An introductory guide to the sources available for researching property in Derbyshire
There are a large number of different sources available for researching the history of Derbyshire buildings, but the survival and availability of sources varies significantly between different places.
Most records do not relate to specific properties and it is very rare to be able to identify records based on the house number (and almost never using a postcode) as these are relatively recent inventions in comparison to the dates of the records. Therefore, it is often best to search just by place name rather than house number or street name.
When was the property built?
For many properties finding the specific year it was built is often not possible, but it is usually possible to narrow it down to with a few decades or years. Search the Land Registry website to see if the property has been registered.
- Title Deeds should be the starting point and ought to be in the custody of the current owner (or their solicitor) if the property hasn’t been registered. If the property has been registered then the deeds may have been kept by the owner at the time the property was registered, transferred to Derbyshire Record Office, or (more often) destroyed.
- Maps are the key source used for working out approximately when a property was built.
Update (Jul 2020): we have just been advised of the Bricks and Brass website that includes a Dating Tool asking you questions about the architecture of your house to estimate an approximate date of construction. We haven’t tested the tool ourselves though, so can’t offer a recommendation either way.
Who owned and/or lived in the property
- Census Returns are particularly useful for identifying who lived in a property, the returns were made every ten years, and currently available to search and browse online between 1841 and 1911 (particularly via Ancestry and Find My Past).
- Electoral Registers (available from 1832-1999) list voters at a particular property, although the descriptions are usually too vague to identify specific properties for most places before 1918. Search the online catalogue using Reference ER* and entering the place name in the AnyText field. No registers were made in 1833-1834, 1916-1917, and 1940-1944
- Where they survive Rate Books record information about each property, owner, occupier and the rates payable. You will need to know which pre-1974 local authority covered the area you are interested in and consult the catalogue for the appropriate archive collection.
- Various Maps are available may have been created with schedules detailing owners and/or occupiers.
Other useful sources
- Search Picture the Past to see if any photographs are available for the property or street.
- Sale catalogues are published accounts of properties at the point they are put up for sale. Catalogues from the 1970s are available in the local studies library (indexed on site); earlier catalogues in the archives collections can be searched in the online catalogue, though rarely by property name/number.
- Building regulation plans survive for a small number of pre-1974 rural and urban district councils and those that do are rarely individually listed in our catalogue. Sometimes registers are available that can help identify a specific plan. See our catalogue for a list of pre-1974 authorities where building regulation registers and/or plans have survived. If the authority is not listed, unfortunately this means no plans or registers have been deposited at Derbyshire Record Office.
- Local newspapers can often give detailed descriptions of properties, especially relating to sales.
- Never discount that someone may already have undertaken some relevant research relating a specific property, street or town/village. Search the onsite indexes and online library catalogue for details of relevant publications and articles.
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