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Millions of parish records have been published online for the first time, including details of some of Britain's most infamous smugglers.
Family history website Ancestry.co.uk said the collection will comprise four million records, also featuring baptisms, marriages and burials which took place in Dorset between 1511 and 1997.
Ancestry.co.uk said smuggling was rife along the Dorset coast between 1714 and 1830, with huge amounts of contraband brought into southern Britain.
A spokesman said:
''It was not unheard-of for a single smuggling trip to bring in 3,000 gallons of spirits - the equivalent of more than 13,600 one-litre bottles of spirits by today's measure.
''According to one source, illegally-imported gin was so plentiful that in some Kentish villages it was used as window cleaner, while four-fifths of all tea drunk in England had been brought in illegally.
''Such feats were even more impressive considering the limitations of the technology at the time. Goods were brought from abroad on sailing ships while kegs were manhandled up sheer cliffs, and then transported slowly inland by pony carts.''
Smugglers featured in the records include Isaac Gulliver, known as the ''king of smugglers'' for his legendary feats and escapes from customs, including on one occasion lying in a coffin and pretending to be dead, and Robert Trotman, who was shot by customs men while loading tea on to horses on the sands at Poole in 1765.
Dan Jones of Ancestry.co.uk said:
''Parish records are a vital resource for anyone looking to discover more about an ancestor living before the 19th century.
''Parish records allow researchers to delve deeper into our past than other historical records allow, unlocking the opportunity to find out more about some of Britain's lesser-known characters - including these roguish smugglers.''