archives are not yet online, so please contact us if you are interested in other parish records.
BFHS volunteers have indexed many of the parish registers within our collections, and around 750,000 names of Berkshire people are now searchable online.
OFHS volunteers have also transcribed registers for North Berkshire parishes. These transcripts are on sale from the OFHS.