The Devon Heritage Centre, which is often the first point of contact for people in Devon who are interested in pursuing any sort of historical research – into their family, their house, or the area in which they live – has understandably been closed since mid-March. In common with all other cultural services, we currently don’t know when we will re-open, but this doesn’t mean that people can’t make progress on their research in other ways.
Visit the Online Catalogues
To start with, researchers can access the Devon archive catalogue and the South West Heritage Trust’s catalogue of Local Studies material, which covers collections in both Devon and Somerset. The Devon archive catalogue covers the manuscript, photographic and digital holdings of the Centre, while the Local Studies catalogue mainly relates to all kinds of printed and published material, including newspapers and periodicals, but also photographs and other illustrations.
Access Research Websites
In most cases, the items which can be found via the catalogues have not been digitised, meaning that the only way to see them is by coming to the Heritage Centre when it is open again. However, there are ways in which certain records can be accessed remotely. The majority of Devon parish registers from before World War One can be found on Find My Past. It is necessary to pay for access, although, when the Heritage Centre is open, the site is available there free of charge. Among other resources, Find My Past also gives access to Census returns from 1841-1911 and the General Register Office indexes of Births, Marriages and Deaths, which begin in 1837. Many of these records are also available on Ancestry, although, again, when accessed at home (unavoidable at the moment) a subscription is required.
A lot of other useful genealogical resources, including an index to Devon wills, can be found on Genuki.
Tithe maps (large-scale maps from the mid-1800s which are very useful for all kinds of local research) can be found on the Devon Historic Environment Record website or, along with many other resources, on Know Your Place.
People interested in records held at the National Archives and other archives around the country should search the National Archives’ online catalogue, Discovery.
Contact Us for Advice
Although we are closed, staff working from home are still answering email enquiries, so if you want any advice with your research, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org