Since their introduction by Thomas Cromwell in 1538, parish registers have been used to record baptisms, marriages and burials across the country. They also provide a window on the past. In the case of this parish register, from the village of Eyam, it’s a window looking in on the outbreak of plague which killed 260 people in the village in the mid 1660s (D2602/A/PI/1/1). In this image, you can see how the names of the plague victims have been identified by a pointing finger.
Did you know that the “pointing finger” device for highlighting key information is the earliest form of index? In fact, that’s why the index in the back of a book is named after the forefinger. It’s also the root of the word “indicate”. Isn’t etymology wonderful?
This register is unusual for another reason – the earliest entries were copied into it from an original register, by Rev Joseph Hunt, Rector at Eyam between 1683 and 1709. What happened to the original? We may never know.
A published edition of the parish register from 1630 to 1700, edited by John G. Clifford and Francine Clifford, is available from the Derbyshire Record Society.