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400 years' worth of Northamptonshire history now online

More than seven million historic Northamptonshire parish records digitised for the first time by Ancestry

  • Parish baptism, marriage, confirmation and burial records detail 400 years of history in Northamptonshire
  • Records are a vital resource for local people trying to locate their Northamptonshire ancestors
  • The 2nd Earl of Spencer, poet John Clare, Shakespeare’s grand-daughter Elizabeth Barnard and actress Emma Watson’s 4x great-grandfather all feature in collection

More then seven million historic parish records have been published online for the first time – offering a unique insight into the history and people of the county of Northamptonshire.

Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest family history resource, from original records held by Northamptonshire Archives Service, the Northamptonshire Parish Registers, 1532-1912 detail millions of baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials that took place in the local area over a period of 400 years.

Searchable by name, birth date, parish, baptism, marriage, confirmation and burial date, name of spouse and name/s of parents, these records contain vital information for anybody looking to find out more about an ancestor who lived in Northamptonshire.

This includes Harry Potter star and world-famous actress Emma Watson, whose 4x great-grandfather Clement Walton appears in the baptism records in 1791. The same can be said for Rothwell-born actor Jim Dale. The marriage of his grandparents George Wells and Alice Gibbs is recorded in the collection in 1892.

In addition, some further famous names feature within the records. From poets to earls, these include:

  • John Clare – A celebrated English poet, Clare became known for his literary representations of the English countryside. Born and baptised in Helpston, he suffered from severe bouts of depression in later life and spent his last years institutionalised at Northampton General Lunatic Asylum. It was here he penned his most famous work, ‘I Am’
  • Elizabeth BarnardThe granddaughter of the famous English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, Elizabeth’s marriage record is included within the collection. Born Elizabeth Hall, the only grandchild that The Bard ever knew had no family of her own – meaning that his direct ancestral line stopped upon her death in 1670
  • Vice-Admiral Frederick Spencer, 4th Earl of Spencer A British naval commander, courtier and Whig politician, Spencer fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the Greek War of Independence. The 2x great-grandfather of Princess Diana, his burial record appears within the collection

At the start of the 15th Century, both the British government and the Church of England became particularly interested in record keeping, and a 1538 Act of Parliament required ministers to document the key life events that took place across their parish. In 1812, George Rose’s Act called for preprinted registers to be used for separate baptism, marriage, and burial registers as a way of standardising records.

Starting in 1532, the collection pre-dates the censuses and civil registration making it a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace their ancestors back before official systems were established.

Ancestry’s Senior Content Manager Miriam Silverman comments: “Not only does this collection date back to a period in time when record keeping was rare, it also contains a host of famous names with connections to Northamptonshire. Now is the perfect time to get online and find out more about the lives of people living in the East Midlands over four centuries of fascinating history.”

Cllr Jim Harker, Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Our county’s history helps form Northamptonshire’s current identity and it’s important for people to know the stories behind the place in which they live.

“We’re very keen to make our county archives available to the largest amount of people possible. Researching family and local history is becoming increasingly popular and this latest development of data being much more readily available will mean that this interest will continue to grow.”

To search the Northamptonshire Parish Registers, 1532-1912 and more than 16 billion historical records worldwide, visit