Catholic records in Great Britain

This guide was last updated in 2009

The majority of Italian immigrants were Roman Catholics although there were a few Protestants (Waldensians, mainly from northern alpine valleys) and Jews.

Prior to the introduction of civil registration in 1837 (1855 in Scotland) all marriages of Italians will have taken place in the established church (Jews excepted). Relatively few Roman Catholic Church records are deposited in county or national archives, especially those of London churches. For example, the Italian Church in Clerkenwell was founded in 1863 and original registers from that date are still retained by the parish priest.

Very few Roman Catholic records are found in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). At the start of civil registration it is thought that many births to Italian immigrants went unrecorded. Even after 1874, when it became the duty of the parents to report the event, there is some evidence that many births in the Italian community escaped civil registration. In these circumstances the Catholic registers are a vital source. Michael Gandy's guides to Catholic Missions and Registers are essential reading for anyone trying to find Catholic records.

The Catholic Family History Society has transcribed many Catholic registers, particularly for London and Lancashire. The Anglo-Italian Family History Society has transcribed and indexed the registers of St Peter's Italian Church in Clerkenwell. With Italian immigrants concentrated there the registers are important, particularly for arrivals in the second half of the 19th century. Catholic registers for Scotland can be searched on the ScotlandsPeople website

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