July 2020: please note that the family history room is currently unavailable to researchers. Contact us if you would like to access information held in these records: 

The family history room is where those doing their genealogy are most likely to find information. This comes in 3 main ways:


Along the wall are several computers, all with free access to Ancestry.co.uk. For those just beginning, or even a little further along their research, Ancestry is one of the primary sources for information. Nearly all the parish records that Dorset History Centre hold have been made available via Ancestry, so information about your Dorset ancestors is easily available!

Ancestry also has censuses available up to 1911 (the latest available), as well as the 1939 register, and plenty of other sources of information!

The parish collections

Around the edge of the room, in red and black books, are details of the parish collections that we hold. In the red books there are catalogues for each parish, with information about what we hold in each collection. This might include some, or all of the following types of material:

  • registers (birth, marriage, death)
  • churchwardens papers
  • overseers of the poor
  • parish faculties
  • vestry information
  • Parochial Church Council papers
  • services (registers, orders of service)
  • accounts

In the black books there are transcripts of parish registers. These have been done over many years and record the names and details of people mentioned in the parish registers. There are also (although not for every parish) churchyard plans, monumental inscriptions, and information from the Bishops Transcripts too. Staff can point you in the right direction to find information!

The newspaper collection

In the grey cabinets there are a series of newspapers, all stored as a surrogate copy on microfilm. This is to protect the original paper, which is thin and easily damaged. We do not produce original newspapers if there is a surrogate microfilmed copy.

There are 3 microfilm machines, including one digital printer. Prints from this machine cost 60p per sheet.

We do have other newspapers which have not been microfilmed, please ask a member of staff for more information.

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