England, Dorset, Parish Registers (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Dorset,  England
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Location of Dorset, England
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Record Description
Record Type Parish Registers
Collection years 1538-1936
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
Dorset History Centre


What is in the Collection?

This collection is an index to church records from Dorsetshire, covering the period 1538-1936. Availability of records may vary by year and locality.

A parish register is a record of ordinances performed in the Church of England. Every minister recorded all the baptisms (or christenings), marriages, and burials which took place in his parish each year, and bound them into a single, handwritten volume. After 1754, a new law required that marriages be recorded in a separate book, and banns, or proclamations of the intent to marry put forth in the parishes of both the bride and groom, were to be recorded in yet another book. Starting in 1812, pre-printed registers were introduced, and separate registers were then kept for baptisms, marriages, and burials.

Often kept within a county record office or other archive repository, registers are central to English genealogical research as they are often one of the only sources for finding families and individuals in England before the start of civil registration in 1837.

Further information: Church of England Parish Registers

One of the 39 historic counties of England, Dorset, or Dorsetshire as it was known during the period of this collection, is located in southwestern England on the coast of the English Channel. For a list of parishes which historically made up this county, see the Dorset Parishes page.

Collection Content

This collection refers to baptism, marriage, and burial records. Baptism record entries are the most common in the index, followed by burial records, with marriage records constituting the smallest portion.

What Can This Collection Tell Me?

The following lists indicate potential information given in each type of record. It must be remembered that every record may not give all of the listed information.

Baptismal Records may include:
Before 1812

  • Date and place of baptism
  • Full name of child
  • Sex of child

Included after 1812

  • Legitimacy of child
  • Full names of parents
  • Residence of parents
  • Marital status of parents
  • Occupations of parents
  • Names of godparents
  • Names, ages, occupations, and residences of witnesses
  • Name of minister

Marriage Records may include:
Before 1754

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Full names of bride and groom
  • Dates of the proclamation of banns
  • Residences of bride and groom

Included after 1754

  • Full names of witnesses
  • Name of minister

Included after 1837

  • Ages of bride and groom
  • Previous marital statuses of bride and groom
  • Full names of parents
  • Occupation of groom

Burial Records may include:
Before 1812

  • Date and place of burial
  • Date and place of death
  • Name of deceased
  • Marital status of deceased
  • Name of spouse

Included after 1812

  • Age at death
  • Residence of deceased
  • Name of father, esp. if infant
  • Sex of deceased, esp. if infant

How Do I Search the Collection?

Before beginning a search in these records, it is best to know the full name of the individual in question, as well as an approximate time range for the desired record. When entered into the search engine on the Collection Page, this information provides the quickest, most reliable path to finding the correct person. Of course, other information can be substituted as necessary.

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page to return a list of possible matches. Compare the individuals on the list with what is already known to find the correct family or person. This step may require examining multiple individuals before a match is located.

Image Visibility

Whenever possible, FamilySearch makes images of digitized records available for all users. However, ultimate rights to view images on this website are granted by the record custodians. Due to their restrictions on this collection, these records may not be displayed in any electronic format, and therefore are not available for viewing online.

For additional information about image restrictions, please see the Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections page.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking for, What Now?

  • Make sure to fully transcribe and cite the index entry record for future reference. See below for assistance in citing this collection.
  • Use the information which has been discovered to find more. For instance, use the estimated age given in a marriage or burial record to calculate an approximate year of birth, if that is yet undetermined.
  • Use the information which has been discovered to find the individual in civil records. Particularly useful for research in nineteenth-century England are the England Census and the England Civil Registration records.
  • Continue to search the index to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives. Note that family members often appear on an individual's vital records, such as in the role of witnesses to a marriage.

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking for, What Now?

  • When looking for a person with a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which individual is correct. Use other information, such as place of birth, age, occupation, or names of parents, to determine which candidate is the correct person. If listed, a personal title may be a clue to property ownership or occupation, either of which might be noted in other records.
  • Check for variants of given names and surnames. An individual might appear under a different name in a record for a variety of reasons:
    • Spelling was not standardized for much of the period of this collection, so the name was written according to its pronunciation. Pay special attention to how the name should have been pronounced and try other spelling variations that could have that pronunciation.
    • Individuals might have been listed under a middle name, nickname, or abbreviation of their given name.
    • For women, it was not uncommon to revert to a maiden name after the death of a husband.
    • Simple clerical errors were always possible.
  • Vary the search terms. For example, search by either the given name or surname to return broader list of possible candidates which can then be examined for matches. Alternatively, try expanding the date range; this is especially useful in searching baptismal records, as it was not unusual for a child to be baptized weeks or even months after birth.
  • Search the records of nearby parishes. While it was uncommon for an individual in this period to move more than 20 miles from their place of birth, smaller relocations were not uncommon. For this particular collection, this step may require finding records in the bordering English counties of Devonshire to the west, Somersetshire and Wiltshire to the north, or Hampshire to the east. Note that marriages usually took place in the parish where the bride resided.
  • Some parish records might have been lost over time. If possible, use Bishop's Transcripts as a substitute. See the Dorset Bishops' Transcripts page for more information.
  • The individual in question may not have records in the Church of England at all, but rather might have belonged to a nonconformist denomination. See England Nonconformist Church Records for more information on nonconformist records and the Dorset Nonconformist Records page for more specific information on the availability of Dorset nonconformist records.

For additional help searching online collections see FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing this Collection

Citing sources correctly makes it easier to refer to information which has already been discovered; proper citations are therefore key to keeping track of genealogical research. Following established citation formats also allows others to verify completed research by helping them find and examine records for themselves.

To be of use, citations must include information such as the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records, if available. The following examples demonstrate how to present this information for both this particular collection as well as individual records and images within the collection:

Collection Citation:

"England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936." Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. 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.

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.