The Parish Chest
These days we all know about how we can trace our family tree back through centuries of time. One well-known way of doing this is to study the records kept in churches up and down the land. For hundreds of years, our churches have recorded the births, marriages and deaths of many of our ancestors, but how did this practice come about?
In 1538 the Lord Privy Seal for King Henry VIII – Sir Thomas Cromwell – ordered that every church in the land should keep a register that recorded the names of all those who were baptized, married or buried in every church.
The Register was to be kept in a Parish Chest with three locks and keys: one key was to be kept by the clergyman and two others by the church wardens.
Our Parish Chest is thought to be the original provided by the Town of Newport to contain its registers and probably dates from the end of the 16th century. It is therefore considerably older than the current church building.