Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relating to DEVON


Newcomers to the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum (and people who've mislaid their bookmarks!) frequently post queries that could be easily answered by reference to the World Wide Web-based UK & Ireland Genealogical Information Service (GENUKI), in particular to GENUKI/Devon.

The purpose of this "Devon FAQ file" is to give answers to the above queries, in many cases simply by reference to the appropriate section of GENUKI/Devon, i.e. of: http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/. (A copy of this FAQ file will be posted occasionally to the DEVON-GEN discussion forum (the Google Group associated with GENUKI/Devon), and also held in GENUKI, reachable directly from the GENUKI/Devon page, as the file is also intended to be of assistance both to GENUKI/Devon users and subscribers to DEVON-GEN.)

The set of answers provided in this page supplement the more general ones provided in the FAQ file for GENUKI as a whole, at https://www.genuki.org.uk/org/faq. For convenience here is an index, via which a browser-user can go directly to answers in the more general FAQ file. (The browser's "Back" button can be used to return to this Devon FAQ file.)


1. Where are Devon parish registers held, and what is available online?

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 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.

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.)

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.

2. Why is Devon's coverage in the IGI rather limited?

Originally the LDS was only been able to get permission to copy, and extract into the IGI, non-conformist registers, and transcriptions of Devon parish registers, (in the main from transcripts in the possession of the Devon & Cornwall Record Society). However online coverage has now improved - for further details see under Church Records on the GENUKI/Devon page

3. What Devon wills survive?

Prior to 1858, wills were proved in Devon in five main ecclesiastical courts: the Archdeaconry courts of Totnes, Barnstaple and Exeter; the Episcopal Consistory Court of Exeter, and the Episcopal Principal Registry of Exeter. All these probate records were destroyed by fire during World War II. Few had been abstracted or transcribed beforehand, though indexes had been prepared for all except the Totnes wills. Luckily, the Public Record Office's files of Death Duty Registers (IR26 and 27) provide summaries of many but by no means all of the Devon wills that were proved during the period 1796 to 1903, including those destroyed in 1942. For further information see under Probate Records on the GENUKI/Devon page. However, a few Devon parishes came under the Archdeaconry of Cornwall, and Uffculme came under the Bishop of Salisbury; their wills, plus various other individual transcriptions and abstracts, survive - see the particular parish pages. A project, the Devon Wills Project, to provide a finding-aid in the form of a consolidated index of all extant Devon wills, and also administrations and inventories, is now nearing completion. The index shows where copies, transcripts, abstracts or extracts of such original testamentary documents may be found, and in many cases the whereabouts of the original documents themselves.

4. I can't find <?????> in GENUKI/Devon - can you help?

Don't forget that in GENUKI information is given at several levels - if you can't find information on a particular topic in the relevant parish page, make sure to check that same topic in the county page, since this might contain what you are searching for amongst information covering all the parishes. Indeed it might well be worth checking the England or the UK pages. Each parish page has, either side of the parish location map, a list of the topics covered in this or a higher-level page. These topic names serve as links to the topic details. (In the case that there is no information on a topic at the present level a preceding up arrow symbol indicates that the link will take you up to the next level in order to find it.) 

After such checking, and having exhausted the possibilities provided the GENUKI Search facility (near the top of each page) then this is a fine question to send to DEVON-GEN  a discussion  forum for anyone with a genealogical or historical interest in the county of Devon, England, run by Terry Leaman, and co-sponsored by GENUKI/Devon and the Devon FHS. However, please do not send such questions just to me. My own area of interest and expertise regarding Devon centres on Clovelly in North Devon - otherwise, just about all I know of Devon genealogy is already in the Devon pages, maintenance of which takes up a good proportion of my spare time. (Additional means of communicating electronically with others interested in Devon genealogy and family history  are listed here.)

5. Is it worth joining the Devon Family History Society?

Most definitely "Yes", if you have any continuing research interests related to Devon. The Society publishes a quarterly journal, has prepared and published indexes of numerous original Devon records, and has a very useful web site, at http://www.devonfhs.org.uk/. It also has an active Facebook Group and WWW Message Board. The annual subscription is very modest, and the Society has - for use by those members who live near or can visit Exeter - an extensive library.

6. What is Devon Family History Society's email address?


7. Is anyone researching the name <?????>?

The Devon FHS provides - to their over 5000 members - a Members' Interests search facility.

8. Could some SKS look up the <?????> census for me?

For those census years for which indexed transcriptions are available, such a request is reasonable, although those for 1851 and 1881 are available very cheaply on CD-ROM from the LDS, while ones for 1881 and 1891 are available free online. However, for years for which the census records have not been indexed, lookup requests are unlikely to be successful unless you can provide a fairly exact address. ("SKS", by the way, is a fairly common abbreviation for "Some Kind Soul.")

Note that although the census in the UK is taken every 10 years, the first being in 1801, national census records containing information of interest to family historians are available only for 1841 to 1911. The (unindexed) original records can be seen on either microfilm or microfiche at the National Archives in London, and at LDS Family History Centres world-wide. Adding to GENUKI's extensive general information about the census, at https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/Census, the situation for Devon in particular is as follows:

  • 1841 - Scanned images available on CD-ROM from Archive CD, and online with a name index - for a fee - from Find My Past and Ancestry.
  • 1851 - Fully-indexed transcription available on CD-ROM from the LDS.
  • 1861 - Scanned images available on CD-ROM from Archive CD, the subject of a joint DFHS/FreeCen project to transcribe and index - online for a fee from Find My Past and Ancestry.
  • 1871 - Scanned images available on CD-ROM from Archive CD and - with a name index - online for a fee from Find My Past and Ancestry.
  • 1881 - Fully indexed transcription available on CD-ROM from the LDS, and online for free at https://www.familysearch.org/en/ - and for a fee from Find My Past and Ancestry.
  • 1891 - A FreeCen project to produce a free online indexed transcription is now complete - see http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/Census.1891/.
  • 1901 - Scanned images available online for a fee, and a detailed index for free,  from Find My Past and Ancestry.
  • 1911 - Scanned images available online with a name index - for a fee - from Find My Past

Pre-1841 census records exist for a small number of Devon parishes - details, and some transcriptions, are given in the respective parish pages.

9. What is the WCSL?

The WCSL is the Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter. This is the main section of the Devon Local Studies Reference Library, and has a very large collection of books, pamphlets, etc., relevant to Devonshire Local and Family history. It provides a very useful online catalogue. For more details see under Archives and Libraries on the GENUKI/Devon page

10. What is the Burnet Morris Index?

This immensely useful general index, listing over a million references to Devon places and people, is at the WCSL, but microfilmed versions can be seen at any LDS Family History Centre. (For the reference sources covered see the booklet "The Burnet Morris Index 1940-1990", Devon Library Services, Exeter, 1990.)

11. Where are the records for <?????> parish?

In all probability in Devon Heritage Services (https://swheritage.org.uk/devon-archives/) and/or the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office (https://plymhearts.org/archives/ (archived copy)). You can check availability of parish registers via their catalogues and via relevant GENUKI/Devon parish page. Their catalogues are also in part made available online, as part of A2A (the Access to Archives network), whose search page allows one to choose to focus a search on the holdings of a particular record office. (To obtain actual information, you will need to visit one of the branches of the Record Office yourself, or have someone undertake research there on your behalf. Professional researchers and record agents advertise in places such as the Genealogical Magazine, and Family Tree Magazine - and the Devon Record Office itself provides a professional genealogical research service.) Note, however, that from 1837 there was a national civil registration system for births, marriages and death, which in effect gradually supplanted the use of parish registers - see


12. Where is Stoke Damerel?

Stoke Damerel is a large parish, adjoining Plymouth, which includes Devonport. Answering a more general question, the button at the top of the Devon page marked "Devon Towns & Parishes" will take you to a page that provides links to all the individual Devon parishes (and its most major towns), and that also lists the names of all the towns and sizeable villages that were not parishes, and place names that might be confused with parish names. This page also provides a search facility based on all the over 7000 place names in the 1945-48 one inch to the mile Ordnance Survey Maps, that provides each place's grid reference, linked to various maps, and identifies the containing parish.

There is also a much larger (12,000 item) Devon Gazetteer which lists all the chapels, churches, farms, hamlets, houses, inns, manors, schools, streets, villages, banks, societies, institutions, etc., named in White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Devonshire (1850), identifying the containing parish, but not however providing grid references. There are links to this Gazetteer from near the top of, and under Genealogy on, the GENUKI/Devon page. Its URL is:


13. Where is Devonport?

In Stoke Damerel. (Another modern placename that causes difficulty is Newton Abbot - see Wolborough and Highweek parish pages.)

14. How can I find more about the citation <?????> in GENUKI/Devon?

The thousands of citations to books and articles given in GENUKI/Devon come from a variety of sources - where possible library catalogue numbers or ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) are included. Such information is intended to help you locate a copy of the item, for example in an online service such as Google Book Search, in a good reference library, via an Inter-Library Loan service operated by your library, or via one of the several on-line union catalogues of second-hand booksellers, such as:

https://www.amazon.com/ (now incorporating Bibliofind)

Other possibilities are to seek help via the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum, and to check Google's Book Search site. It is also worth checking to see if what you are searching for is in the ever-growing collections of scanned out-of-copyright books and journals at Hathitrust,  Google Books and the Internet Archive.

15. How can I contribute to GENUKI/Devon?

There are many possibilities. You could transcribe (having obtained any necessary permissions and copyright clearances), original records or published descriptive texts relating to parishes or topics of interest to you. You could prepare your own descriptive texts about places or topics on which you have gained expertise. (Such material could either be hosted within GENUKI/Devon, or within your own space and linked to from GENUKI/Devon.) You could act as, or assist, the On-line Parish Clerk for a parish - see


There is a joint project to transcribe the 1861 Census (see DFHS/FreeCen project), together with a project to index published parish histories and the like (see http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/indexingproject), for each of which additional volunteers are always welcome. Finally, more general information about how you could contribute to GENUKI is to be found at:


16. I have some photographs of <?????> church - would you like them for GENUKI/Devon?

The space available in the GENUKI web server is not extensive enough to make it feasible to accept digitised photographs, but links can be made to such photographs held elsewhere.

17. Can I submit my GEDCOM file to GENUKI/Devon?

In the main, the information that is provided in GENUKI relates to primary historical material, rather than material resulting from genealogists' ongoing research, such as GEDCOM files. There are many online archives that accept such files, in particular the LDS's Ancestral File system, and GenServ. However, if you have produced a narrative account of the life and times of an ancestor or group of ancestors, from a particular Devon parish, that could be of general interest, and so would be a very welcome addition to GENUKI. See the Genealogies pages, at:


18. How can I search the GENUKI pages?

There is a Google-based facility for searching all the Devon pages which can be reached via the "Contents & Search" button at the top of each page. This in fact leads also to a search facility for GENUKI as a whole (i.e covering all of the UK & Ireland, together with FHS and other directly-relevant web-sites), as well as to detailed hierarchically-organised contents listings of the Devon, and all the other sets of, GENUKI pages.

19. What topics are appropriate for messages to the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum?

Ideas for messages to the Forum can include: - The Devon surnames you are researching - Queries regarding Devon individuals or families - Questions or information regarding Devon localities - Questions or information about Devon genealogical research - Requests for or offers of help on Devon genealogical research - Tips & tricks regarding Devon genealogical research that you'd like to share with everyone. (The success of this list depends on the continued willingness of people who can do so to aid others who are seeking help - this willingness is likely to evaporate if those who receive such help neglect the common courtesy of offering their thanks, either by direct mail or where appropriate via a message to the list.)

It is acceptable for new subscribers to post a message simply listing their Devon research interests. However, repeated posting of such messages, e.g. in response to some sort of "Roll Call", is not acceptable, due to the impact they can have both on the level of traffic on the DEVON Forum, and its "signal-to-noise" ratio, i.e. average level of interest to subscribers. (Repeated flouting of this rule will lead to the sender being unsubscribed.)

Incidentally, it is always a good idea to include with any query to the DEVON FORUM a brief indication of what searches of online and conventional sources you have already made. This is in order to avoid your receiving, and other respondents wasting effort providing, information that you are already familiar with.

If you are uncertain whether a message you are considering posting would be regarded as appropriate for the DEVON Forum, please seek advice beforehand from the list moderators, Brian Randell <Brian.Randell[at]newcastle.ac[dot]uk> and Terry Leaman <terryleaman[at]tiscali.co[dot]uk>.

20. Are there other general rules regarding posting to the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum?

Please refrain from postings which are not of relevance to Devon genealogy - such as messages concerned with genealogical software packages. In particular, do not post messages about computer viruses to the Frum. (Anyone ignoring this rule is liable to be automatically unsubscribed.) If you have a query or information about a possible computer virus, send it directly to the Forum moderators Brian Randell <Brian.Randell[at]ncl.ac[dot]uk> and Terry Leaman <terryleaman[at]tiscali.co[dot]uk> who will if appropriate communicate its contents to the Forum. The reason for this rule is simple - fear of viruses is such that any message on the Forum about a virus is such that, even if the message is itself timely and factually correct (something which is far from always the case), it will lead to a whole host of follow up messages, often of dubious accuracy, which themselves constitute a sort of virus, and annoy many subscribers.

Similarly, please do not use the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum for messages (such as thank you messages) that are aimed at a specific individual, and which do not contain information which is likely to useful to (or perhaps even understood by!) anyone else. Such messages should be sent by direct email, so as to avoid clogging up many hundreds of mailboxes world-wide.

Make sure that you use an informative subject line on any message to the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum - messages headed "Help", "New Subscriber", "My Brick Wall", etc., might well escape the attention of readers who might be able to help. Similarly, adherence to the common genealogical convention of giving surnames in CAPITAL letters is strongly recommended.

When replying to a message, please avoid needless repetition of the text from this or earlier messages in the message thread. (Such message repetitions may not be immediately evident if lots of text has scrolled off the bottom of your email text window.) However, take care to provide or retain enough text to make your reply understandable.

If you have reason to question whether a message you have tried to send to the Forum has been received and distributed successfully, please ask one of us to investigate - DO NOT clutter up everyone's mailbox by sending out "test" messages.

If you wish to complain or comment unfavourably about some other subscriber please do so directly to the subscriber and/or to the moderators - NOT to the entire Forum, which just exacerbates the problem. Similarly, the Forum is not an appropriate place for critical comments about archives and other organisations, e.g. regarding their policies concerning access to information they possess which would be useful to genealogists.

Finally, note that since the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum is provided by Google by Rootsweb, it is governed by their "Content Policy", which is to be found at:


You should submit only content which belongs to you and will not violate the property or other rights of other people or organizations. . . Content submitted for the purpose of commercial use, advertising or fee for service is prohibited.

21. What rules regarding copyright, etc., apply to DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum postings?

The rules are essentially the same for posting to a discussion forum, or providing information on the web. Indeed, substantial transcriptions should be made available for inclusion in GENUKI/Devon, as well as - or indeed instead of - being posted, so as to ensure their continued easy accessibility. (Recall that GENUKI is an archived and searchable virtual library, the continued availability and existence of which does not depend on any single individual.)

Please do not post extensive transcriptions from documents or publications unless you can demonstrate that you have good reason to believe that you are not offending against either the wishes or the legal rights of the owner, or against copyright.

Note that if an individual, or an archive, owns a document, then they have every right to constrain someone who they allow to look at or borrow that document, e.g. not to copy this document. (It is on this basis that some Devon parishes are refusing to allow their parish registers to be published online.) The owners may well have buttressed their rights by requiring you to sign a form acknowledging the constraint beforehand - but merely telling you is sufficient, since the notion of a contract does not depend on any actual paperwork or signatures. But if you are the legal owner of a document, or you have not entered into any contract that binds you in some way, and the content of the document is not copyright, then there is no legal impediment to your providing transcriptions - but see below.

Copyright typically exists in any published document until 70 years after the death of the author, whereas Crown Copyright typically exists for 50 years after publication or, in the case unpublished documents, for 125 years after the date of creation. To copy or publish substantial parts of a work in copyright you have in general to obtain permission.

For up-to-date, detailed advice about copyright and crown copyright matters see the discussion, and the various documents listed, in the GENUKI Maintainers' page on Copright:


Luckily, since 1999, Crown Copyright has been waived in the contents of most unpublished public records held in The National Archives and other official archives, such as county record offices, so such documents (which include census records) can be transcribed and the transcriptions made available electronically, e.g. via the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum or in GENUKI/Devon, without any need to seek prior permission. However, the archive holding the original document should be identified, and its catalogue number included. (Note that this waiver applies only to transcriptions, not to actual photographic or scanned digital images of documents, such as images obtained via TNA's Discovery search facility.)

In those cases where there is a requirement that explicit permission be obtained, the transcription should be accompanied by evidence that such permission has been sought and received. (This is typically the case with church documents, when a statement naming the authority, e.g. the relevant vicar, who has given permission will suffice.)

Note that some societies, as a contractual restriction on the purchaser of their publications, disallow the public offering of free (or paid-for) lookups from these publications. The reason for such a restriction is obvious - if lots of people provided such a service, relatively few copies would be sold, probably not enough to cover the cost of publication. (A particular case in point is the FFHS's National Burial Index.) It is therefore important that the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum not be used to "advertise" a willingness to do lookups of material contrary to the original supplier's wishes. However, there is no impediment to providing look-ups of, for example, parish register microfiches or census records.

The bottom line is that we must do everything we can to build a climate of trust and cooperation with the relevant archive and church authorities, as well as cement our existing cooperation with organisations such as the Devon Record Office and the Devon Family History Society. Thus the letter of the law is less important than the spirit of the law - only by being careful not to offend the people who possess information, in the various libraries, archives, churches, societies, etc., can we retain their continued cooperation. So when there is any doubt you should request permission beforehand, rather than rely on a narrow and perhaps arguable interpretation of the letter of the law to justify your posting. (This applies particularly to Devon parish register transcriptions, given the sensitivities involved.)

In summary, all of this is easily understandable by putting oneself in the position of the person or organisation that owns the original information, or that has laboured hard to produce some publication, and considering how some activity would look from this point of view.

22. Does the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum have an Archive?

The DEVON-GEN web page (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/devongenealogy) holds all the messages that have been sent to the Forum, and hence also serves as an archive.

23. How do I unsubscribe from the DEVON-GEN Discussion Forum?

To unsubscribe from the group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to Terry Leaman <tjleaman[at]gmail[dot]com>.

NOTE: This FAQ file is held at https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/DevonFAQ.