England, Dorset, Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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'''Collection citation''':<br>
'''Collection citation''':<br>
{{Collection citation | text= "England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936." Index and Images. <i>FamilySearch</i>. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing Church of England. Record Office, Dorchester.}}  
{{Collection citation | text= "England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936." Index and Images. <i>FamilySearch</i>. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2014. Citing Church of England. Record Office, Dorchester.}}  
'''Record citation''' (or citation for the index entry):<br>
'''Record citation''' (or citation for the index entry):<br>

Revision as of 20:34, 6 August 2014

FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.


Record Description

This collection includes records from 1538 to 1936

This collection contains Dorset parish registers containing baptisms, marriages/banns, and burials. Date ranges of available records may vary by locality.

Baptisms (christenings), marriages, and burials were recorded on blank pages in a bound book called a register. The events of baptism, marriage, and burial were all recorded in one volume until 1754, when a law required that marriages be recorded in a separate book. Banns, or proclamations of “an intent” to marry, were recorded in yet another book. Starting in 1812, pre-printed registers were introduced, and then separate registers were kept for baptisms, marriages, and burials. Before 1812, bishops’ transcripts were usually recorded on loose pieces of paper. Following that year, the transcripts were recorded on the same pre-printed forms as parish registers.

Further information: Church of England Parish Registers

Parish registers were created to record church events of baptism or christening, marriage, and burial. Baptismal entries usually list the person’s birth date, and burial entries list the death date. In the Church of England, baptism, which was also called christening, was performed soon after the birth of a child. Marriage in the church legally united a man and a woman for civil legal reasons and for the purpose of founding a religiously sanctified family. Burial is a function of the church to inter the deceased soon after death.

Church of England parish registers are the most reliable and accurate family history source until July 1837, when the government instituted the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Information in parish registers and Bishop's Transcripts can be verified against each other. There are often variations in Bishop's Transcripts of names and spellings. Bishop's Transcripts may also omit years or part of years and are incomplete according to Diocesan practice and preservation.

List of Parishes Included













Beer Hackett

Bere Regis



Bishop's Caundle

Blandford Forum





Bradford Abbas

Bradford Peverell




Branksome Park





Buckland Newton

Buckland Ripers

Burton Bradstock

Catherston Leweston

Caundle Marsh



Chaldon Herring




Clifton Maybank


Corfe Castle

Corfe Mullen




East Chaldon

East Holme

East Lulworth

East Stour




Fifehead Magdalen

Fifehead Neville



Fontmell Magna



Glanvilles Wootton


Gussage All Saints






Hinton Martell





Iwerne Minster


Langton Long Blandford

Langton Matravers



Litton Cheney


Long Bredy

Long Crichel



Lytchett Minster



Margaret Marsh




Melbury Abbas

Melbury Bubb

Melbury Osmond

Melcombe Bingham

Melcombe Regis


Milborne St Andrew

Milton Abbas

Milton On Stour

Minterne Magna


Nether Compton


North Poorton


Over Compton






Portesham (Portisham)

Powerstock (Poorstock)




Purse Caundle

Ryme Intrinseca



Sturminster Newton

Sutton Waldron



Sydling St Nicholas


Tarrant Gunville

Tarrant Hinton

Tarrant Keyneston

Tarrant Rushton





West Chelborough

West Knighton

West Lulworth

West Moors

West Orchard

West Parley

West Stour


Whitchurch Canonicorum

Wimborne Minster

Wimborne St Giles

Winterborne Abbas

Winterborne Clenston

Winterborne Houghton

Winterborne Kingston

Winterborne Monkton

Winterborne Muston

Winterborne Whitchurch

Winterbourne Steepleton




Wyke Regis

Record Content

Baptismal Records

Church of England parish register baptism records usually contain:

  • Baptism date
  • Name of the child
  • Sex of the child
  • Legitimacy of the child
  • Marital status of the parents
  • Social class of the parents
  • Name of the father and often mother’s given name
  • May list the residence of the parents, especially after 1812

Marriage Records

Church of England parish register marriage records usually contain:

  • Marriage date
  • Name of the bride and groom
  • Age of the bride and groom
  • May list names of parents or other relatives
  • Residence of the bride and groom
  • Marital status of individuals and couples
  • May list the dates that the marriage was announced (also called “banns published”). This normally took place on three separate occasions prior to the marriage and gave anyone with a valid reason a chance to object to the marriage.
  • After 1754, the full names of witnesses
  • After 1837, the full names of the fathers
  • May note if a spouse is single or widowed at the time of the marriage.

Burial Records

Church of England parish register burial records usually contain:

  • Burial date
  • Name of the deceased. If the deceased is a child, the father’s name might be given. If the deceased is a married woman, the husband’s name might be given.
  • Age of the person
  • Residence of the deceased
  • May give the sex of the deceased
  • Residence of the deceased

How to Use the Record

Search the Collection

To search by index:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

Browsing by image:
Currently, images are not available for browsing. Attempting to access the images by clicking the Browse images link on the collection landing page will eventually lead to an screen indicating that images are not available.

When searching:
As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor's given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence, age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.

Using the Information

Baptism or christening records list the parents’ names, making it possible for you to connect your ancestor to an earlier generation. You may find a birth date listed or be able to approximate a birth date. After 1812, the baptismal records list a place of residence, making it easier to identify your family by where they lived. The records also list the father’s occupation, which makes it easier to identify your ancestor's family when more than one family with the same name lived in the parish.

Marriage records sometimes state the residence for the bride and groom. You can use this information to look for their baptisms and to identify the children of this couple. Sometimes the groom’s occupation is listed, which could help you find more records about the groom. Marriage records after 1754 list the names of witnesses, who were often family members. These can help you identify your ancestor’s family. Signatures in the records might be used to identify a particular individual by the handwriting style.

After 1812, and sometimes before, burial records include the age of the deceased. Use this age to approximate the person’s birth year and to find the baptismal record. If the deceased is a child, the parents’ names might be given. This information helps to extend your family another generation. The occupation of a deceased male might be given (especially after 1812) and can help identify your ancestor when there is more than one person by that name in the area. Knowing the occupation might also provide you the opportunity to find other records about your ancestor.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Transcription is a human process and can include error. If you are searching a computer data base which has been indexed exactly as viewed, it may be necessary to search on variants of the given name and surname.
  • The transcriber may have faithfully rendered Thos. or a Latin spelling like Xpher and your search for Thomas or Christopher may not produce a search result.
  • Parish register entries may not correspond with post 1837 Civil Registration certificates. The registration of Marriages involves a quarterly return from each authorized person (Registrar General approved) to the local Registry Office and each Registry Office in turn to form a National Index.
  • The transcription of information from the event may not correspond to the original entry.
  • Since Civil Birth registrations are only partial in the early decades of Civil registration parish registers may be the only source of record for infant birth and death in a period of high infant mortality rates.

General Information About These Records

Parish registers are one of the best sources for identifying individuals and connecting them to parents, spouses, and other generations. In July 1837 the government instituted the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. However, parish registers continue to play an important role because they are often more readily available than civil registers. Bishops’ transcripts are a backup source for parish registers that are missing or illegible. If possible, you may want to search both the parish registers and the bishops’ transcripts since one is a handwritten copy of the other and might contain differences.

Banns indicate the parish of residence of the bride and groom. This information often leads to the records of another parish. You can search for the baptisms of the bride and groom in the parishes of residence since these might also be the parishes where they were born.

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Don't overlook FHL Place England, Dorset items or FHL Keyword England, Dorset items in the FamilySearch Library Catalog. For other libraries (local and national) or to gain access to items of interest, see England Archives and Libraries.

Related Websites

Dorset History Centre

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citations for This Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information (often called citing your sources). This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection citation:

"England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936." Index and Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2014. Citing Church of England. Record Office, Dorchester.

Record citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936.

Image citation:

The citation for an image is available on each image in this collection by clicking Show Citation at the bottom left of the image screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936.