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

Dorsetshire, or modern Dorset County, is one of the historic counties of England. It is located on the English Channel coast in southwestern England. For a list of parishes in this county with links to more information about each of them, see Dorset Parishes.

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.

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
  • Names of parents, including mother's maiden name
  • Residence of parents, especially after 1812

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.
  • After 1754, the full names of witnesses
  • After 1837, the full names of the fathers
  • Marital status at the time of the wedding.

Burial records usually contain:

  • Burial date
  • Name of the deceased.
  • Parents' names (if the deceased was a child)
  • Spouse's name (if married)
  • Age of the person
  • Residence of the deceased
  • May give the sex of the deceased
  • Residence of the deceased

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 and locate the original parish record or certificate, if possible. See Dorset Church Records for more information on search options.
  • 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, surnames, and place names. Remember that it was not uncommon for an individual be listed under a nickname or an abbreviation of their name in a church record. See Abbreviations Found in Genealogy Records for some common examples of abbreviations. Note that some women reverted to their maiden name when their husband died, and therefore could be buried under their maiden name.
  • 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 about 40 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.
  • 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 England, Dorset, Non-conformist Records (FamilySearch Historical Records) for more specific information on the availability of Dorset nonconformist records.

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

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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.

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 back to information that has already been discovered; proper citations are therefore indispensable to keeping track of genealogical research. Following established formulae in formatting citations also allows others to verify completed research by helping them find and examine records for themselves.

To accomplish these purposes, 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 and can serve as templates for creating proper citations for this particular collection, as well as for individual records 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.