Clerk is one of the most confusing job titles.
Priests in the Church of England from Bishop down to Curate, who have
been ordained, can legally describe themselves as "Clerk in Holy Orders"
(never shortened simply to "Clerk"). It did not contain any information
about seniority. I have only ever seen it when they have to describe
their Profession, such as in Census returns or in Wills. see
Usually, in day-to-day interactions, they would be described as Bishop,
Rector, Vicar or Curate (or whatever). I have never seen a case when a
parish priest referred to himself simply as "Clerk".
Many parishes, in addition to having a priest, would also have a Parish
Clerk, who supposedly maintained the records but was not ordained.
There were examples of two-tier pulpits - the Priest sat in the top one,
and the Clerk in the lower one. Hence the name given to the Rock
formation between Dawlish and Teignmouth, which vaguely resembles two
faces one above the other, which is called "the Parson and the Clerk".
It is further complicated by the fact that "Civil Parishes" became the
local unit of administration, and the elected councillers were served by
a "Parish Clerk" who had nothing to do with the Ecclesiastical Parish.
And then we invented Online Parish Clerks to answer genealogy questions,
and we have nothing to do with the Ecclesiastical or Civil Parishes.
(OPC for Aveton Gifford)
On 07/02/2019 21:49, Sher Leetooze wrote:
> Nancy and list:
> Please correct me if I have this wrong, but I thought that "A Clerk in
> Holy ORders" was an ordained minister, or an accredited, listed lay
> reader. A Parish Clerk was neither, or so I thought.
> On 2/7/2019 12:01 PM, Nancy Frey wrote:
>> Hi Theresa,
>> Many thanks for your very informative response. I'm not sure I agree
>> everything you said, as some of it is news to me..
>> My paternal family included a number of men who were ordained Church of
>> England clerics. They lived in Dorset but served in both Somerset and
>> Dorset parishes. Only one of them referred to himself as a Clerk.
>> That was
>> in his Will and I was advised that it was a shorten formed of "Clerk in
>> Holy Orders".
>> I am very familiar with the CofE Database and that was where I went first
>> to see if George MILTON showed up there. He didn't. I have checked
>> various genealogy sites for George MILTON who would be alive in 1602 and
>> have a candidate, but that research is not yet complete.
>> The title Parish Clerk, vs just Clerk may have meant different things at
>> different times. What I need to find out is what it meant to the writer
>> who thought that George MILTON may have been a Parish Clerk.
>> This research continues.
>> Nancy Frey
>> OPC for Ansford & Castle Cary, Somerset
>> On Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 8:45 AM Teresa Goatham <teresa(a)goatham.co.uk>
>>> I understand the term 'clerk' originally meant 'church
>>> modern use for someone doing paperwork coming from the time when few
>>> other than parish priests could read and write).
>>> Though we don't generally use the term 'clerk' for priests these
>>> do use related words (clergy, cleric, clerical etc.) I'm not sure when
>>> the use of clerk stopped, I have certainly seen it in censuses for those
>>> who were definitely priests, I think including in the form 'Clerk of
>>> this parish'.
>>> HOWEVER a 'parish clerk' was something different. This was a kind of
>>> assistant in the parish, how much work it will have involved will have
>>> largely depended on the size (population wise), for those in villages it
>>> may have been very little. They were appointed by the priest (not by the
>>> vestry) and for life. Post reformation they were not ordained, though
>>> pre-reformation they needed to be ordained, to the minor order. (Just as
>>> after a deacon is ordained a priest s/he remains a deacon, so a priest
>>> could act as parish clerk and I have read in towns / cities at one time
>>> - possibly just pre-reformation - a parish clerk often was a priest).
>>> Very often they were one of the witnesses at a wedding, most could read
>>> and write, though it was only reading that was essential - they led the
>>> congregational responses in services. It seems to me they often get the
>>> blame by ignorant genealogists for Parish Register errors, though the
>>> PRs were the responsibility of the incumbent, and in my experience
>>> usually kept by him. Sometimes, though, the priest delegated keeping the
>>> registers to the Parish Clerk, I think especially where the priest was a
>>> pluralist. (Where there is no name or other info. to indicate who made
>>> the entries I suspect the ones with the less confident handwriting and
>>> eccentric spellings were by the parish clerks who may well have had
>>> little education). It seems to me the term 'parish clerk' is not
>>> normally abbreviated to 'clerk', though one of my ancestors was
>>> clerk in Blackawton in the C19th, at the time when there seemed to be an
>>> unusally active correspondent sending news of that parish to the Western
>>> Times, including an obit of my ancestor in 1864 which was titled 'Clerk
>>> Hambling in Memoriam' and includes 'he was usually known as Clerk
>>> Hambling, having held that office for 38 years'. Clearly we cannot
>>> assume that 'clerk' without the prefix 'parish' meant a
priest, so there
>>> is room for confusion.
>>> I do think the opposite is true, though. I have seen an incumbent
>>> referred to as 'clerk' plenty of times, but never as 'parish
>>> would be pretty sure that when Chanter wrote 'parish clerk' he did
>>> mean the incumbent, but the assistant. So far as I know there is no easy
>>> way of working out who the parish clerk was, certainly for 1602. Some
>>> PRs have a note by the incumbent along the lines 'I appointed ... to be
>>> Parish Clerk'. Some burial will note the person was the parish clerk.
>>> Once marriage witnesses are included they can be a strong pointer.
>>> Nancy - remember, we have lots available to us Chanter didn't. If you do
>>> want to check on incumbents, these days it is usually much easier than
>>> suggested by Chanter, because we have the Clergy of the Church of
>>> England databse - CCED, http://theclergydatabase.org.uk/
. This shows a
>>> John Morrys / Morrice was Vicar of Ilfracombe 1584-1621.
>>> Like everything CCEd is not perfect, but I find it very useful. I
>>> recently got corrections made (not yet online) re a confusion they had
>>> made of equating 'Brent' with 'Brent Tor' instead of
'South Brent.' They
>>> are really keen to have corrections, enthusiastic thanks twice HOWEVER
>>> it took me sometime for me to get the corrections to them. I was using
>>> the form for 'corrections and amendments' - it doesn't work and
>>> don't have the money to fix it! So, DO let them know of any errors, BUT
>>> send via an email address from the contacts page. Being a national
>>> project those involved aren't likely to have the local knowledge we may
>>> to spot errors, like I happened to.
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