Enquiry service

As part of our standard enquiry service we will offer advice, list relevant sources, and carry out checks of indexes or other finding aids where these exist.

Our staff can help with enquires about:

  • family history
  • adoption
  • house history
  • local history
  • rights of way and boundary disputes - please note: we cannot offer any legal or technical advice
  • planning applications and building control regulations
  • vehicle licensing.

We can also look up specific information in our records for £10 per half hour.

Make an enquiry

It's helpful if you can tell us as much as possible about your enquiry. We aim to respond to all enquiries within 10 working days.

Certified copies of records

If you need a certified copy of a record held here for official purposes (for example your baptism certificate, or a copy of an entry from vehicle registration records), we can provide one for a fee.

Certification is arranged by the duty archivist and copies are signed by a senior member of staff.

Research service

If you are unable to visit Dorset History Centre in person, our research service may be able to help. We can search records held here and provide you with a written report of the findings.

We can search parish registers and other parish records for that elusive Dorset ancestor. We can search census returns, wills, manorial records, newspapers, published and unpublished works to trace the history of a family or piece of property. We can also consult our indexes and catalogues to identify additional sources, if any.

What we need from you

Give us as much information as possible to help us carry out your search. Please tell us:

  • the surname of the family, with full names when you want information about a particular person. While searching, we record other entries found for the requested surname, and any alternative spellings, for your information.
  • the parish(es) you wish us to search. Please bear in mind that while many parishes are small villages, parish registers for towns run into many volumes.
  • the type of record to be searched, for example a baptism, marriage, burial, or something else
  • the span of years to be searched. This should be achievable in the allocated research time. For example, a search over a hundred years of registers for a town or parish such as Blandford Forum or Poole would take more than two hours. A span of five or ten years either side of an expected date would be much more achievable within two hours.

Don't send additional paperwork such as copies of birth certificates. If we are uncertain about any aspect of your request, we'll contact you for clarification before we start or, if necessary, while we are carrying out your search.

Book a search

Before you start:

  • research costs £37 per hour or part hour and includes copies of up to three entries
  • we require payment in advance for research
  • we can accept sterling cheque; or credit/debit cards via our online payment facility. If you want to commission further research, complete another research application form

Fill out the research application form

What if you don't find anything?

There is a charge for research, depending on what you want to know - even if we don't find anything.

We cannot guarantee that we will be able to find the information that you are searching for due to the nature of some records, the way that they were written or the way that they were kept. This may be because the documents are in poor condition, faded or illegible, having been badly stored in the past. The information you have asked for may not have been recorded or may have been recorded in a different parish or county.

If we are unsuccessful, we will check our indexes, catalogues and other finding aids to try and locate alternative sources which might help you.

Research topic consultation

If you are planning a large research project we can offer one to one advice about the kinds of records we hold which could be useful to you. An individual consultation costs £30 per hour or part hour. 

Accessing hospital records

Records in hospital collections are under restricted access for 100 years. This is to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act, and protect the rights of individuals who may still be alive.

We have procedures in place that allow enquirers to request information on a specific patient. We can carry out research on your behalf and provide you with copies of documents found. The cost for this service, including copies of up to four entries, is £70. This fee is payable regardless of whether our search proves to be successful.

If you wish to find out more please submit your enquiry in writing and include:

  • the name of the patient
  • any information you already know
  • your relationship to the patient (if any)

We will let you know what records we hold and, if appropriate, send you an application form to request research.

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