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Do you have Devon history and heritage in your past?

In partnership with Devon Family History Society, we're bringing you all the records and resources you need to trace amazing family stories. Unlock your Devon history online today.

history of devon

A whistlestop tour of Devon history

Devon has a rich maritime heritage. Shipbuilding and fishing were key industries. Much of the landscape is rural; the cities of Plymouth and Exeter being the only large concentrations of population. The Medieval wool trade was the foundation of Devon's wealth, with the south of the county benefitting more than the north. In the 19th century, the Devon Consols copper mine, near Tavistock, employed many. There is a significant Devon diaspora, with many emigrants moving to Canada. Religiously, Baptists and Independents were found, particularly in the south. Several branches of Methodism were also strongly represented, notably Bible Christians in the north and west.

Devon family history parish records

Devon parish records

Parish records are essential for taking your Devon family history back further. On Findmypast, you can explore Devon baptism, marriage and burial records, right at your fingertips from anywhere in the world. These important records document the major milestones in your Devon ancestors' lives, allowing you to trace their stories from cradle to grave.

Search Devon parish records
Devon social history records

Devon social & institutional records

Whether you're delving into South Molton history, Exmouth genealogy or the history of Heavitree, ordinary Devon lives are illuminated in this rare collection. Covering everything from smallpox vaccination registers to lists of children who were given Christmas gifts while their fathers were away at war, incredible stories of love, crime and survival are brought back to life with details you won't find in any other records.

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Devon rate books online

Plymouth & West Devon rate books

Did your ancestors rent or own property in the Plymouth region? These rich records can give you owner and occupier names, a description of their property and the rate that was paid. What's more, the collection spans over 330 years of Devon history.

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3 quick tips for tracing Devon family history

Devon family history online

Know what's available

Most pre-1858 Devon wills were destroyed. Findmypast's index can help plug the gaps.

Search Devon wills
Devon Tithe maps

Map your origins

Devon ancestors from the mid-1800s? Check out local tithe maps.

Explore Devon maps
Devon Methodist ancestors

Find elusive ancestors

From Methodists to ministers, Devon FHS' Tree House service can help.

Find out more
Devon Family history Society

Devon Family History Society

At Devon FHS, a warm welcome awaits anyone interested in the county's storied past. The society offers:

  • Devon Family Historian, its quarterly publication in print or digital
  • An award-winning website with a self-service members' area
  • Devon parish registers, marriage and cemetery indexes and gravestone photos, free for members
  • The Tree House Research Centre, a large library of maps, parish files and Methodist records
  • Virtual and in-person research help
  • A varied programme of virtual speakers
  • Active record transcription programmes
  • The Acorn Club for young researchers
  • Popular message boards, online chats and Facebook communities
  • An online shop
Join today

More Devon family history resources