Parish Chest, St Mary Magdalene, Great Burstead. The Essex Record Office now cares for parish registers in a slightly different way.© Copyright John Salmon contributor to the Geograph Project and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Unlike the census returns, the online availability of originals of Parish Registers held by Record Offices is patchy, which makes it very frustrating for anyone researching their family history, especially if they are often many miles from the relevant Record Office, or even in another country. (See also Parish Registers: a Background, where further resources are detailed).
The Essex Record Office, however, have made great efforts to have these documents accessible by placing images of them on their website through their Essex Archives Online website.
There are now hundreds of registers available online, thus saving a trip to the Record Office. They are accessible via a pay-to-view subscription (full details on their website but reasonable day or week rates are available). If you can visit the Record Office in person, then it is free to use.
Remember these are not transcripts, but the originals and are not indexed. You will have to select the parish you are interested in and then trawl through them by date. But be warned, you may have some problems with the writing or poor quality of the image.
Often it is necessary to widen your search from just one parish. A useful resource for finding out contiguous parishes (those parishes that immediately surround a parish or location) is England Jurisdictions 1851 on familysearch.org.
Also available on Essex Ancestors are Wills. See our articles on Wills before 1858.
While on the subject of images, there are many other gems to find in other digital images provided by the ERO - just search their Catalogue under 'Images'. For instance:
Manor County Primary School, Braintree, junior school Adminission Register which dates from 1894 to 1905 (E/MA 67/2) is a wealth of information. Child's name, dob, date admitted, place of birth, parent's name, address, occupation, place last school attended.
The Register of Electors 1918 (C/E 2/1/1) for numerous parishes in Essex listing all those eligible to vote in that parish.
Photographs of the damage caused in the Essex earthquake of 1884 (I/LS/COL/00043 and I/LS/COL/00067).
I hope that this has helped and encouraged your use of this wonderful resource supplied by the Essex Record Office.
Useful links: About the Essex Record Office
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Newspaper archives are now a very important source of information for researching your family tree.
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Ebay is a good source of old images of Essex towns and villages. If you're looking for pictures to add to your family tree album, then try one of the auctions, or there are several 'Buy It Now' shops offering postcards which have been touched up and improved - so if you're unsure about bidding, try these. Link already formatted for Essex Postcards. Browse through or type the name of the location in the Ebay search box.