Devon has three repositories which hold archives:
- Devon Heritage Centre at Sowton, Exeter
- North Devon Record Office at Barnstaple
- Plymouth and West Devon Record Office at Plymouth (run by Plymouth Council)
As each holds collections relating to its own geographical area, it is important to check before making a visit where the records you wish to see are held. The following information will help you decide which of these three best suits your own research needs. If you have any further queries about the location of a particular collection, please contact Devon Archives and Local Studies by email, email@example.com or by telephone, 01392 384253.
The most commonly used archive items - Church of England parish registers for the whole of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay - have been microfilmed. All three of the above repositories have a full set of these either on microfiche or microfilm. Some registers, particularly those that have been recently deposited, are not filmed, and in this case it is necessary to visit the record office which holds the original.
Many Church of England parish registers have been digitised and are available online via Find My Past. Free access to Find My Past is provided at all three offices and a small number of Devon Libraries.
Microfiche of some other filmed sources such as non-conformist registers, Bishops' Transcripts and tithe maps and apportionments are also available at all three offices. Microfiche of filmed electoral registers, land tax assessments and the Inland Revenue wills series are available at both the Devon Heritage Centre and North Devon Record Office.
Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter generally holds collections which relate to the whole county, including the Diocesan records, county Quarter Sessions and County Council collections. This includes estate and family collections, and solicitors' collections which cover more than one area of Devon. Most of these records are not filmed or digitised, and are only available in their original format. The West Country Studies Library, which contains the county collection of local history material is also available at the Devon Heritage Centre. It includes published books, manuscript volumes, pamphlets, journals, maps, prints, engravings, photographs, newspapers and various files relating to local parish and family history.
The North Devon Record Office holds collections from churches and chapels, borough courts, solicitors, estates and families, local authorities and poor law unions, hospitals, clubs, societies and charities, businesses and schools in the North Devon area. Some collections which were previously held at Exeter have been transferred to the North Devon Record Office since 1988. The Local Studies collection relating to North Devon is also available. The North Devon Athenaeum, which is a private library also shares the searchroom facilities.
Plymouth and West Devon Record Office is run by Plymouth Council. It holds archives relating to the city of Plymouth and some West Devon parishes, as well as several other South Devon parishes close to Plymouth. Local Studies collections relating to Plymouth and its surrounding area are held separately. The Local Studies Collections include resources useful to anyone researching naval history, including books, periodicals and illustrations relating to the history of the Royal Navy and its presence in Plymouth.