Reynolds Family History in North Essex A small site devoted to the Reynolds family history from in and around North Essex in England.

Tips on Searching Church Records


The name Reynolds, which is believed to have originated in Skandinavia, and then taken by the Vikings to Normandy. It came to Britain with their invasion in 1066. It is believed to have been the name of a Feudal Lord in the Cambridgeshire area. When the serfs were freed, many took the name of their Lord. Reynolds is still the most widely used name in Cambridgeshire.

Church records began in the middle 1500`s at the behest of King Henry VIII. At this time, they were written in latin. Some were beautifully written and others were not so good. Parsons had learned to read and write scriptures. As surnames, in the early years were still being formed, the correct spelling of them had still not been fully settled.

Much of the writing in these books was undertaken by a 'writer', a lay person who had learned to read and write. Many had only a basic understanding of the written word, as one would today expect from a six year old. Therefore, spelling was not always correct. Those names that did not fully have a Latin equivalent, would be sometimes be 'Latinised'. So Roger became Rogerus etc.

Basically, the latin is easy enough to follow. There are a number of sites on the internet that give you lists of Latin/English translations for church records.. There were three main entries.

Baptismus (Christening)

  • Jacobis (James) felias (son of) Guillimus (William) Reynolds.
  • Maria (Mary) felia (daughter of ) William Reynolds
Supultavi or any like word (burial)

Normally just:
  • William Reynolds. This generally meant meant a male person.( But sometimes a child)
  • William ye sonne of William Reynolds ( a child)
  • The wife of William Reynolds (often no name)
Matrimonium or Nupsit (Marriages)
  • William Reynolds et (and) Maria Small. Both single, both of this parish.

As the subject of the entry could usually not read or write, he could not help with the spelling. The name Reynolds was often written as the subject pronounced his name. Therefore we get Renalls, Renolds, Rainolds, Rainalls, and, as they all knew how to spell the reign of a king, Reignalls and Reignolds.

As records progressed, they began to change to a Latin/English mixture and then to English.

As the population increased, they began to actually name the wife, or include her name when a child was christened. The marriage usually took place at the place where the bride lived, so you must search other villages and towns to discover when and where they married.

Before that, she would recorded as chistened Mary White
Married William Reynolds and Mary White.
Buried, the wife of William Reynolds.
Buried the widow Reynolds.

This is why the marriage is so important. You often find two Thomas Reynolds's. The best way to find which child belonged to which Thomas, is by his wifes' name.

You will often find a man christened. Twenty odd years later, he starts to baptize children. Then his wife is buried. The only way of finding what her name was, is to find the church where they were married.

The marriage entry might say:

  • William Reynolds of Thaxted, a widower, and Elizabeth Smith of this parish, were married. GREAT!
  • Sometimes it will say William Reynolds and Elizabeth Smith. Not a great deal of help!

With a database, you can search very quickly, find perhaps three William Reynolds who married during the relevant time, find out where they lived, if they died there etc and, when you have eliminated two, you are left with a good idea which one is your man.

Some records began to include entries to distinguish one William Reynolds from another. William the elder, or William the younger. Or the added Yeoman, Gentleman, carpenter, thatcher, or William of Coxtie Green, where there were more than one village in a parish area.


Records started in the middle fifteen hundreds. Many start at later dates.

If you have a later start date, you can usually put the name of the church in the internet and find a history of when the church was built. You will often find it was not built until that start date.

However, many records were lost or damaged during the civil war. This leaves great gaps in research.

Many of the records have been transcribed at an early date. This is very helpful, making them clearer to read, but you have no guarantee that they were transcribed correctly.

Some helpful priests have overwritten entries that were fading and their overwriting is clear to read. The problem is, the entries that they did not overwrite, have now faded and are unreadable. Therefore, whenever you see large gaps between clear entries, you just do not know if something is missing or not.

The standard of church record keeping was not as one might hope. Missing entries, wrong entries. The church records show that my grandfather, Walter, was the son of Robert (his uncle) but the birth certificate shows his father as Soloman. A check of the census forms also shows that Walter was living with Soloman and Walter is shown as Solomans son. There was never a Walter living with Robert.

Answer - Robert was present at the christening. The church writer got Robert confused with Soloman.