"Dorset, maritime County, on south coast of England; is bounded north by Somerset and Wilts, east by Hants, south by the English Channel, and west by Devon; length, east and west, 52 miles; breadth, north and south, 37 miles; coastline, 75 miles; area, 627,265 acres; population 191,028. The main features of the coast are Poole Harbour, St Alban's Head, and the singular projection called the Isle of Portland. The principal streams are the Stour and the Frome. Great part of the county is traversed by the two ranges of chalk hills called the North and South Downs, and the soil consists mainly of chalk, gravel, and sand, but is very fertile in the valleys. Wheat and barley are grown in the west and north. Immense flocks of sheep are pastured on the Downs. Dairy farms are generally large, and dairy husbandry is carried to a very high point of perfection. The only mineral of any importance is Portland stone, quarried in the Isle of Portland. There are manufactures, to some extent, of sailcloth, sacking, nets, paper, silk, &c., with malting and brewing, and iron-founding. The fisheries, especially of mackerel, are considerable, and ships and yachts are built at Poole." [Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887]


Archives & Libraries

Dorset History Centre
Bridport Road

Telephone:- U.K. 01305 250550, Overseas +44 1305 250550



Barnes, William. Poems of Rural Life in common English (1868)
Boswell, Edward. The Civil Division of the County of Dorset, 2nd edition (Dorchester 1833)
Brocklebank, Joan. Victorian Stone Carvers in Dorset Churches 1856-1880, (Wimborne 1979)
Douch, Robert. A Handbook of Local History: Dorset, (Bristol 1952)
Hutchins, John. The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3rd edition., edited by W. Shipp and J.W. Hodson, Westminster: J.B. Nichols and sons, 1861 - 1874
Mills A.D. The Dorset Lay Subsidy Roll of 1332. Dorset Record Society. (Dorchester 1971)
Pike W.T. A Dictionary of Edwardian Biography - Dorset (Edinburgh 1983)
Rumble A.R. The Dorset Lay Subsidy Roll of 1327. Dorset Record Society. (Dorchester 1980)
Weinstock, Maureen. Studies in Dorset History (Dorchester 1953)

Antiquarian and second hand books relating to Dorset are available from Ivor Cornish at Ambra Books.



An index of place names for the 1891 Census has been provided by Ray Osbourne.


Church History

UK Genealogy Archives have photographs and a description of many churches in Dorset, all linked from their Dorset pages.


Church Records

The Society of Genealogists maintains copies of many parish records in their library. Search the parishes in Dorset which are included in their holdings.

The Dorset History Centre hold many of the original Parish registers for Dorset. These are the Parish Registers they hold.

Information of the location of Quaker Records in Dorset provided by the Quaker FHS.


Civil Registration

Brett Langston has provided details of the Registration Districts in Dorset for the period 1837 to 1930.

Certificates of birth, death and marriage can be obtained from the Superintendent Registrars at the following District Register Offices ;

  • Dorset
  • Poole

If ordering from a District Office, please note the following: (a) the cost of a certificate is currently (December 2013) £ 9.25 - send a Sterling cheque payable to the Superintendent Registrar plus return postage or two International Reply Coupons; (b) the St Catherine's or GRO Index references are of no value; (c) for marriage certificates, the precise place of marriage must be given; (d) Civil Registration in England and Wales began on July 1st 1837.

The Dorset Death Certificate Index (www.dorsetdci.com), a free website to help family historians share information about deaths registered in Dorset from 1837 onwards.


Description & Travel

The description of the County of Dorset taken from the Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, circa 1894-5 is available on the UK Genealogy Archives site.

The Dorset Page provides some useful information about the county.



Part transcript of Pigot & Co.'s Commercial Directory of Dorset 1830



John Fuller has provided full details of the DORSET and WESSEX-PLUS, the Genealogy Mailing Lists which cover this county. This is but a small part of the data available on the "Genealogy Resources on the Internet" pages maintained by John and Chris Gaunt.

The Dorset Online Parish Clerks (OPC) scheme provides online parish resources, and its members offer to perform lookups in the resources to which they have access.

Researchers may be interested in the Dorset GenWeb pages.



The Harleian Society transcript of the Herald's Visitation of Dorset in the year 1623 available for online browsing courtesy of Nigel Batty-Smith's UK Genealogy Archives site.



Hutchins, J. The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3rd edition., edited by W. Shipp and J.W. Hodson, Westminster: J.B. Nichols and sons, 1861 - 1874



Antique maps, Plans, Manuscripts, Documents, etc., relating to Dorset are available from Lesley Aitchison.

A map of Dorset, circa 1894-5, taken from the Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales is available on the UK Genealogy Archives site.


Military History

The Military Museum of Devon and Dorset houses documents, photographs and histories of The Devonshire Regiment, The Dorset Regiment, The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, The Dorset Yeomanry, The Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry, The Dorset Militia, The Royal Devon Yeomanry and 94 Field Regiment RA.