Going digital: The Birth and Burial Records of William Shakespeare

Baptismal record of William Shakespeare

Baptismal record of William Shakespeare

In anticipation of the Bytes app —now appropriately named EYE Shakespeare’s— release I would like to share an extraordinary treasure featured in the app and held in the Trust’s archives: the baptismal and burial records of William Shakespeare.  Locked within our vaults, the parish register is truly one of the Trust’s most outstanding objects. This handwritten book records the baptisms, marriages and burials performed at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, between 1558-1776 and includes those of the poet and playwright William Shakespeare.

In 1538 parish registers were ordered to be kept by churches but many of them were paper and not well looked after.  In 1598 these early registers were replaced by more durable ones and all entries since 1558 were copied into them.  This occurred in Stratford and the entry of Shakespeare’s baptism was therefore copied in 1600 by a clerk from a lost original, as were those of his children, and the burial of his son Hamnet in 1596. There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of these entries, however, as each page was signed by the Vicar and Churchwardens in 1600, Richard Bifield, Francis Smith, James Elletes, John Sheffield and Robert Monmouth, to show that they were a truthful copy. […]

(from Finding Shakespeare, Robyn Greenwood)


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