Devon - Church Records

The standard guide to Devon's Parish Registers for many years has been:

Peskett, H. Guide to the Parish and Non-Parochial Registers of Devon and Cornwall, 1538-1837, Torquay, Devon and Cornwall Record Society; extra ser., v (1979).

This is now largely superceded by:

Wilcox, A. National Index of Parish Registers, Volume 8, Part 5: Devon, London, Society of Genealogists (1999) 245 pp. [ISBN 1 85951 605 X] "A Guide to the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist registers, together with information on Bishop's Transcripts, modern copies and Marriage licences."

The great majority of extant Devon parish registers are now in the custody of Devon Heritage Services (Exeter and Barnstaple), while those for Plymouth and West Devon are in the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office. On line access to almost all is now available from Findmypast (subscription), Family Search (at LDS Family History Libraries), and/or the Devon FHS website (members section). However finding which PRs are available where, in what form, is not always easy as the following indicates.

Devon Heritage Services' List of Devon Parish Registers provides full details of holdings, at the Devon Heritage Centre (DHC - Exeter), the North Devon Record Office (NDRO - Barnstaple) and the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office (PWDRO - Plymouth). (In this listing, the letters "B" and "P" evidently identify records that are held at NDRO and at the PWDRO, as opposed to those held at DHC.)

The very useful free Online Genealogical Index "is a search engine for genealogical data sets found online for England and Wales, indexed by place. If you know the place where your ancestor was born, married, died, or buried, OGI helps find sites that contain records for that place." As of September 2021 the OGI contained links to over 400,000 birth/baptism, marriage, death and burial data sets - in the case of Devon, small parishes seem to have about 15-20 data sets listed, whereas towns have many more - over 600 in the case of Exeter. In general each link indicates the type of record contained in the data set, the years covered, and whether accessing the data set is free or requires a subscription - and provides a link error reporting facility.

The DHC,  PWDRO and Findmypast provide online access to the Devon Collection  - of parish registers, covering baptisms (1529-1919), banns (1622-1919), marriages (1507-2002) and burials (1507-2002). Searching the index is free, but accessing parish register page images requires payment.

Ancestry now provides online access to indexes (without images) of Devon's  Marriages and Banns (1754-1920)Births and Baptisms (1813-1920)Baptisms, Marriages and Burials (1538-1812) and Deaths and Burials (1813-1920).

Here is Findmypast's listing of their Devon Place & Parish coverage. Note that "The date ranges are those derived from the earliest and latest records and do not necessarily reflect a complete run of years". Moreover some gaps have been found in the sets of transcripts and the indexes of the collection of available record images. (Find My Past's listing covers, but unfortunately does not distinguish between, both their copies of original PRs, and PR transcripts from Devon FHS.)

The LDS provide an index to and images of Devon parish registers: "baptism, marriage, and burial records from the western part of the county of Devon for the years 1538-1912. This collection was done in cooperation with FindMyPast, and a full version of the index can be found at their website. . . These images can be viewed online by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at a Family History Center near you, or the Family History Library."

Here are details, provided by Devon Heritage Services, of Coverage of Devon parish registers online on Find My Past, as of November 2014. These cover both the PRs held by Devon Heritage Services, and the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office. Included are lists of Missing Parish Registers, Parishes not yet included on Find My Past, and Parishes which will not be included on Find My Past.

The filming of the two collections of Devon PRs was in fact sub-contracted to the LDS, so indexes to these collections are also being made available in the FamilySearch catalogue, and images are freely viewable at LDS Family History Centers - see England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912.

The following list are parishes that the LDS were refused permission to film. These registers were instead photographed by Devon Family History Society in a unique arrangement with Devon Heritage Centre & Find My Past. The parishes covered are:-

Abbotskerswell, Arlington, Aveton Gifford, Axminster, Bigbury, Bow, Bratton Fleming, Challacombe, Chardstock, Clannaborough, Clayhidon, Coffinswell, Coleridge, Combpyne, Cullompton, Culmstock, Exeter St. Matthew, Exeter St. Sidwell, Hawkchurch, Hemyock, Holsworthy, Ilsington, Kennerleigh, Kentisbury, Kingskerswell, Kingston, Lapford, Loddiswell, Loxhore, Malborough, Mary Tavy, Milton Damarel, Modbury, Morchard Bishop, Nymet Rowland, Peter Tavy, Plymtree, Ringmore, Salcombe, Shirwell, South Huish, Stockleigh English, Stockleigh Pomeroy, Stoke Rivers, Torquay Torwood Holy Trinity, Torquay St. Marks, Torquay St. Matthias, Washford Pyne, Withycombe Raleigh, Woodleigh, Woolfardisworthy East, Zeal Monachorum.

High quality images of all the above from the earliest dates up to 1915 are available in the members' only area of Devon FHS website. These are being indexed by the Society. (Please note two parishes refused permission for the registers to be filmed at all - these are Abbotsham and East Allington.)

It is possible to purchase microfiche copies of most PRs from the Devon Heritage Centre for private study and research - see their page Services Page, from which you can find full details of their microfiche copying service and the rules regarding publication.

The Devon Record Office also has an extensive collection of Bishops' Transcripts of the parish registers, and of Marriage Licences. Calendars and indexes to the Marriage Licences are in the library of the Devon & Cornwall Record Society, which is located in the Westcountry Studies Library.

Devon section of The Churchwardens' Accounts of England and Wales website - a finding aid (as yet covering only the Plymouth Record Office).

The large English Parish Records Collection, 1269-1930, at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada "consists of microfilm copies of records of many parishes in the South West of England, particularly the counties of Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Hampshire. The collection focuses on those areas which supplied crews for the Newfoundland fishery, and the places of origin of Newfoundland settlers. Devon parishes predominate". (Note that permission of the Devon Record Office is needed for any photcopying of these microfilm records.)

Note: Though the LDS were not originally able able to get permission to film or transcribe the original registers, a good number, but far from all, of the Devon parish registers and Bishops Transcripts have had "batches" of their baptisms and marriages extracted (in the main from transcripts in the possession of the Devon & Cornwall Record Society) into the IGI. In addition, the great majority of extant Nonconformist registers have had their entries extracted into the IGI, which is now available online as part of the LDS Family Search web site. Note that a very useful means of doing surname searches of this website is now provided by the Devon section of FamilySearch: A Guide to the British Batches, by Archer Software. (This largely supersedes Hugh Wallis's IGI Batch Number pages for Devon (A-M) and Devon (N-Z).)

Finding Devon PRs using FamilySearch - a tutorial by Susan D. Young.

FreeREG provides a growing number of Devon parish register transcriptions.

The LDS have microfilmed Devon Marriage License Allegations and the Devon Bishop's Transcripts, 1558-1887 held at the Devon Record Office.

It is in general now possible for individuals to obtain permission to transcribe particular Devon parish registers, and to make the results freely available on-line - advice on this can be obtained, on a case by case basis, from the Devon Record Office. As a result there are a growing number of transcriptions in GENUKI/Devon. For details of these and other available parish register transcriptions, and of IGI coverage, see individual parish pages. (Note: these details do not cover the small, but growing, collection of name-specific Devon parish register extractions that is being made available by Sue Davey, and for which contributions are sought.)

Information regarding the locations of original registers for other churches and chapels (with pre-1840 records), whether at the PRO or one the various Devon Record Offices or elsewhere, has also been added to these parish pages - much more detail about these and other churches and chapels, and about the locations of register copies, can be found in Wilcox (1999). (Abbreviations used in the parish pages: B - burials, C - christenings, M - marriages, Z - births, DRO - Devon Record Office, NDRO - North Devon Record Office, PRO - Public Record Office, PWDRO - Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.)

The Devon Family History Society has indexed Devon marriages covering the period 1754-1837, and provides a (postal) look-up service for members. A number of booklets listing marriages for particular parishes during 1813-1837, and a number listing burials for the same period, are available - details are given on individual parish pages. The Society has just started a project to index baptisms for parishes which are not included in the IGI - potential volunteers to help with this indexing are asked to contact baptisms[at]devonfhs.org[dot]uk.

The Devon FHS's indexes to Baptisms 1813-1839, Marriages 1754-1837 and Burials 1813-1837 are available on the subscription website Find My Past.

1744 and 1779 replies to Bishops' visitation queries - transcribed by the Friends of Devon's Archives. (Indexed by parish, providing "information on various issues relating to religious observance in the parish".)

Devon Strays, extracted by Peter Heale, from Phillimore's Cornwall parish registers, and from the Lynher Parishes web-site.

Extracted details of burials in Bodmin, from various institutions in the town, related to people whose previous abode was in Devon, provided by John Evans.

The Devon Family History Society has published Burials Books for a considerable number of parishes - see individual parish pages.

One significant published collection of transcriptions, likely to be available in various major reference libraries, is:

Devonshire parish registers. Marriages. London: Issued to the subscribers by Phillimore & Co., (1909, 1915) 2 v. (Phillimore's parish register series; vol. 112, 135.) [Available on CD-ROM from S & N Genealogy Supplies]

The Quaker FHS provides details of available Devon Quaker records.

Quaker Registers (others with pre-1840 records are listed in appropriate parish pages):

  • Devon Quarterly Meeting: 1776-1837 (Z), 1783-91, 1795-1836 (M), 1777-1837 (B) in PRO RG 6/192, 466-8, 481-2, 492, 622); 1659-1794 (Z notes), 1784-91 (M certs), 1682-1794 (B notes) in PRO RG 6/941, 1580, 942
  • Eastern Division (including Exeter, Culmstock, Cullompton, Newton Tracey, Spiceland, Topsham): 1785-1837 (Z), 1786-94, 1798-1836 (M), 1785-1837 (B) in PRO RG 6/1424, 193, 392, 393); 1824-67, 1888-96, 1945-58 (Z), 1942-61 (M), 1824-84, 1896-1944, 1942-61 (B) at DRO; see also Culmstock and Exeter
  • Western Division (Plymouth, Kingsbridge, etc): 1795-1837 (Z), 1798-1836 (M), 1795-1837 (B) in PRP RG 6/194, 394-5

The Devon FHS publishes indexes covering (as of June 2020): Burials 1813-1837 - for details see their book list.

For Methodist records deposited in the Devon Record Office see:

Thorne, R.F.S. Methodism in Devon: A handlist of chapels and their records (2nd. ed.), Devon Record Office (1989). [ISBN 0861149750]

Listing of Methodist Churches in Devon (as of December 2018), compiled from information on the Plymouth and Exeter Methodist Website.

Here is an explanatory note Parishes in Devon, provided by Arthur French.

What becomes of Parish Registers - information from Notes & Queries on lost Devon parish registers, by Paul Benyon.

Elizabeth Howard offers look-ups of Devon strays among the Bible Christians' Kilkhampton (Cornwall) Circuit.

Devon Church Rate Lists - a listing, taken from four volumes compiled by the Revd. John F. Chanter, of documents containing church rates and seating plans held at the Devon Record Ofice, provided by Richard Grylls.

Devon Registers SoG Data Online DE/REG (SoG Members only) - transcriptions of registers from 25 Devon parishes (as of Nov. 2021).

Bolt, Barbara. The Coverage of Devon Parishes in the IGI, Exeter, Devon FHS (2002). [DFHS Library - p9293/IGI-Dev]

Brockett, A., (Ed.). The Exeter assembly: minutes of the assemblies of the United Brethren of Devon and Cornwall 1691-1717 as transcribed by the Reverend Isaac Gilling, Exeter, Devon and Cornwall Record Society (1963).

Granville, Roger and Mugford, W.E., (Ed.). Abstracts of the Existing Transcripts of the Lost Parish-Registers of Devon, 1596-1644, and short notes on the extant pre-reformation registers of all the parishes in the county, from particulars furnished by the several incumbents thereof. Vol. 1 A-Bra, Exeter, W. Pollard (1908). [LDS Film 1559408 Item 13] [Contents] [Full text]

Gray, Todd. Foreigners in Devon, Devon Family Historian, no. 180, (2021) p.18. [Announcement of a project to compile a list of the names of foreigners recorded in Devon parish registers.]

Grylls, Richard. Marriages in Devon before 1754: A guide to the wherabouts of copis, transcripts and indexes of the original records. Devon Family History Society, Exeter (2007) 20p.

Grylls, Richard G. Church Rates - An under-used source?, Devon Family Historian, vol. 144, (2012) pp.25-26.

Hambley Rowe, J. Marriages of Devonians in Cornwall. Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries; 2:3, (1902) pp. 77-79. [Transcription]

Marmora. Bonds and Marriage Licenses. Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. IX, (January 1916 to January 1917), p. 13. [Transcription]

Monk, Murial. Devon Strays, Devon Family Historian, vol. 126, (2008) pp.18-20.

Shepheard, Wayne and Samantha Tucker. 1689 Burial Anomalies in South-West Devon, Devon Family Historian, vol. 157, (2016) pp.26-30.

Wickes, Michael. Nonconformist church registers of southwest England. Family Tree Magazine (January 1997) pp.21-22.

Wesleyan Methodist Historic Roll 1899-1904. CD013, Devon Family History Society (2008). [A transcription of the names and addresses of over 24,000 donors from Wesleyan Methodist Circuits in Devon and Cornwall and parts of Somerset and Dorset] [Details]