This guide was last updated in 2009
There are plenty of great records that can help you discover more about your ancestors in the Anglican clergy, says Peter Towey.
If, like Patsy Kensit, you find ordained Anglican clergymen among your ancestors, you are in luck. The records – especially those from the mid-19th century – are particularly good and are easily accessible in most reference libraries.
A clergyman was also usually at the social heart of his parish and you should be able to find frequent references to him and his family, even photographs, in local newspapers.
Clergymen came from up and down the social scale; all that was needed was a Christian calling, a good education and the ability to pass the selection process. So they came from all classes: working, middle and some, even, from the aristocracy.
It was one of those professions, like law, the armed services and Parliament that was considered suitable for the youngest sons of Peers. It was quite common to find dynasties of clergymen, as sons followed their fathers into the Church and daughters married other clergymen.
Because of the mixed social backgrounds of Anglican ministers, becoming a clergyman was often the passport for families to move up, or down, the social scale. It was not unusual to find that a single family provided the clergymen for a parish – father, son and grandson – for a century or more, making tracing them not too difficult.
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