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
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):
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.
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
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
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
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
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 in the
name indexes for books on “your” parish or the South Hams in
- 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
- We hope to transcribe
more parish registers. If you are able to help, please
- If you have
any resources which are not readily available to others, and
would be willing to offer lookups, please
- 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
- If you are able
to contribute funds to support this web site or the purchase
of further microfiches, please tell any one of us.