However convenient indexes and transcripts of parish registers are (online or otherwise) you should always consult the original entry in case it gives more information. Dade registers are the most striking example of this. The idea of the Reverend William Dade, a Yorkshire clergyman, they exist only from the late 1770s until the standardisation of the parish registers in 1812. They were mainly adopted in Yorkshire although a simpler version exists in Durham and Northumberland known as Barrington registers.
Recording much more information about the antecedents of the person being baptised or buried, one entry can take your research back another two generations. For example this entry from the Selby (Yorkshire) Baptisms Register of 1786:
Mary Appleyard 3rd daughter of William Appleyard of Selby Labourer Son of John Appleyard of Seacroft Labourer by Sarah his Wife daughter of Richard Wilson of Berwick at Elmet Labourer
(Her Mother) – Elizabeth daughter of John Emmerson of Selby Labourer by Ann his Wife daughter of William Labourel in the parish of Stillingfleet Labourer
Born February 14th Baptized February 15th (1786)
means that you now not only know Mary’s parents but also her grandparents - John Appleyard of Seacroft and Sarah Wilson of Berwick at Elmet and on her mother’s side John Emmerson of Selby and Ann Labourel of Stillingfleet. You also know her two great grandfathers, Richard Wilson of Berwick at Elmet and William Labourel of Stillingfleet, that Mary was the third daughter to be born to William and Elizabeth Appleyard and that she was baptized the day after she was born.
Frustratingly sometimes an entry does not contain much information at all - for example from the same register for 1793:
William Appleyard 2nd son of George Appleyard of Selby Labourer Born September 18th Baptized September 23rd (1793)
Then you wonder just why there is so little information given compared to the other entries. Was the child illegitimate? Did the mother die in childbirth? Did the vicar not ask? We’ll never know I suppose.
Another frustrating entry can be when the child’s and a parent’s names are given and then “vid ped book 2 page …..” which raises all kinds of questions as to what it means when you are new to these registers. It is simple once you know – the Pedigree book it refers to is the actual parish register volume so Pedigree Book 2 is the 2nd register book and then you need to look for the relevant page to get the right pedigree (not always easy on microfilm but possible).
I can see that writing down the full pedigree each time would have been quite tedious and I thought at first that cross-referencing each one would have been quite as time-consuming until the penny dropped and I realised that of course the vicar would have been copying from that previous reference in the register anyway.
The entries themselves, because of the extra information they contain, span two pages of the register which means you must take care to match up the two pages properly when viewing on microfilm – the father’s pedigree is given on one page and the mother’s on the other. The registers were sometimes pre-printed but sometimes the vicar ruled his own columns over two pages and sometimes turned the book sideways so as to use the long side of the pages and ruled his columns that way.
In 1812 Rose’s Act was passed to standardise the keeping of the parish registers and every register was pre-printed and the same for each parish. In many parishes the detail recorded was a big improvement on what went before but sadly this meant the demise of the Dade register. However for that one short period they are a genealogist’s dream so thank your lucky stars when you find one!