Parishes are the areas which are served by a parish church and its priest. However, it is perhaps best to define a parish as the area from which the parish priest drew his income. In historical times, this income generally came from tithes, a tax of ten percent on crops and livestock in the parish. (It must have formed one of the most onerous taxes to fall regularly upon parishioners before the growth of central government taxation in the nineteenth century).
From the sixteenth century, the government began to give parishes new responsibilities. In 1538, they were ordered to keep a records of baptisms, marriages and burials. (So began the keeping of the records which are vital to family historians before the introduction of civil registration in July 1837.) In 1558, they became responsible for the maintenance of highways. More importantly, in 1601 they were given responsibility for the relief of the poor. All these activities generated records. Some of them have survived to form the basic and essential sources for local and family history.
Doncaster Archives was appointed a Diocesan Record Office in 1979 and now has the records of some seven dozen Church of England parishes in its safekeeping. For details, see the webpage on Parish Registers.
In the North of England, the township was, for some purposes, more important than the parish, as is explained in the webpage on the Township. As a result, certain records relating to the civil functions of the parish were inherited by the civil parish councils set up in 1894. These records have now been deposited with Doncaster Archives through this channel.
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