Around the Regions

Dorset records

With its Tudor ruins, rural roots and naval links, Dorset is as famous for its rich history as for its beautiful countryside. Discover how your family coped with everything from pirate raids to D-Day departures with our new Dorset records.

  • Use our new parish records to piece together your family's key events. Then discover more about their lives on Britain's south coast with our other Dorset records, and put them into their historical context with our timeline.

    Church registers

    Our Dorset parish registers let you uncover your family's baptisms, marriages and burials through years of religious and civil change. These crucial records are the most comprehensive lists of your ancestors' vital events until civil registration started in 1837 - and even after that date they can help solve research puzzles.

    Dorset, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906

    Look out for key details such as parents' names and occupations in our later records of church baptisms.

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    Dorset, England, Deaths and Burials, 1813-2001

    Discover ages, addresses, dates of burial and often even more about your ancestors who were laid to rest in Dorset.

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    Dorset, England, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812

    Trace your family's story all the way back to 1538, when Parliament first asked churches to keep registers.


    Dorset, England, Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921

    Later marriage registers often include the names of the bride and groom and their occupations, plus the wedding date and location.

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    Dorset, England, Confirmations, 1850-1921

    Find out where and when your ancestors made their commitment to the church, and took their first communion.

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    Dead and buried

    Once you've pinpointed a Dorset ancestor's burial record, why not follow it up by searching for their will in our new probate records. This can help you confirm you've found the right person.

  • Once you've built your family's timeline using our Dorset parish records, delve deeper into their lives with thousands of other new records. Then relate them to historical events with our Dorset timeline.

    Dorset, England, Wills and Probate, 1565-1858

    A death record might tell you where and when your ancestor died, but finding their will can give you crucial details about how they lived. A will outlines how someone's wealth was distributed, providing fantastic clues about family relationships, while inventories list their valuables, telling you about their personal interests.

    Our new collection includes wills, inventories and letters of administration proved in Dorset across four centuries. With over 27,000 records, it can help you follow money or precious heirlooms through generations of your family.

    Wills explained

    What can you expect to find in your forebears' last testaments?

    1 - Structure

    Most wills follow a standard pattern. They start 'In the Name of God Amen', provide burial instructions, appoint executors, then state how the estate should be divided.

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    2 - Handwriting

    The writing in wills can be difficult to read, as various styles appear over the centuries.

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    3 - Family

    You'll often find several other family members named on a will - either as executors or beneficiaries.

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    4 - Finances

    You can build an estimate of an ancestor's wealth from the items and money listed in a will - or the debts it passes on!

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    Top tip

    Later wills

    If you're looking for the wills of ancestors who died after 1858 - either in Dorset or elsewhere in the country - try our National Probate Calendar. This provides all you need to order wills from the Principal Probate Registry.

  • Discover your family's south-coast stories with our Dorset parish records and other collections. Then gain a better understanding of their lives using our historical timeline.

    Dorset through time

    Sitting on the edge of continental Europe, Dorset has long been at the forefront of British foreign policy. To find out how religious dissent, pirate raids and D-day landings have impacted your ancestors, follow these simple steps:

    1Record your family

    Follow your ancestors' lives in our new parish records, and use your family tree to keep track of their birth, marriage and death dates.

    2Compare the dates

    Read the timeline below to see what events affected your forebears' lives. Perhaps members of your family died in the 1613 Great Fire? Or maybe they supported the famous Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834?

    3Look for clues

    Our timeline may suggest good next steps for your research. Mass migration would point you towards passenger lists; warfare would suggest military records; while changes in working habits might have you looking in occupation records.

    South coast stories

    Follow the changing tides that shaped your Dorset forebears' lives

Search our other parish record collections.

All our parish records are available to UK Heritage Plus and World Heritage members.
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