Church presentations a family history resource

You won’t find church presentations on genealogy sites, but if you can read original records, they are worth looking out for.

Unless you live near the relevant archives, searching parish records is limited to whatever is available on Family Search, or subscription genealogy sites.

It used to be that Family Search’s IGI (International Genealogical Index) was only accessible by visiting a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that had a research centre. And then using microfiche for the relevant county, and sliding around the fiches for the relevant surnames. That then expanded to there being copies of the microfiches in many local libraries. And of course now, anyone can access it online, at no charge. 

But if you are able to view a single parish’s register in full (it will be on microfilm, or printed out as a book, as the originals are too precious to be handled often), it is so much more satisfying.

For one thing, you can find entries that are relevant to you that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. A search box is only good if you know what to search for! 

And there are some entries, including church presentations, that are not on any searchable site that give an idea of what life was like for our ancestors. While others just make for a good read!

A tragic end and an amusing note

For example, the parish register of Bowness on Solway records, in 1761 (on February 23): seven drowned smugglers were buried.

And I also jotted down a note that the parson was drunk in 1685!

Church presentations – what were they?

Parish registers are those kept by the church where people were baptised, married, and buried. Some vicars were more assiduous than others (which can lead to gaps, or to a batch of entries being added well after they took place). Some used the registers to remark on local events. And they also record things like the names of church wardens… and church presentations.

Church presentations were basically the church disapproving of someone’s behaviour.

The following examples ‘jumped out at me’ while going through the records of St Mary’s Church, Carlisle.

St Mary’s, Carlisle, church presentations

1713. We present:

Edward Garment, Quaker – for teaching without a licence.

Margaret Leithet – a common strumpet.

William Scott  – for co-habiting with another man’s wife.

Jane Wilson – for fornication.

Mrs Jackson and Mary Soames – for practising as midwives without a licence.

Church presentations – where to find them

Basically, wherever you can access full copies of the parish registers. Usually at the relevant county archives. In Cumbria, there are three, you can find the addresses and opening hours here. Carlisle Library also has a lot of parish registers on microfilm in the local history section upstairs, more info here.

  • The photo is the grave of a smuggler who died in the Solway in 1755. Unlike others in the registers, his name was discovered and recorded.