Baptist Marriage and Birth records

The Church of England parish register for Wattisham records this marriage[1]:

Bride: Hannah Whiting, of Wattisham parish, a single woman
Groom: Abraham Stiff, of Wattisham parish, batchelor
Date: 29 November 1811
Location:  St Nicholas, Wattisham, Suffolk – the parish Church of England church for Wattisham
Officiating clergy: James Harrison, curate
Witnesses: Sally Goldsmith, John Welham

The groom was a Baptist[2] and the bride was probably baptised in the Church of England[3], but they did not have a choice of church in which to marry.  In 1811, it was the norm for Baptists and other Protestant dissenters to marry in the establish Anglican Church, because only Anglican marriages had full legal status[4].  The couple’s affiliation with both churches is reflected in the Anglican baptisms and Baptist birth records of their children.

Name Type Date Source
Hannah Steff christening 28 Mar 1813 Bishop’s Transcripts,
Church of England
Abraham Steff christening 1814
Abraham Steff christening 28 Apr 1816
Jonathan Stiff christening 05 May 1818
Sarah Steff birth 09 Apr 1820 Register transcripts,
Elijah Steff birth 09 May 1823
Ann Steff birth 31 Aug 1826
Suzanna Steff birth 05 Aug 1829
Richard Stiff birth 21 Sep 1832
Sarah Ann Stiff birth 15 Jun 1835
FamilySearch index. Wattisham Baptism and Birth Records. Children of Abraham and Hannah Stiff/Steff.

Anglican baptisms (or christenings) were generally performed on infants soon after birth.  Baptists only performed baptisms on ‘Believers’ who were old enough to understand the religious meaning of the ceremony, so recorded both births and adult baptisms.

Wattisham Strict Baptist Chapel, established in 1763, drew its congregation from the surrounding villages, including Hitcham, Bildeston and Ringshall[5].  Therefore, attendance did not necessarily indicate the residence of congregation members, only that they probably resided within travelling distance.

This couple are recorded together on only one census, in 1851 at Bildeston, with one adult daughter, Ann (aged 25), who were all born in Hitcham.  Abraham’s occupation was a baker.

In 1841, the best census match for Abraham is a 50 year old woodsman in Bury St Edmunds Goal and House of Correction.  The best match for Hannah finds her with one daughter, Susan (aged 10, born ca 1831, who may be Suzanna), at Ringshall.  Daughter Ann, aged 15, was a servant at Loose Hall, Hitcham.  Whilst I expect that the older children would have left the parental home, where were the two youngest, Richard and Sarah Ann?

[1] Church of England. Wattisham parish (St Nicholas), Suffolk. Parish Registers, 1783-1812.  Suffolk RO microfiche, J 562/97/2, row 3, col 9, [no page number], no 45. citing Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds, FB 7/D1/3.
[2]“England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 Nov 2012), Abraham Steff, 21 Jan 1790; citing reference , FHL microfilm 990228 (Baptist register transcripts, Wattisham, Suffolk).
[3] “England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 Nov 2012), Hannah Whiteing, 28 Feb 1790; citing FHL microfilm 887397 (Bishop’s transcripts for the Archdeaconry of Sudbury, 1560-1853).
[4] Probert, Rebecca (2012) Marriage Laws for Genealogists. Takeaway: Kenilworth. pp. 97-98.
[5] Timmons, T.C.B. (1997) Suffolk Returns from the Census of Religious Worship 1851. Suffolk Records Society, Woodbridge.  pp. 20-21.

2 Comments on “Baptist Marriage and Birth records”

  1. […] Over time the dominance of the established Church of England was eroded and marriage law was amended.  The introduction of civil marriage by the Marriage Act 1836 brought in the procedures I discussed in ‘Civil Marriage and Witness Identification’.  Non-conformists could then choose either a Church of England or civil marriage, but their own religious ceremony still had no legal standing.  Examples of Baptist’s choices were included in ‘Religious Affiliation and Who’s the mom?’ and ‘Baptist Marriage and Birth records’. […]


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