Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is open again and it’s a good time to visit!

Looking for something to do? You can now visit Buxton Museum and Art Gallery again.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

After almost six months, we are pleased to be able to open the front door to visitors again. The place has been too quiet.

Of course, we’re not out of the woods yet so there have been lots of changes to keep both visitors and the staff covid-safe. Firstly, you must book your visit in advance so please don’t just turn up, expecting to come in. This is so we can control the amount of people in the building and make sure there is ample social distancing and surface cleaning throughout the day.

The second big change is that visitors must wear face coverings for the duration of their visit, in keeping with current government guidelines, unless they are medically exempt or under the age of 11.

There have also been lots of small adjustments; we’ve had to temporarily remove the toys and games and dressing up box. The public…

View original post 277 more words

An Insider’s View of north Derbyshire Libraries around 1950 – part 2 (Buxton)

Last week, Roger shared some stories from Dora Axon relating to her experiences as a librarian in Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith; this week, we hear about her experiences in Buxton, where she started work in 1949.

At this time the library at Buxton was the responsibility of the borough council, in contrast to the libraries at Whaley Bridge and Chapel en le Frith which were Derbyshire County Council establishments.  After having failed to secure appointment to the chief officer’s post of librarian and museums officer at Buxton Dora Axon accepted appointment as first assistant.  Her letters include much detail of her thoughts about whom to approach for testimonials; about the conduct of the interviews, and about the merits or otherwise of other candidates.  After three weeks in the new job Dora Axon writes of enjoying the experience.  She writes approvingly of the recently appointed chief librarian.  She lists her responsibilities, believing that she might have more accurately been designated deputy chief, rather than first assistant:

I am consultant on administration and policy, and responsible for the Staff. I have never met so small a staff that required so much looking after in my life.  Three in number, they are free, untrained and uncurbed: they have never met a rule about librarianship and when introduced to one quite forget to carry it out – or don’t – the whole place is chaos.

Dora Axon records her hope of achieving an improvement within two months.  Her duties also included classification and cataloguing, book selection and ordering, and even acting as understudy to the borough meteorologist.  She anticipated that a large proportion of her time would be spent in her office and that she would not achieve the familiarity with readers that she had known in her previous job at Whaley Bridge.

Six months or so later improvements appear to have been elusive:

It is usual for a successor to deplore the shortcomings of his predecessor, but surely there has never been a place like Buxton.  Everywhere we found chaos, and no method of dealing with it except falsifying records and tearing up the evidence!  Worse still the staff trained on this happy-go-lucky lack of principle and system are incapable of recognising system – or even the need for it. … Our young and capable and enthusiastic new librarian is a thwarted and disgusted man, regretting, I think, his move to such an unprogressive hole.  You would term it Bumbledom at its worst. 

Dora Axon goes on to criticise the actions of committee men: appointing a qualified person, only to block every improvement he tries to make; and seeking to employ staff and stock a library service on the cheap.  Such improvements as were being made involved hard work:

The up-hill task, training the stupid glamour girls, is mine, and in all my work I have never encountered such a gradient.

Dora Axon felt further burdened by the presence of a young wealthy volunteer discovering whether she might like to pursue training as librarian:

So far as we are concerned she is an additional blot; she doesn’t want to work, won’t work, “downs” a job she dislikes, and objects to doing anything as told, or accurately.  She is with us for three months: I had had enough after the first morning.

In July 1950 Dora Axon wrote a long letter while on holiday in Ilfracombe – she includes her observations of the libraries in Ilfracombe and Bideford.  In relation to Buxton it seems likely that she was correct about the regrets of the recently appointed chief librarian: in less than a year he had left.  Her application for the chief’s post was not successful:

Though I had the backing of my own Committee, they were over-ruled by the Mayor. … who shouted “No women” and flung the six applications [from women] aside without consideration. To an appeal made by the Library chairman, who said: “She’s capable and she’s qualified – what more do you want?” the Mayor said: “She’s a woman and we can’t have a woman head of department.”

Three weeks after the successful candidate had started work Dora Axon submitted a claim for salary re-grading.  The salary claim was pursued for many months: Dora Axon accuses the town clerk of presenting, at the ultimate hearing, “lies and evasions.”  She was ultimately successful:

I have crashed into the Admin. Profess. And Technical Grades where no woman in Buxton has ever got before!

Having been in post for two years Dora Axon was able to list positive achievements:

The staff are “falling to” when given a job.  And I am getting an increasing number of people who introduce themselves with “I’ve been advised to come to you – I wonder if you can help me …”.

The Pacifist Directing Manager of Shirebrook Colliery Company

The Shirebrook Colliery Company was established in 1894 to work the pit at Shirebrook, on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border. Arnold Lupton was the company’s first managing director and was a controversial figure. With views linked to anti-vaccination, free religion and pacifism, it is clear to see why he was not a popular man.

His role as the managing director only lasted four years but ended on a sour note. He had to leave following a rather disastrous 17 week wage dispute in 1898 with employees. The anger of miners, who were striking because of poor working conditions and low wages, was made worse when miners from Glasgow and Wales were brought in to replace the striking miners. Eventually they were sent home and Lupton resigned. Ironically, in his later role as an MP for Sleaford in Lincolnshire, he was against the use of Chinese Labour in South African mines, seeing it as replacing the jobs of the more suitable white men. For this interest in international as well as domestic mining, he was known across the Commonwealth.

D3302-9-001 (2)

Abstract of title of Shirebrook Colliery Ltd to land and premises at Shirebrook, 1809-1891, D3302/9

Originally from Leeds, Arnold showed a keen interest in the mining industry. He had many different roles in the mining industry with many connections both in England and abroad. During his time at Shirebrook, he also held the title of Inspector of Mining between 1885 and 1898 and was Professor of Mining until 1905. Even after his connection with Shirebrook had ended, he still continued life as a mining agent, a type of manager involved in the technical and mechanical running of a colliery and wrote many books and pamphlets relating to the industry.

Yet despite what already seems like an interesting life, it is actions during the First World War that contain the most controversy. As a pacifist he was against the war, writing pamphlets on his views, especially one entitled Voluntary Service versus Compulsory Service, written in September 1915. Inciting pacifism was a legal offence, one for which he received a 6 month prison sentence in February 1918 for distributing other pacifist leaflets. The printer he used was fined £90, (around £2600 in today’s money).

More of Lupton’s activities during the First World War came out in the press following the end of the war. In 1922, Arnold Lupton attended an arbitration court made up of a mix of English and German people, to try and claim some money back from a pre-war deal settled in 1913. The deal comprised Lupton leasing an area of coal in the Nottinghamshire coalfields to the German industrialist Hugo Stinnes in return for £2000 (nearly £118,000 in today’s money). The deal mentioned related to Lupton’s role in establishing the Anglo-German Northern Union Mining Company to oversee the development of Haworth Colliery on the Nottinghamshire/South Yorkshire border. Despite the development of the colliery and the Germans who worked it being interned during the way, the German side had refused to pay Lupton his money. The arbitration court ruled that Stinnes was to pay the £2000 and 5% interest dating back to 1913, as well as £50 for costs to Lupton. When these dealings with Germans were leaked to the press, alongside the background of the horrors of the First World War, the public viewed it in an extremely bad light.

N36-9-11-8-00001 (2)

Wells/Sitwell dispute papers: Notes of Arnold Lupton, Mining Engineer, early 20th cent, N36/9/11/8

Bibliography:

‘English Pacifist Punished’, New York Times, 17 February 1918

‘German Industrialist Ordered to Live Up to Pre-War Contract with British Mining Engineer’, New York Times, 25 June 1922

‘Lunch for Mourners: Direction in a Will’, The Mercury, Austrialia, 24 Apr 1931

Amos, D. and Braber, N., Bradwell’s Images of Coal Mining in the East Midlands (Sheffield: Bradwell Books, 2017)

Chesterton, G. K., The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Volume 20 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2001)

King’s Speech (Motion for an Address), February 1906, https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1906/feb/20/kings-speech-motion-for-an-address#S4V0152P0_19060220_HOC_186

Lupton, A., Voluntary Service versus Compulsory Service (September 1915)

Workmen’s Compensation Bill, December 1906, Third Reading, https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1906/dec/13/workmens-compensation-bill#S4V0167P0_19061213_HOC_309

Logo

An Insider’s View of north Derbyshire Libraries around 1950

Nearly 40 years ago, the record office purchased a small bundle of letters primarily sent to Charles Kay Ogden, the founder of the Orthological Institute which was concerned chiefly with the development of Basic English. 

Cataloguing volunteer, Roger Jennens, has recently listed all the letters and here he writes of the rich observations they contain from a librarian working at in north Derbyshire around 1950 . 

The writer of the letters, Dora Axon of Buxton, returned to work in 1948 following the death of her husband.  A qualified librarian who had previously worked in Manchester, she had not been in paid employment during the fifteen years of her marriage.  She was appointed to a post at Whaley Bridge library but in the interval before that library was ready to be opened she was asked at short notice to assist at the library at Chapel-en-le-Frith.  At the time this was a busy centre for library provision in north Derbyshire, including a mobile library.  Dora Axon records her enjoyment of the work: she found every one of the staff welcoming.  Perhaps her assessment of the library users has a hint of condescension:

The borrowers are not bad – all kinds, but extremely friendly with just two or three intelligent ones. The library is a meeting ground for all the villagers and there appears to be no rule against talking, which everyone does, out loud. We never “shush” then as we used to do in Manchester; it’s awfully funny and delightful.”

Dora Axon was impressed by the mobile library service:

Extract of letter from Dora, 28 Sep 1948. Ref: D2313/2/58

She was, however, hopeful that she would not be required to go out on a round:

Some rounds are terribly hard going: the issues reaching 700 a day and  a handful of special requests that all need looking up and securing for the next call.

Early in 1949 a branch library was opened in the windowless basement of council offices in Whaley Bridge.  The library was open from 2pm to 8pm daily, with a half-hour closure at 4.30pm. The new provision soon proved popular: the initial book stock of 5,000 volumes was soon increased to 6,000. In the first few weeks 800 readers were registered:

They clatter down the stairs at 2pm prompt and only reluctantly do they clatter up at 4.30pm and 8pm. …  They are a nice public, the “Whaleys” from labourers to professional men, from country women who call me “luv” to nice middle-class “ladies” and from nice laddies of 14, (we don’t cater for younger), to university and college students. 

Dora Axon was kept busy, particular on days when no assistance was forthcoming from another library:

All my nice borrowers apologise for troubling me and some offer to help.  360-500 issues a day; new readers to enrol and help; a postal service to attend to and all the ordinary routine work – it would keep 3 staff occupied at all times and it’s all supposed to be done by one!

Before long, mindful of the potential impact of winter weather on her daily bus journeys between Buxton and Whaley Bridge, and reluctant to remain working in a basement Dora Axon applied for a post at the library in Buxton.

Whaley population has lapped me up and will, I know, be sorry to lose me.  And I shall never again have such congenial borrowers, nor such  a splendid collection of books, every one asking to be read.

Next time: Dora describes her experience in Buxton.

See the new catalogue in full under reference D2313.

When family history becomes a little more complex…

Very few family historians are able to trace their ancestors back through the civil and parish registers without hitting some kind of complication, whether that be a “missing” entry, an “extra” entry making it unclear which is correct, the resettlement of their family elsewhere or other issue.  Often, such cases can be resolved with a bit of extra digging and thinking outside the box as to how to find the correct information.

One such case arose following the transfer in from Chesterfield Library of a collection of poems written by John Cupit – it wasn’t terribly complicated, but did send me down a bit of rabbit warren before I got to the bottom of it.  The collection had been transfered with the following biographical information: John Cupit, of Clay Cross. He was also an inventor, watch repairer and worked at Parkhouse Colliery. The Cupit family lived at Danesmoor and were carpenters and joiners, and John’s mother Sarah was a daughter of William Henry Wilson of Pilsley Hall, a farmer and land surveyor. John was raised by his grandparents, George and Ann Cupit.

I wanted to provide more information in our catalogue, at the very least years of birth and death for John.  Fortunately, amongst the poems and other items in the collection was a letter to the Chesterfield Borough Librarian in 1956 enclosing a short poem that John had written on his 86th birthday which gave his date of birth as 5 June 1871.

Perfect!  Now I have a date of birth and from this I can probably find a year of death using the online civil registration indexes as I know he is still living in Chesterfield, aged 86 because he says so in his letter to the Librarian.  For most searches I tend to use FreeBMD as it gives you a little more control over what you are actually searching.  However, if I have no success with this site, or if I am searching for entries after 1992, I will use Ancestry.com as it contains indexes up to 2007 and as a trade-off for less control over your search terms you get much more flexibility in the results, showing other possible entries when what you were expecting to find doesn’t exist.

In this case I discovered John’s death in Chesterfield (district) in 1963.  But I still wanted to know what else could I find out about John: he had been described as a poet, inventor, watch repairer and miner – what evidence could I find for all this?  Why so varied?  He was raised by his grandparents – why?  What happened to John’s parents? Did this inspire his poetry?

The census returns for 1841-1911 are an absolutely essential tool for family historians searching for ancestors in this period, and later. Unfortunately, it is not possible to access any later census returns due to the 100-year embargo on each, however, some limited access has been provided to the National Register of 1939 which was compiled as part of preparations for a possible war with Germany. Perhaps more out of habit than anything else, I tend to use Ancestry for searching the 1841-1911 census returns and Find My Past for searching the 1939 register (although each is now available via both sites).

I discovered that in 1881 (the first census in which John would appear, having been born two months after the 1871 census), he was indeed living with George and Ann Cupit at Guildford Lane, Danesmoor – but he is described as their son, not their grandson. George is described as a joiner, as is his 26-year old son (also George). Furthermore, although John is described as the son of George and Ann, bearing in mind their ages, 76 and 66 respectively, it is much more likely that he is their grandson.  Did the enumerator recording the information mishear or have stated he is their son in order to cover the true story about his parents?

The next step was to find out more about George and Ann.  In the 1861 and 1871 census returns they are found at Gents Hill (also Hillocks) in Clay Lane (now Clay Cross), variously with children Mary, Henry, John, Joseph, George and Walter. The John recorded in the 1861 census was aged 13 and therefore certainly not John the poet born in 1871.  Although it was quite common for younger children to be named after older siblings who had passed away, it was still much more likely that George and Ann were indeed John the poet’s grandparents – was this older John (aged 23 in 1871) be his father?

Unfortunately, I then came to some difficulty in tracing John the poet in the 1891 census. I was able to find him in 1911 at Market Street, Clay Cross, with his wife Allina, their three children, his widowed mother-in-law (Emily Goodwin) and another Goodwin, aged 11 and therefore perhaps Allina’s nephew.  He is described as Joiner – Colliery, which may explain the references to him being a miner and joiner, as he worked as a joiner at a mine.  He was also fairly easy to find in the 1901 census, this time as an unmarried boarder in Staveley, and again described as joiner; possibly at a colliery as he is boarding with James Potter, a colliery foreman.

None of this helped in finding him in the 1891 census, and that was just the beginning of the complications. Usually after finding the birth of an ancestor, the next step is to find their parent’s marriage – but searching both FreeBMD and Ancestry I could find no reference to the marriage of a Sarah Wilson to a man with the surname Cupit.  I was fairly confident of John’s mother’s name, as he had recorded this information himself in his letter to the Borough Librarian, also referring to his “grandsire” William Henry Wilson of Pilsley Hall. Perhaps Sarah had been married before and was a widow when she married John’s father, so I also searched for any marriage of a Sarah [surname unknown] to a [forename unknown] Cupit (again much easier on FreeBMD) – but still no luck.

Having hit a bit of a brick wall with the Cupit’s, I tried to find out more about the Wilson’s, John’s maternal ancestors.  At the time of the 1861 census William Henry (born c1798), his wife Urania (born c1823) and four children including a daughter Sarah (born c1850) were living at Upper Pilsley.  William is described as a Farmer, Landowner, etc. Ten years later, the family is still in Pilsley: Sarah is no longer with them, there are two more daughters (twins born c1863), and a granddaughter, Maud M Randle aged 2. A further ten years later, Urania, now widowed, is at Pilsley Hall with three daughters, two sons and Maud whose surname is now given as Wilson. Is this perhaps Sarah’s daughter by a previous relationship?

Success!  Marriage found in 1868 (quarter 4) of a Sarah Wilson to a James Randall, in the Chesterfield district. The civil marriage indexes though do not give sufficient detail to be certain you have found the correct people, but with the Derbyshire Anglican parish registers now available via Ancestry, it is much quicker and easier to search and identify the details: Sarah, daughter of William Henry Wilson, surveyor, married James Randall at Chesterfield on 31 December 1868.

Although Sarah and James had been married in 1868, and Maud born in 1869, by the time of the 1871 census, the two were separated – James lodging in Pilsley and Sarah (described as married, though using the surname Wilson) lodging in Rotherham with a Chesterfield family and was seven months pregnant with John the poet.  Was James John’s father, or was John the result of an extra-marital relationship that was the cause of James and Sarah’s separation?

For me, this is could have been where the story ended because we don’t have access to the birth registers that might have included John’s father’s name – of course anyone else would have been able to order copy certificate from the Register Office.  By now, I really wanted to know the answer.  Perhaps John’s marriage entry would give me a clue because after 1837, the registers include a space for the groom and bride’s fathers’ name – even today their mothers’ names are not recorded.

The 1911 census stated that John and Allina had been married for 6 years, and I found reference to a marriage registration (via FreeBMD) in Chesterfield district, quarter 3 1904.  Unfortunately, there was no corresponding entry on Ancestry in the Derbyshire parish registers, so the couple were either married in a non-conformist church or not married in a church at all.  With more time, I could have manually searched any non-conformist registers for the Chesterfield and Clay Cross area; as above, the most efficient way to see what name John gave as his father’s would have been to order a copy certificate.

Still not quite ready to give up, I then looked again for Sarah (John’s mother), and found her in the census returns 1881-1911 married to a Joseph Cupit, a Carpenter.  Although her first husband was still alive (living with his parents in Pilsley in 1881, and described as unmarried), Sarah Wilson appears to have married Joseph Cupit in 1873 (Belper district).  As John’s birth was registered under the surname Cupit in 1871 two years before this marriage and Joseph was the son of George and Ann (as per the 1871 census found earlier), I was confident I had found his father.

According to the 1911 census, Sarah and Joseph had at least twelve children, and when I found them in the 1891 census, I finally also found John the poet with them, aged 18 and a colliery labourer – I had probably seen this entry the first time round but dismissed it because the date of birth was a few years out, even though I really should have known better.

The question that all this couldn’t answer was whether John was brought up by his grandparents, or whether this was an assumption made purely on the basis that he was at their house on census night in 1881.  However, perhaps this answer is contained within John’s poems and other works in his archive, now held under reference D8251.

John Cupit was interviewed in the Derbyshire Courier on 23 October 1909 (page 8) in relation to his flying model of a monoplane, under the heading ‘A Clay Cross Aeroplane’, with a photograph of the man himself.  According to a note the following week (2 November 1909), the model was put on display at Armistead Bros. of Corporation Street, Chesterfield [cycle agents].

On this day… in Rangoon in 1945

On 15 August Britain commemorated VJ Day, which this year marked the 75th anniversary of the date that Japan surrendered to the Allied forces, bringing the Second World War to an end.

Of course the announcement on 15 August wasn’t quite the end, as the surrender itself wasn’t signed until 2 September. In the meantime there were official meetings in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) between the Allies and Japan to agree the terms of the surrender. You wouldn’t expect to find anything relating to these negotiations at Derbyshire Record Office but surprisingly we hold a record of these meetings, thanks to Sergeant Eric Walton of Clay Cross.

Sergeant Eric Walton’s identity card (D6022/3/2)

Born in 1920, Eric Walton joined the RAF in the early 1940s. Because of an injury he had sustained a few years earlier, Eric wasn’t deemed fit enough for combat, but having clerical experience he ended up in the Headquarters secretariat of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia. He worked in the private office of General Frederick Browning, Mountbatten’s Chief of Staff (and incidentally husband of the author Daphne du Maurier).

On 26 and 27 August, two plenary meetings were held in Rangoon between the representatives of the Supreme Allied Command and the Supreme Commander of the Japanese forces. General Browning asked Sergeant Eric Walton to make a verbatim report of the proceedings and the shorthand notebook he used is at the Record Office.

Sergeant Eric Walton’s shorthand notebook (D6022/4/1)

The notebook can only be read by someone who knows shorthand, although the name of the head of the Japanese delegation, Lieutenant General Takazo Numata, is legible. Fortunately for those of use who can’t read shorthand, we also have the typed up minutes of the meetings. A photograph of the surrender ceremony itself was attached inside the Head Quarters of the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia (SACSEA) Christmas card.

Signing of the Japanese Surrender (D6022/5/7)

We are very grateful to Eric Walton for donating his archive to the Record Office. Eric died in 2008 at the age of 87 but he did publish his memoirs in 2006 under the title ‘From Hepthorne Lane to Rangoon…and back’. The catalogue of his archive is available on our online catalogue.

New Addition to the museum collection: Mary Twopenny sketchbook

Buxton Museum has just acquired an album of beautiful sketches and watercolours of Matlock and other places around Derbyshire in the 1820s. Take a look!

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Derbyshire Museums Manager, Ros Westwood had the recent opportunity to acquire an exciting new object for the collection at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. One that reveals scenes from the Peak District from long ago:

I guess the last thing I’d imagined doing during lockdown was to buy a wonderful new acquisition for the collection, but how that brightened a lonely days of working at home!

Credit must go to colleagues at Peak District Mining Museum for bringing the album to my attention. They saw a notification that an album of drawings ‘mostly of Matlock’ was going to auction in Newcastle. And so the chase started.

DERSB 2020.3_Sketchbook_D10A3229

With agreement from several colleagues, I called the auctioneers. Because of lockdown, I was relying on their description in the catalogue. I decided to bid over the phone which we’ve done before; you may remember Buxton Museum was one of the partner museums in…

View original post 956 more words

Searching for people in the catalogue

Our online catalogue contains nearly 400,000 entries relating to the archives and local studies collections we hold but it is not necessarily the easiest or most user-friendly site to search.  We’re working on several improvements and in the meantime, here is a short guide to how to use the catalogue to find information about individuals – but the advice works for whatever your search might be.

The first thing to know is that the catalogue describes what records are held in the record office not specifics of what is in the records themselves.

It is a bit like buying a book online – the online catalogue tells you the book’s author, title, publication date and gives a brief summary of what the book is about, but you have to actually buy the book (or borrow it from the library) to find out exactly what the book says.

There are thousands of records containing lots of names (not just at Derbyshire Record Office, but also at The National Archives, and other archives around the world).  Whilst some of these records have been digitised, shared online and made searchable by name – the most popular being the census returns, birth marriage and death indexes, church registers, pre-1914 school registers and military service records – there are many more that are only accessible by searching through the original archives.

Searching for other sources

If you want to find your ancestors – or indeed a non-relative – you will need to search the catalogue for the records they will be mentioned in rather than searching for the person themselves.  Often the best way to do this is to search for the archives of the organisation that will have created the records in the first place.  For example:

1. When was my ancestor married?

Search the catalogue for the church where the wedding took place – if it wasn’t a church ceremony, we don’t hold the records.  The catalogue for that church will list the marriage registers available, and you will then need to browse the original register (or ask us to search for you) to find the specific details.

Tip: type church and the place name in the Title field (e.g. church Killamarsh) and select Fonds from the Level drop-down menu – click the top result as this will give you a link to the full catalogue

2. Where did my ancestor go to school?

Search the catalogue for the name of the school (or possible schools) they might have attended.  The catalogue for the school will list the records available, including any admission registers.

Tip: the catalogue entry for each collection (i.e. each school, business, etc.) which usually gives a brief history of the organisation and summary of records also includes a link for you to browse the whole list of available records.

3. Where did my ancestor work?

Even more so than with school records, the difficulty with this search is knowing which company (or sometimes industry) the person was employed by (in) so as to be able to search for the right records.  If you do know – or at least have an rough idea – search the catalogue for the business name or family estate (i.e. if they worked for a landowning family).  If they worked in the coal or lead mining industries then our other research guides may also be of assistance (follow links in text).

All of this is good advice for whatever information you might be searching for –

Search the catalogue for the type of record that will contain the information required not for the information itself.

This is also the reason (or part of it) you can’t search for a postcode in the catalogue either.

But… it is usually worth searching for a name, just in case

Although the vast majority of names cannot be searched in the catalogue because it doesn’t contain lists of those mentioned in the original record or book, it is often worth searching because some entries do include personal names.

Tip: Sometimes it might be worth just searching for the surname rather than the full name.

Some records can only really be described by including the name of the person to whom they relate, for example the will of Jane Smith.  Some records have been catalogued in more detail than others, so some parish poor relief papers – such as apprenticeship indentures and settlement certificates – might list each record individually (others will just indicate that a bundle of indentures exists).

You may also find that a relative (perhaps from a different branch of your family tree) has donated material to the record office – whilst most families haven’t, some have.  If not, it could also be that your family had a connection with another family whose archive is at the record office, perhaps writing a letter to them.

This is also true for material in the local studies library – where the comparison is even more similar to buying a book online.  If a book or an article has been written about an individual person or family, the catalogue is likely to include a reference to that person.  However, if a book or article about a town includes references to named individuals in the text, then their names won’t appear in the catalogue, you would need to read the book.

Of course, the difficulty is knowing in the first place that the book, or article, or archive is worth looking at in the first place.  For this you will need to use your judgement and decide how much time you want to spend searching for information that provides context to an individual’s life.

Summary

There are lots of records that include information about people, and the best way to find out what is available is to start with our family history research guides.  Remember, don’t search for the information you are looking for, search for the record that is likely to contain that information.

With thanks to Celia for her help in writing this guide.

Societies and Voluntary Bodies

A guide to the archives of charities and self-help societies such as associations for the prosecution of felons, friendly societies and nursing associations as well as societies with a social purpose.

Charities

Major series of charity records concern education, almshouses, or general and parish interests.  Educational charities are chiefly about the maintenance of a school and provision of schooling for poor children in their locality, while those relating to almshouses (hospitals) deal with the building and running of these institutions.

Returns and other records from Derbyshire charities to the Charity Commission from 1886 can be found under reference D2723.   A list of all the archive collections for Derbyshire charities held at the Record Office can be found via our online catalogue.  The following links can also be used to browse shorter lists by type of charity:

Note: where charities fall into more than one category, they are found in all appropriate lists.

Co-operative Societies

The modern Co-operative Society originated with the 28 poor weavers calling themselves the Equitable Pioneers of Rochdale, and the food shop they opened in 1844.  Food the poor could afford was often heavily adulterated and the Rochdale Pioneers chief object was to supply pure food.  They bought wholesale, sold at reasonable prices and divided the profits amongst members as dividend.  From the 1850s, the movement spread rapidly, particularly in the North and Midlands.  The co-operative societies also increased the range of goods sold, expanded into the provision of services such as undertaking and widened their objectives to include the promotion of education, some providing scholarships, organising cultural (and social) events and paying evening class fees.

A list of archive collections of Co-operative Societies can be found via the online catalogue.  It is also worth searching the Any Text field for other items relating to these societies that might be amongst family and other archive collections – there are over 250 entries containing the words co-operative (or cooperative) society.

Friendly/Benefit/Sick Societies

Mutual self-help societies have existed for centuries, for example, medieval trade guilds.  In the mid-18th century, the principle was applied to social concerns too and operated as insurance.  Members of the society would pay a subscription and then be able to submit a claim if they were sick or unable to work, and depending on the society’s rules, their families may have been able to claim after the member’s death.

The Friendly Society Act of 1793, and subsequent amendments, required the deposit with the Clerk of the Peace of a variety of documents relating to these societies.  (The Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 led, slightly indirectly, to the registration of freemasons’ lodges – they were exempt from the provision of the Act if their members’ were certified annually).  The surviving documents can be found under reference Q/RS/2Click here for a list of collections relating to mutual benefit societies.

Associations/Societies for the Prosecution of Felons

Prosecuting societies were common before the establishment of police forces in the 1830s.  They offered rewards for information and paid the expenses of prosecuting offenders.  A small number of archive collections survive for Derbyshire association, please see the catalogue for a full list.  Other collections also include items relating to these organisations, so a search of the Any Text field is always useful.