Church of England parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials from as early as 1538 (from 1754 for banns). If you know which parish your family came from, there is a good chance of finding them.
Transcripts and indexes
Indexes and transcripts of many West Sussex parish registers are available in the Record Office searchroom.
Some of them have been produced by the Parish Register Transcription Society as part of an ongoing programme. Transcripts are also available on CD, which can be purchased directly from the Parish Register Transcription Society.
As part of an ongoing programme, indexes are being published on the FreeReg website.
Parish registers online
Many of our parish registers have been microfilmed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints and low resolution, black and white images produced from these microfilms can be viewed (by signing up for a free account) on the FamilySearch website.
You can find the images by searching for a specific parish on the ‘FamilySearch Catalog’, locating the relevant series and clicking on the 'camera' icon under 'Film Notes'.
Parish registers on microfiche
We hold fiche for approximately 85% of the ancient parishes of West Sussex. They normally start with the earliest surviving register (which often dates back to the 16th or 17th century) and end at approximately 1900.
The fiche can be viewed at the office and copies can also be purchased.
We hold originals or other versions of parish registers which are not yet available on fiche; these can be consulted in the Record Office searchroom.
In 1598 it was ordered that copies of the parish register entries, now called Bishop’s Transcripts, should be made and sent to the Bishop annually. The surviving transcripts for East and West Sussex (up to around 1900) are kept at West Sussex Record Office. Most of them are available on microfilm; otherwise, the originals are produced.