Notes & hints on using this site


Never Give Up


As Ray Osborn often said, "We provide the resources, you do the research." The following notes describe the resources available on this site and give some suggestions on how to use them. We also suggest some ways in which you could help improve this site.


Parish registers

Since the middle of the 16th century, English parish churches (Church of England) have been required by law to keep registers of all baptisms, marriages and burials they conduct. Most have also kept registers of banns (announcements of an intention to marry, read on three successive Sundays before the marriage ceremony and avoiding the need for a marriage licence).

These registers are a vast source of information. However,  the information given is often restricted to the following minimum requirements (plus the date and the name of the officiating cleric):

  • Baptisms—the child’s name and gender and the names of the parents. After 1812, all baptism registers also give the father's abode and occupation, and some include the date of birth.
  • Marriages—usually only the name and parish of residence of the bride and groom, whether they have never been married or are widowed, whether the marriage is by banns or licence, and the signatures of the witnesses. The occupation of the groom may be added. Banns are sometimes included along with the marriage record, and sometimes in a separate register.
  • Burials—the deceased’s name. Notes on the person’s age, parents or husband, or place of residence are sometimes added.

Devon parish registers are archived by law at the Devon Record Office in Exeter, which also has some non-conformist church registers. The transcriptions to be found on this site and elsewhere all rely on microfiche copies of these registers. The reproductions vary from a few barely legible grey marks, through tightly-packed entries in free form (sometimes mixing baptisms, marriages and burials), to clear writing in a tabular format. Transcriptions necessarily omit illegible entries, and they indicate doubtful readings with a “?” mark. Most of the transcriptions on this site were made by Ray Osborn from microfiche that he had purchased.

Each parish page lists the transcriptions available for that parish, as well as the dates for which lookups can be made from microfiche or published indexes we hold. All the baptism, banns, marriage and burial transcriptions on this site can be searched via indexes available on the South Hams General page.

The International Genealogical Index (IGI) has also indexed baptisms and marriages in some parishes. Each parish page indicates whether that parish is included in this index.

Parish registers were backed up annually in the Bishop's Transcripts (BTs), and images of these are available. Each parish page indicates whether images of the BTs for that parish are available.

1841 census

The 1841 census transcriptions were made from copies of the original census returns. Note that the census did not include family relationships, and the place of birth was only given as Devon or not-Devon.  Also, ages above 15 yr were supposed to be rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5, but this was not always done. In our transcriptions, each household has been assigned a reference number as a means of linking its various members.

Transcriptions of the 1841 census are available for most parishes. A combined index can also be searched from the South Hams General page.

Other resources

Memorial inscriptions (transcribed from gravestones) can be a very useful source of information, since they often give a deceased person's age. Some parishes have a memorial inscription file, and there is also a broader index accessible from the South Hams General page.

We can do lookups in some books on the South Hams or on individual parishes that we hold. This site also provides links to many other web sites that are known to contain useful information.

Using this site

Looking for a particular person

If you are looking for information on a particular person, the best place to start is the parish register transcriptions. If you know the parish where the person was probably baptised, married or buried, search first in that parish. If you do not, or if your first search was unsuccessful, search the combined transcriptions from the South Hams General page.

In the transcriptions, a blank indicates that the entry was blank in the original. A single question mark after a word indicates a doubtful reading of that word, a hyphen represents an illegible letter, and a double question mark means that the entire word was illegible. Your search should include all reasonable variants of the name you are looking for as well as possible doubtful readings—including cases where the first letter is illegible.

If this fails, ask for a lookup from the parish register copies that we hold. However, please restrict your requests to one or two names and a ten-year period. This restriction is necessary because of the difficulty of searching the microfiches, as described above.

If you are still unsuccessful, try the Useful Links on either the parish page or the South Hams General page:

  • Ask for help from the Online Parish Clerk, if there is one.
  • Try a general search of the IGI. However, remember that the IGI does not cover all the South Hams parishes. Any findings must therefore be treated with caution unless there is some form of collaborating evidence. If you are certain about the parish, use the given batch numbers to restrict your search to that parish.
  • Look at the GENUKI page and the Devon Heritage page (if there is one) for “your” parish. They may have additional resources you could search.
  • Search in the name indexes for books on “your” parish or the South Hams in general.
  • Some parishes have a local history group which may be able to help you.

Looking for background

Researchers often  wonder what life was like "back then" or what a particular place looked like. Such information can be obtained from the various street directories, gazetteers and other publications that are either available on this site or can be looked up for you. Modern photographs of South Hams parish towns are also available.

Improving this site

Ray Osborn was helped by many people in setting up this site, and you can help to make it even better. Here are some suggestions:

  • We hope to transcribe more parish registers. If you are able to help, please tell Kathryn.
  • If you have any resources which are not readily available to others, and would be willing to offer lookups, please tell Kara.
  • If you find any broken links or other weaknesses in the web site, please tell Mike. Also tell him about errors in the transcriptions or additional useful links.
  • If you are able to contribute funds to support this web site or the purchase of further microfiches, please tell any one of us.


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