Herefordshire was divided into parishes about 1000 years ago. These parishes range from very small to quite large and each
has its own church. The Avenbury Parish, a medium size parish in Herefordshire and one important to our ancestors, was a
little over 3,100 acres (an area of less than 5 square miles) in 1840. Until the early 1800s life was mainly run at the Parish
level, with the Church or Parish Vestry providing most services we now take for granted from the state, such as the relief
of poverty and the registration of vital records. During the 1800s, with established religion fading in importance to peoples
lives, the state gradually took over such functions.
The parishes had geographically defined borders and the lands within the parish paid a tithe, originally 10 per cent of produce,
commuted in the late 1830s to early 1840s to a rent charge fixed by the average price of corn (the word "corn" is
a generic term in England that covers wheat, barley, oats, rye and various other cereals so the average price of all cereals
was used), to support the church. The tithe apportionment maps and schedules, whereby every farm, field, and cottage is measured
and the owners, tenants and occupants recorded in order to determine the amount of tithe owed, are useful records for researchers.
The clergy within each parish kept records, called Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts, of the baptisms, marriages,
and deaths of people living within its boundaries. Of these records, the Parish Registers are the most complete.
The parishes that played a part in Thomas and Ann Watkins Morgan's early years in England were: Bromyard, Little Cowarne,
Much Cowarne, Bishops Frome, Stoke Lacy, Avenbury, Castle Frome, and possibly some other nearby parishes.
In the 1970s the Genealogical Society of the Mormon Church began to photograph the Parish Registers and Bishop's Transcripts
in order to make them available on microfilm, providing us with invaluable, although sometimes incomplete, records of our
ancestors. However, they were not allowed to photograph the Parish Registers in Herefordshire at that time, only the Bishop's
Transcripts, from which many years are missing. They have since filmed some Parish Registers but the microfilm records for
Herefordshire are still incomplete.
When Thomas Morgan gave his place of birth as Much Cowarne, he meant the parish of Much Cowarne and not the village of Much
Cowarne. His father was a farm laborer who would have been living in a cottage on the farm where he was working, it being
a common practice of the time for farmers to provide housing for their farm labor, either with the farmer's family in the
case of single laborers, or in a cottage on the farm in the case of married laborers. In the Parish Register baptism records
the residences of people were listed as the farm where the family was living. Although Thomas lists his place of birth as
Much Cowarne in the 1851 census there is no record of his baptism in the Parish Records of Much Cowarne or any of the nearby
parishes. However, baptism records for four of his siblings, one older and three younger, are recorded in the Much Cowarne
Parish Register, providing credible evidence that Thomas was born there as well.