Returns of Roman Catholics

Between 1680 and 1781, Parliament requested information about known or reputed Roman Catholics on a number of occasions. This information was laid before the House of Lords and survives in the Parliamentary Archives.

In most cases individual names of people were not recorded but in some instances, especially in 1767, they were. If your ancestor was a Roman Catholic and you know where they lived in 1767, you might want to consult the Roman Catholic returns (historically known as 'Papist' Returns). 

Tracing returns of Roman Catholics at the Parliamentary Archives

You can search our online catalogue Portcullis  for returns of Roman Catholice.  Enter 'papist returns' in the Any Text field, and the year or year range in the Date field, to bring up a list. Returns survive for 1680, 1706, 1767 and 1781, although individual names may not always be given - in many cases there are only total numbers of Catholics given, or descriptions of individual people including details such as age and occupation but omitting the name. Make a note of the references for the diocese you are interested in, and contact us  to make an appointment to see the files or order copies.

The 1767 returns have also been transcribed and published as follows. 'Returns of Papists, 1767: dioceses of England and Wales except Chester' and 'Returns of Papists, 1767: Diocese of Chester', by E. S. Worrall (Catholic Record Society, Occasional Publications nos 1-2, 1980-1989).

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