Quarter Sessions indexes and transcripts now online

Before the formation of Derbyshire County Council in 1889, many of the things that we now regard as local authority functions were the preserve of the County Quarter Sessions. That’s why, from the very moment of its creation, the new authority already had such a wealth of historic quarter sessions records. It also benefited from work that had been kicked off in 1872 by the appointment of a Quarter Sessions Committee charged with “inspecting and arranging the records of the county”. For more about these early efforts to understand and organise Derbyshire’s archives, have a look at “Three Centuries of Derbyshire Annals” by John Charles Cox (1843-1919). There is a copy in our search room.

The Quarter Sessions had a broad and changing range of responsibilities and used a lot of very formal language to record what was going on. The format and language can be a little off-putting for first-time users (or even second- or third-time users, to be frank) and I think that explains why Quarter Sessions records remain relatively under-used.

To help people hack a pathway through the forest of words, names and places, we have transcripts and indexes that you can use. We can’t take any credit for their existence, except in the few instances (such as the amazing Prisoners Database) where they have been produced by our staff. They are the work of people who have devoted their energies and expertise into making the records easier to use.

The point of this blog post is to let you know that we have been adding these indexes and transcripts to our online catalogue. You can follow this link to the indexes/transcripts.

You can use them to find out if someone you are tracking through history was
…employed on a barge in the 1790s (Q/RM/3/1)
…an apprentice in a cotton mill in 1841 (Q/AG)
…enrolled in the Navy or Army in 1795 or 1797 (Q/AN) or an officer in the Derbyshire Rifle Volunteers (Q/AD/31)
…the subject of an inquest after their death (Q/AF/8)
…legally classified as a “lunatic” in the early 19th century (Q/AL/13)
…the proprietor of a business that had its scales tested for accuracy in 1797 (Q/AM/1), or who was convicted of weights and measures offences in 1798 or 1825 (Q/SO)
…considered suitable for jury service in 1775 (Q/RJ)
…apprehended as a “vagrant” or subjected to a settlement examination to work out whether they were legally entitled to remain in a parish they had moved to (Q/RV), or a removal order to send them back again (Q/SB/7)
…a Roman Catholic from 1693-1767 (Q/SB)
…ordered to pay for the upkeep of illegitimate offspring between 1682 and 1800 (Q/SO)
…tried by the Local Magistrates between 1792 and 1830 (A/SO) or the Assizes Court between 1834 and 1853 (Q/SP) – although this index has really been superseded by the Prisoners Database which I mentioned above.

6 thoughts on “Quarter Sessions indexes and transcripts now online

  1. Do you know anything about Removal Orders? I am researching my ancestor John Johnson, convicted of being in possession of forged notes in 1808, and more to the point, an Elizabeth Johnson (possibly his wife) subject of a ‘Removal Order in 1809 in the Quarter Sessions Order Book’. Do you know what a Removal Order is?

    Thanks in hope.

    Patsy Trench

    • Hi Patsy. Yes indeed, the Quarter Sessions removal orders are included on these indexes (Q/SB/7) and they do include a reference to Elizabeth Johnson, wife of John, in 1809:
      removal order of 1809

      If the information you have suggests the details will also be found in the Quarter Sessions Order Book, the particular volume you would need would be Q/SO/1/18, which covers Epiphany 1807 to Michaelmas 1809. However, I doubt the order book entry would tell you anything which is not covered by the removal order itself. You could find the removal order on microfilm M830 vol 1, which you would be welcome to use here free of charge (see the Visiting Us page of our website). Alternatively you could order a digital copy of the removal order for £12.50 (representing half an hour of staff time) using the Copying/Research Service page.

      • Thank you so much for your swift and very helpful reply Mark. I don’t think I need to order a digital copy of the order, but I have another question, which is: what is a removal order exactly? It sounds official. If this Elizabeth Johnson was my ancestor’s wife, her husband having been convicted and awaiting transportation to Australia would have left her high and dry. Do you suppose this was the local authority stepping in to help her out in some way?

        Forgive the questions, it’s cheeky of me. Feel free to ignore!

        Best regards

      • You’re welcome. It certainly is official. During this period, individual parishes were responsible for looking after their own poor, and removal orders were a means of sending people back to their parish of origin so they could claim poor relief there. It looks as though Elizabeth lived in Hartington but was originally from Taddington – so that when her husband was convicted and she and her daughter Mary were without any means of financial support, the parish of Hartington ordered her removal back to Taddington to avoid taking that cost on themselves. The removal order is the formal instrument of that decision – it might give a few additional details of the circumstances (e.g. sometimes the age of people’s children) but it’s primarily a legal document. For information on the legislation underpinning the system, have a look at Wikipedia’s article on the 1662 Poor Relief Act.

  2. Reblogged this on trinityfamilyhistory and commented:
    I occasionally reblog a post from elsewhere when I feel it is either interesting or informative or both. I have used Derbyshire’s Quarter Sessions Indexes a fair bit so it is great to see they are now online.

    It is also a reminder of what can be included in the Quarter Sessions papers – they are not just about criminals!

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