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300,000 records of Dorset's past available to search online

Staff at Dorset History Centre have added the 300,000th entry to the archive catalogue and take the opportunity to shine a light on previously catalogued pieces of history.

The archives described within the catalogue are diverse and include original manuscript and printed documents, audio-visual material, photographs, drawings, maps and plans, and, increasingly, digital records. This is a great resource for anyone interested in delving into the history of the people and places of Dorset. Recent projects to catalogue the Bankes family and Borough of Poole collections have contributed 13,918 and 10,538 records to the catalogue respectively, through the work of staff and volunteers. 

300,000th entry: Drawings of the Temple at Missemie, Syria, 1818


  1. Temple at Missemie D-BKL/H/J/7/5/78
  1. Temple at Missemie D-BKL/H/J/7/5/78

Our 300,000th catalogue entry is a drawing, notes and measurements of a temple at Mismiyyah, southern Syria (reference: D-BKL/H/J/7/5/78). William John Bankes spent many months exploring the Middle East between 1815 and 1818 and documented what he saw in a series of sketches and watercolours, and in his travel journals and correspondence. This drawing was made during WJ Bankes' 1818 tour of the Hauran, a geographical area spanning modern day Syria and Jordan. 

Aside from his extensive travels in Europe and the Middle East, William John was responsible for the remodelling of much of the family home at Kingston Lacy with architect Charles Barry. 

3000th entry: Memorandum concerning the settlement of Massachusetts in 1630

A letter from the Statistics Department of Boston, dated 31 January 1917 (reference: D1/PT/11), seems to be a response to an earlier query regarding the role Rev. John White (of Dorchester, England) played in the settlement of Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1630. It is reported that while Rev. John White was instrumental in promoting and organising ships of people from the South West of England to travel to New England, and in the incorporation of The Massachusetts Bay Company, he never made the journey to America himself. 

From 1606-1648, Rev. John White was the rector at the churches of Holy Trinity and St Peter's in Dorchester (Dorset) and was the driving force behind social reforms in the town. Significant sums of money were raised and invested in social welfare projects such as improving poor relief, opening new almshouses and providing training for poor children. Upon his death in 1648 Rev. John White was buried in the porch of St Peter's Church, Dorchester. 

300th entry: Funeral director's record book, 1957

The 300th item to be entered into our cataloguing system was a notebook used by undertakers at Cotton and Sons in Weymouth (reference: D.1788/2/12). The book contains printed forms to record the name and address of the deceased, as well as practical particulars such as the size of coffin, details of the interment and service, and transport requirements. 

Cotton and Sons are a family run funeral directors serving the Weymouth area since 1912. Other Cotton and Sons records that we hold include registers of funerals (1921-1961), documenting the details of deceased persons and services provided; as well as administrative records covering staff pay, logs of journeys made by car, and orders of supplies and equipment.

30th entry: Meetings of the Dorset Militia, 1764-1766

Following Parliamentary Acts reforming the selection and funding of Militia, Dorset's Deputy Lieutenants and Justices of the Peace met regularly to enact the changes. Men were to be selected by ballot from the able-bodied men of the parish and serve a three year term. If the chosen men did not wish to serve they were required to offer a substitute in their place or pay a £10 fine. The record of the meetings (reference: L/A/1/1/2) details the names of those men chosen for duty along with their occupation, nominated substitute and any exemplifying circumstances. 

Lists of Dorset's Militia in the years 1757-1860 have been digitised and are available to view online via, along with half a million pages of records from our collections most useful for family history. Ancestry is free to use at Dorset History Centre and in many local libraries. 

See for yourself!

DHC staff and volunteers are constantly working to add more catalogue entries so the amount of descriptions available to search will keep rising. The online catalogue includes hints and tips to help make the most of the sophisticated search functions. Alternatively, see our research guides or contact us for help and advice with your research. All these documents are free to view at DHC.

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