Church Registers

One cannot assume that books with headings on the columns are self-explanatory. These notes are aimed at guiding the proper way of entering information in registers of marriage, baptism, burial, and membership. It is important for the information to be entered accurately into registers because often these registers are required by people for legal and administrative purposes as well as genealogical inquiries and academic research

Marriage Registers

When filling out registers of marriage, it is necessary to fill in every blank.  Most marriage registers require the names of the bride and groom at the beginning. However, some register books for purchase do not include this basic information. These particular books have only signature lines, but most signatures are not readable. It is necessary, therefore, to print at the top of these pages the names of the people being married. It is also necessary for the minister conducting the marriage to sign the page – and very helpful if he/she also were to print their names under the signature.  It is also helpful when the register comes from a pastoral charge with more than one point to fill in the location of the marriage – whether the marriage took place in a church or a private home — as well as the pastoral charge name.


“ I hereby certify … at Immanuel United Church of Northumberland Pastoral Charge in the Province of Nova Scotia this 17th day of September 2009.

Clergy License No. 12345                                         Signature of Clergy ________________

(remember to print your name under the clergy signature)

You might wonder what difference it makes to fill out these registers properly – some people need proof that their name was spelled a certain way at a certain period of time for pension purposes, etc. Due to a variety of reasons (fire, moves, etc), certificates are often lost and in order to settle estates when someone passes away, people need proof of marriage. Years in the future, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will also want this same information for genealogical purposes.

Baptism registers

These are mostly self-explanatory. Please note that the register asks for the mother’s maiden name.   Place of baptism means which church of the three of four in a pastoral charge the baptism held in. If the baptism is held outside of a church – in a home or hospital – instead of writing in the name of the village, put the exact location (e.g. at the home of John Smith, Lorneville).  The Residence column means where the family lives. Please do not put dates as solely numerals 09-07-66 as there could be confusion as to which way this date should be read: July 9th or September 7th?  Instead, write out the month as either September or Sept.

Please remember that an adult baptism needs to be entered in the baptism register as well as in the historic roll as a member received on profession of faith.  Of course they are not obligated to give you their birth date, but it is excellent if you can get it.

Burial Register

The columns in this register are self-explanatory. Please note that place of burial should indicate which cemetery, not just the name of the village or town. Privacy legislation should be observed in the “cause of death” column. You should usually leave this column blank.  Drownings, accidents, or war deaths could be cited as cause of death, but refrain from citing time in life (aged or senility) or diseases (cancer, heart attack, etc.).

Other register-type books in a church

Historic Rolls

Historic Roll Books are ongoing rolls of all the people who have ever been members of a congregation.  They are usually not in alphabetic order, but are arranged chronologically by the date a person became a member of the church. However, some congregations do choose to list members’ names on the historical roll alphabetically. When the alphabetical sections of the historic roll book are filled, names of current members of the congregation are then re-recorded into a new historic roll

As people are confirmed or received by letter of transfer their names are added to the roll. There is usually only room for a letter or two to indicate by what means members are received:

P or F = profession of faith – usually baptism of an adult

C = confirmed

L or T = letter of transfer

How Removed:

D= death

L or T = letter of transfer

R= request

Do not cross names off in an historic roll.  The information stands as entered.  If a person marries and changes her/his name, then enter the new surname in brackets in pencil near the original surname.


Membership Roll Books

These books are usually in alphabetic order and indicate the active membership at a given time.  Some churches have both an active roll and an inactive roll. Usually the active list indicates the people with whom you are frequently in contact or who attend services and events (and who you count for numbers of members). Inactive people may be contacted at intervals for special purposes – they usually do not attend services or events, and often live at a distance.

 Membership or Mailing Lists

These are usually alphabetic membership lists and addresses which may include adherents to the church. Their purpose is to provide a list of contacts for mailings or visitation.