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Genealogy and the Parish


The parish was central to the lives of our ancestors. In this half-day course, as Else Churchill shows how to find and use parish records to learn more about them.

Seating in churches is a much more varied subject then one might suspect. John Vigar looks at the seating through the centuries and how this reflects on the social history of the parish and our ancestors.

Finding Parish Records in England & Wales with Else Churchill

Along with records of baptisms, marriages and burials, the accounts and administrative records also found in the parish chest can show how the parish supported and even employed its parishioners and throw light onto their lives. The records are not always easy to find or use. Not all the records are online or even indexed. There’s no one single place to look for them.

In this talk, our Genealogist Else Churchill provides a useful grounding on how family historians might find and how to use these vital records.

Superior Seats with John Vigar

Nothing demonstrates the social history of England as well as the changes that have taken place in our parish churches over the last 1500 years. Alterations that did not purely represent gear changes in religious belief or ritual; they ably demonstrate the class structures to be found in the secular world.

This lecture looks at the story of church seating, from the solid stone benches that made the `weak go to the wall` to the monumental private pews that still dominate some church interiors.

Seating in churches is a much more varied subject then one might suspect. The medieval clergy originally had stalls and sedilia in the chancels of our churches, whilst the laity only occasionally had elaborate benches – the type of seat we associate with churches today – the bench or pew – only really dates from the nineteenth century. In this fascinating and ground breaking lecture we discover the periods when you couldn’t attend church without paying for your seat; when box pews went with your house; and how the clues are there to help us understand the most private aspect of  public worship.

A Q&A and discussion will be held after each talk. Note only the first talk by Else Churchill will be recorded.


About the speakers:

Else Churchill is the Genealogist at the Society Genealogists in London and a has over 30 years of experience as a genealogist.

Formerly a professional genealogical librarian and researcher, Else has worked for the SoG since 1994. She now leads on external liaison, representation and communications; the Society's education and publishing programmes as well as being the Society's subject specialist.

John Vigar  Following a career in academia, John worked for 13 years in the south-east region of The Churches Conservation Trust and he is a Trustee of a national charity, The Friends of Friendless Churches.

He is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Centre for Parish Church Studies. John’s specialist subject is ecclesiology – the study of church architecture and associated topics. He has written extensively on the subject and leads regular tours to churches across England.

He is particularly interested in nineteenth century church restoration and his MA thesis was written on the subject of Church Restoration in the Diocese of Rochester. John has written the guidebooks for several hundred churches and is the author of books on the churches of both Kent and Sussex.

He has visited and recorded over 13,000 of the 16,000 Anglican churches in England and Wales.

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