The names of most, but not all, of our ancestors should hopefully appear at some time or another in church registers. Church of England parish registers began in 1538. It should be remembered that birth and death certificates give precisely that information, whilst from parish registers, unless the incumbent has noted otherwise, you will obtain baptism and burial dates.
Although burial information is generally straightforward, children were not always baptised in infancy and often, whole families were baptised together in one ceremony. Sometimes people were baptised more than once, particularly when becoming members of nonconformist religions.
Some parish registers are still held by the local church, but most are now kept at the appropriate County Record Office for that county. Due to the deterioration of the registers, caused by constant handling by researchers or the environment in which they were kept, the majority of these registers are now available for viewing only on microfilm. This also applies to a great many other types of records. The plus side to this is that copies of the microfilms are available in many local reference libraries and other repositories, and the LDS FHC’s (as previously mentioned).
For many ancestors they were Nonconformists, i.e. Baptists, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Quakers, etc, which possibly complicates things a little in some families, but that is a bridge that needs to be crossed when you reach it. Once again many of the Non-Conformist registers are held in the local County Record Offices.
There are a number of internet sites to search and view certain Parish Records. Please remember that you will need to view (and copy) the original information, as the sites cannot guarantee the authenticity.
Image of a Parish register: