Parish registers and records
We hold the registers and various records for many of the parishes in Dorset.
We hold the parish registers for 300 different parishes around Dorset, they contain records for births, marriages and deaths around the county. To check we have the registers for the parish you are interested in please search our catalogue or view our full list of parish registers (pdf, 316kb) (opens in a new window) we hold.
Our guide to parish registers (pdf, 24kb) (opens in a new window) is designed to help you make the most of the archives held at the History Centre.
Weymouth and Portland parish records for Wyke Regis, Melcombe Regis and Weymouth have been made available to view and search online. Thanks go to Mrs Muriel Monk for all of her hard work.
In addition to the parish registers, local parishes also kept other records that can be of use to local historians.
You can search our parish collections using the online catalogue.
Many of the records described below are available on the Ancestry website (opens in a new window) .
Minutes - vestry or parochial church council
The committee that oversees the church and parish. It is sometimes also simply referred to as the 'parish council', but should not be confused with the civil parish council.
Accounts - churchwardens and overseers
Churchwardens were responsible for the upkeep of the church and its grounds. Their account books record both money raised and paid out.
In order to qualify for poor relief, people had to prove they were established residents of the parish - typically either because they had been born there or because they had served an apprenticeship in the parish. These documents represent a brief biography of an individual, and can therefore be invaluable for family history.
Parishes were also keen to avoid paying for the upkeep of illegitimate children. Much like settlement examinations, parish overseers would also interview with mothers expecting an illegitimate child to determine who the father was. Once a determination had been made on the likely father of a child, a bastardy bond or maintenance order was drawn up to ensure payment by the father.