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.
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.
Look out for key details such as parents' names and occupations in our later records of church baptisms.Search now
Discover ages, addresses, dates of burial and often even more about your ancestors who were laid to rest in Dorset.Search now
Trace your family's story all the way back to 1538, when Parliament first asked churches to keep registers.
Later marriage registers often include the names of the bride and groom and their occupations, plus the wedding date and location.Search now
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.
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.
What can you expect to find in your forebears' last testaments?
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.View enlarged image
The writing in wills can be difficult to read, as various styles appear over the centuries.View enlarged image
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.
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:
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?
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.
Follow the changing tides that shaped your Dorset forebears' lives