Free talk: Preserving Your Past

Many of us have our own little (or even quite large) archive at home: letters, photographs, diaries and other treasures that remind us where we’ve come from and bring us close to loved ones who aren’t around anymore. If you’d like to find out how best to care for these unique family heirlooms, do come along to the Derby Family History Festival on Wednesday 8 June at Derby Central Library, where I will be delivering a talk at 12.30 entitled ‘Preserving Your Past’.  I’ll explain how paper and other records get damaged and what you can do to protect your archive, so you can pass it on safely to future generations.

The Record Office will be there all day with a stall as well and there are lots of other talks and activities going on, as you can see on the poster:

 

poster 3

 

poster 2

We hope to see you there!

 

Imagine having to fill this form in…

One of our listing volunteers, Roger, has been working through some unlisted family/estate papers this morning, and came across this:

Home Guard form

Most readers will recognise LDV as standing form Local Defence Volunteers, usually known as the Home Guard.  In fact, this blank form was not saved because of its Home Guard connection, but because it bears some hurried notes on the reverse about a land transaction.  As you will see, the form was designed for use as a speedy means of reporting the observation of enemy landings to the police and military.

If your research interests include the Home Guard, the very best place to start would be The National Archives’ research guide.  However, there are a few references to Home Guard documents on our catalogue, too.  These include:

  • (D799/10/2) a Home Guard signalling manual, 1942
    (D1467/1) The roll of the 15th (The Peak) Battalion, Derbyshire Home Guard, 1944
    (D2321/1) Home Guard Derby Works Battalion C: Company register of platoons, covering (Platoon 1) Trent Motor, (Platoon 2) DCS, (Platoon 3) Cold Stores, (Platoon 4) Coles and Rolls Royce, (Platoon 5) County Air Raid Protection, (Platoon 6) Borough Air Raid Protection
  • (D7686/BOX/25) The script of “According To Plan” by Lawrence du Gard Peach, described as “a Comedy of the Home Guard in Three Acts”, 1943

We have to be particularly careful about aspects of some of these documents.  For instance, the register of platoons gives each person’s enrolment number, name, address, date of birth and next of kin.  It also gives remarks such as each person’s rank and when they resigned.  None of this is earth-shatteringly sensitive, but it still qualifies as personal data, which is protected by UK data protection legislation – so if you have a need for such material you will need to contact us about it, and we will work out whether there is a legal way of letting you access it.

 

Treasure 33: the autobiography and poems of Leonard Wheatcroft of Ashover

Leonard Wheatcroft of Ashover (1627-1707) is described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “an exceptionally prolific author”.  His works were largely unknown until the 1890s, when extracts were published in the Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.

The publication of his autobiography in A Seventeeth-Century Scarsdale Miscellany by the Derbyshire Record Society in 1993 brought the full text into print for the first time. It is a rich source of information on local literary culture in this period, and featured in the BBC television series “The Century That Wrote Itself” in 2013. The Derbyshire Record Society has nominated the autobiography as one of our 50 Treasures. It’s the smaller of the two volumes seen below.

Treasure 34 Leonard Wheatcroft

The large volume contains some of Wheatcroft’s poems, nominated by Christine Jackson of Ottawa.  Christine has made rather an unusual use of the poetry: as evidence in her genealogical research.  Wheatcroft wrote one poem on the death of his friend Giles Cowley, and another about the birth of one of Giles’s children. The latter is an acrostic, so that the poem spells out the name of Giles Cowley (here spelled “Cowly”).

Christine writes:
These two poems gave me the age of Giles and thence his year of birth, and his actual death date (rather than just the burial date, which is recorded in the parish register) – also confirmation of Giles’ wife’s first name, therefore confirming that their marriage was the one I had already found recorded in Darley Dale in 1631, plus the baptism date of their son Leonard (1637).

The research was published in 2013 as “The Cowley Family Saga” in the journal “Anglo-Celtic Roots”.  This is a publication of the British Isles family History Society of Greater Ottawa, to which we do not subscribe.  However, Christine was kind enough to let us have a copy of each of the three issues in which her work featured.  They are now available in our local studies section.

 

Record Office goes medieval….an update

As promised here are some photographs of our day at the Chesterfield 750 celebration which took place last Sunday.  Staff from the record office were there as members of the fictitious Guild of Record Keepers and were joined by colleagues from Chesterfield Library, who formed the Guild of Books and Reading.

We certainly won the prize for the youngest Guild member….6 month old Alex, son of our Assistant Conservator Clare, joined in and stole the show!

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The event was a real success and lots of people came along to see the activities which included sword fighting displays, medieval music and birds of prey.

We took along lots of information on our collections, including copies of medieval Borough of Chesterfield deeds, some dating from the 13th century.  Our activity sheets and family crests to colour in went down particularly well with young visitors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding your feet with Family History

Starting to do family history can seem a daunting task! Although there is now lots of information online with the help of websites such as Ancestry and Find My Past there are also numerous books which are a fantastic, tangible source of information and knowledge. These are excellent in providing a background of the type of sources you might come across, and why records appear in the they way they do! Forewarned is forearmed, as they say…

I asked an experienced colleague what she would recommend (thanks Vicky!) and she came up with two titles from our reference library:

‘The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History’ by David Hey

Family  History 5

David Hey’s guide is about as comprehensive as you can get! The thematic articles range from getting started with your family tree, to dealing with tracing your background by nationality and ethnicity, to searching agricultural and industrial histories. There is an absolutely indispensable A-Z glossary of terms you might come across and a useful list of all Record Offices and Special Collections in the UK.

‘Tracing your Ancestors through Local History Records’ by Jonathan Oates

Family History 7

Oates’ useful guide is easy on the eye, with illustrations and photographs of examples of the types of local history records that you might encounter in your search.  It explains the historical background to records in England, and looks at lots of different sources: books, journals, illustrations, maps and newspapers.  Although parish registers are the most popular way of searching a family tree, these other sources can provide a wider feel for the time and place family members lived, and how they lived.

I’d also recommend ‘Essential Maps for Family Historians’ by Charles Masters – it’s incredible how much information maps have – from Estate maps, enclosure and tithe maps to The National Farm Survey.

Family History 8

In addition to the more general guides, there are also specialist books which can help you trace ancestors who were in the Armed Forces, in a lunatic asylum, worked as a coalminer, lived in the colonies, in the clergy or were travellers, to name a few! The series of books ‘My Ancestor was a…’published by the Society of Genealogists are well illustrated and explain in plain language the historical background that these people would have lived in as well as the sort of records you could search to find information about them.

There is also a light-hearted look at the potential pitfalls of researching your family in ‘Granny was a Brothel Keeper’, which provides useful tips on how to avoid being led up the garden path, and a subtle warning about not believing everything you might see (and hear from well-meaning family members!) Written in no-nonsense terms (as you may have gathered from the title), there are real life researchers’ stories and lessons to be learned.

Family History 4

Of course, if you are desperate to get back to a computer screen, you might find ‘The Family History Web Directory’ extremely handy!

Family History 6

All the books mentioned can be found in our Local Studies library, along with our research guides at the Enquiry Desk. Libraries also have subscriptions to the Ancestry and Find My Past websites, so these can be accessed on the Library computers.

Please let us know if you have any personal recommendations or tips when researching family history, and we’ll be happy to pass them on!

Treasure 33: Memories of Tin Town (2005)

This treasure is nominated by Emma, who writes:

Brian Robinson’s book Memories of Tin Town: Life in the Navvy Village of Birchinlee and its people contains some amazing photos of life in this (now non-existent) village.

Treasure 33 Tin Town (b)

The village was built by the Derwent Valley Water Board for the workers who built the Derwent and Horden dams between the years 1902-1916. This ‘model village’ had everything the worker’s and their families needed, including a hospital, school, shops, post office, public bath house, police station and a pub.  

Treasure 33 Tin Town (a)

1266 and all that – the record office goes medieval

Chesterfield 750 logo

This Sunday (15th May) a large, medieval-style event is coming to the town centre of Chesterfield to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Chesterfield. There will be plenty of free entertainment for the whole family to enjoy including an arena and medieval craft area in New Square, along with music, dancing and games and a battle from the Swords of Mercia recreation group.

Now for the history lesson….In 1266, Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derby, joined forces with Baldwin Wake, Lord of Chesterfield, and continued a rebellion (started by Simon de Montfort) against King Henry 3rd.  The King’s forces, led by Henry of Almain, caught up with them at Chesterfield, and on the 15th May, a battle took place near the church where de Ferrers was hiding.

The men of Brampton, hearing that there would be fighting around the church rushed to defend it.  The King’s forces defeated the rebels; de Ferrers was captured and taken to London where he was stripped of his titles and land.

Sunday sees a commemoration of this event and will feature a re-enactment of Robert de Ferrers being brought out of the ‘Crooked Spire’ and paraded through town on a medieval style cart. He will then be ‘tried’ in New Square and banished from Chesterfield! Local groups – businesses, charities, schools, clubs and residents were all invited to form into guilds and march into New Square on the day.

We’ll be there as the ‘Guild of Record Keepers’!

You can find the full programme for the day by visiting www.chesterfield.co.uk ‘Events’.  The programme runs something like this [subject to change]:

11:00 Event Open

11:00 Arena – Music from Baldwin’s Wake

11:15 Arena – Dance from Cock and Magpie Morris/Chesterfield Garland Dancers

11.30 Arena – Swords of Mercia – family-friendly activity involving children

12.00 Arena – Music from Baldwin’s Wake

12.15 Arena – Dance from Cock and Magpie/Chesterfield Garland

13.00 Mayor’s arrival and tour of New Square

13.30 Arena – Henry of Almain calls for Robert de Ferrers to answer the charges against him

Robert de Ferrers brought in on cart from outside Revenues Hall; Swords of Mercia Trial by Combat

14.00 Arena – announce winners of Library’s “Then and Now Competition”

Guild of Bellringers ringing Chesterfield Bob Major at Crooked Spire

14.05 Arena – Dance from Cock and Magpie/Chesterfield Garland

14.30 Arena – Music from Baldwin’s Wake

15.00 Event ends

Throughout the day (in no particular order) – Ferret Handler; Pedlars, including Cunning Woman; Nenna Kind Archery; Swords of Mercia display; Wargame in Assembly Room; Museum stall, Library stall, Yorkshire Bank stall, Crooked Spire stall; Pentrich Group; Children’s games in Assembly Room; English Heritage stall; Brampton Brewery stall; Soroptomists stall; Kilton Falconers; Derbyshire Record Office; Battlefields Trust; Pole Lathe; Spinner; Besom Maker; Commemorative Stone; Medieval Walk Leaflet.

As the programme says, we’ll be there in all our medieval finery (or more accurately something I ran up on the sewing machine from remnants of material – the effort, if not the sewing skill, is what counts!). I’ll post some photographs next week.  So come along and see us on our stall, it’s looking like a great free family day out!

A cartoon to mark the transit of Mercury across the sun

The original YouTube link didn’t work, so I have replaced it with a pleasingly local alternative, provided by the Malcolm Parry Observatory at the Long Eaton School. They have a WordPress blog of their own, https://mpole2011.wordpress.com/

Derbyshire Record Office

For all those people who have been asking whether there is an appropriate George Woodward sketch to mark the transit of Mercury: Yes, indeed there is:

Astronomer.jpg

The cartoon (ref: D5459/1/93/24) shows the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande (1732-1807) telling Napoleon Buonaparte that he has discovered an island in the moon.  Napoleon’s response – that he has already despatched a king to take possession of it – refers to the latter’s policy of turning family members into kings.

The celestial whatnot will begin not long after midday today.  Looking up at the sun won’t work – and obviously you are too smart for that anyway – but if you are reading this before it happens, you  can follow a broadcast of the event by clicking the Play button below.  Or you can find out more about the whole shooting-match courtesy of the NASA website.

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A cartoon to mark the transit of Mercury across the sun

For all those people who have been asking whether there is an appropriate George Woodward sketch to mark the transit of Mercury: Yes, indeed there is:

Astronomer.jpg

The cartoon (ref: D5459/1/93/24) shows the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande (1732-1807) telling Napoleon Buonaparte that he has discovered an island in the moon.  Napoleon’s response – that he has already despatched a king to take possession of it – refers to the latter’s policy of turning family members into kings.

The celestial whatnot will begin not long after midday today.  Looking up at the sun won’t work – and obviously you are too smart for that anyway – but if you are reading this before it happens, you  can follow a broadcast of the event by clicking the Play button below.  Or you can find out more about the whole shooting-match courtesy of the NASA website.

Have bike, will travel – a splendid celebration of cycling

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Thursday 5th May saw the start of our latest ‘What’s in the Wall?’ exhibitions.  Running (or should I say pedalling?) until the 30th July, ‘Have bike, will travel’ is a comprehensive collection of items from our Local Studies and Archives, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day. Many of the photographs are courtesy of Picture the Past

Bicycle related photos, maps, magazines, drawings and diaries are all there, along with a large dose of nostalgia, from the early days of the penny farthing, the bicycle as an essential form of transport, to the cycling proficiency test and 80s BMXing!

This exhibition will coincide with the Aviva Women’s Tour which has a whole stage in Derbyshire on Friday 17th June (it will go up Bank Road in Matlock, definitely worth watching!) It will also coincide with the Eroica Britannia – a 3 day festival held in Bakewell from Friday 17th June – Sunday 19th June, which ends on the Sunday with over 4,000 riders taking part in a vintage bike ride.

Come and take a journey with us through the history of Derbyshire cycling.  The display is in our Reception area and we are based on New Street, Matlock – parallel with Bank Road (if you don’t know the road, come and take a look at the steep gradient the women will have to climb on the Derbyshire stage of the Women’s Tour!)

Directions are here and we are open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.00pm and Saturdays 9.30am – 1pm.  We have cycle parking as well as car parking.  Our other forthcoming events can be found here