Dorset Record Office was founded in 1955, and was based in Dorchester, at County Hall. It moved to Bridport Road in 1991. The County Local Studies Library moved into the building in 2005, and together the two services became known as Dorset History Centre.
Serving Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole, the Office holds Dorset's local archives. The Centre is dedicated to preserving Dorset's history and heritage in conjunction with the Dorset Archives Trust, which is an independent charity running events to help the fundraising efforts. The Office also runs sessions to help people starting family history research.
Whether you want to study the history of a house, conduct research for a school, college or university assignment, trace your family history or discover more about your local area, you will find the documents held of use.
The knowledgeable and helpful staff are always on hand to help should you require assistance.
For information regarding their collections, please visit their collections page, which gives details of collections held. Collections include the Dorset Sound Archive, begun in 1992, which covers many topics including school memories, Second World War as experienced by British and American services, local history, light industry and crafts, farming, social services, music and poetry
The Archive also has an online catalogue, which provides details of their collections.
Collections held at the Office also include:
Parish records held by the Office include:
It is prudent to look at the online catalogue prior to your visit, making a note of the reference numbers of the documents you wish to consult, to save time on the day.
Their opening hours can be found by going to their opening hours page.
There are two railway stations in Dorchester that are both 10-15 minutes walk from the Office. Parking is limited, but there are three disabled parking spaces. More parking is available at Top o' Town and this has the facility for both long and short stays.
There is also a market car park which is 10 minutes walk from Dorset Record Office, but this is not available on Wednesdays. A park and ride service runs from Dorchester Town Football Ground on Weymouth Avenue to County Hall from Monday to Friday.
There is no need to book before visiting, but you are advised to peruse their online catalogue, writing down the reference numbers of the documents you would like to consult, to save time when you arrive.
The Office has three main research areas, which include the local studies library, family history research room and archives search room. Original documents are requested and viewed in the archive search room.
There are no steps from the outside to the interior of the building. Once inside, all public rooms are located on the ground floor, so are fully accessible. A disabled toilet is also available.
Hearing loops are installed at the enquiry desks.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, and they wish to visit the Archive, the Office has specially trained staff who are able to assist you, and can arrange for you and them to have a one-to-one introduction to the Archive as the Office realises how daunting going to a new environment can be for them.
You are welcome to use your own laptop in the Office, but are requested to place laptop bags into one of the lockers provided in the refreshment room.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the Office.
You are able to use a camera, but the Archive makes a charge to people wishing to take advantage of this service. Some documents cannot be photographed because of their fragility and/or copyright laws, so you should always ask a member of staff for permission before taking any photographs.
You are able to take photocopies of certain documents, but some larger documents cannot be photocopied, so it is best to ask a member of staff before taking any photocopies. If you would like to take a photocopy of pages from a book in the local studies library, you are able to use the self-service photocopier, which is coin-operated.
You can also take photocopies of records on microfilm by using one of the reader-printer machines, but the Office makes a small charge to people taking advantage of this service.
A Common Room is available where a packed lunch can be eaten and you can chat to other visitors, but no food is sold. Various shops, cafes, pubs and sandwich shops are nearby, however.
The Archive has a research service for people unable to visit in person.
The Archives has a Twitter Account at @DorsetArchives, where they provide details of collections held at the Office, family history related news and any special events.
The Archives is a member of the CARN (County Archive Research Network).
If you wish to use their family history resources, computers or the Local Studies Library, you do not need to register.