Bishops’ Transcripts

A guide to finding Bishops’ Transcripts for Derbyshire and how they can help family historians.

What are Bishops’ Transcripts?

In 1598, parishes were ordered to send an annual copy of all baptisms, marriages and burials for the year to the church authorities.  These returns are known as ‘Bishop’s Transcripts’, or BTs for short, and continued to be made until the late 19th century, although there were lapses in local diligence in sending the returns.

Why are Bishops’ Transcripts useful?

The BTs can be very useful when the original registers are hard to read or if a register is missing (for example, early Bolsover registers are missing following a fire in the 1960s).  Both Bishop’s Transcripts and parish registers can contain entries not found in the other.

Draft registers were often used for compiling both the register and the Bishop’s Transcript. Discrepancies arose and there can be differences in dates, surnames and given names.

Bishops’ Transcripts for Derbyshire

Derbyshire was part of the Diocese of Lichfield until the middle of the 19th century, so the Bishops Transcripts were kept with the Diocesan archives Lichfield Record Office, now part of Staffordshire Record Office. Contact Staffordshire Record Office for guidance on accessing and consulting the BTs.

With the exception of a few parishes, the earliest transcripts survive only from the 1660s, traditionally thought to be as a result of loss during the Civil War and the Commonwealth period.

There is no uniform cut-off date for the transcripts of baptisms and burials and these can cease at any time between the 1830s and 1880s.  Marriages are rarely included after 1837.

Further Reading
  • Jeremy Gibson Bishops’ Transcripts and Marriage Licences, Bonds and Allegations: A guide to their locations and indexes – available in the Computer Room

Daniel Dakeyne: Genealogy 18th century style

As not all of us who are currently working from home can carry on with our ‘normal’ job (repairing documents requires access to the conservation studio), I have found myself copying old typed lists into spreadsheets, so they can be imported into our online catalogue. The archive of the Dakeyne family of Darley Dale (D9) was a joy to work on: it was one of the first collections to be deposited with the county council, way back in 1922 when the Record Office didn’t even exist yet!

The archive mainly relates to Daniel Dakeyne, who was born on 29 April 1763 and lived at Holt House in Darley Dale until his death in 1806, aged 43. He was a lawyer, banker and an antiquary, who amassed a great deal of documents and information intending to write a topographical and genealogical history of Derbyshire. This ambition was never realised, but he has left us with fascinating glimpses into how genealogical research was carried out in the 18th century. For instance, on the 20 November 1792 he writes:

“I applied to the Librarian of the British Museum for a reading order…he could not do it except I brought with me a recommendation from some gentleman of reputation & respectability…”

Fortunately he had no trouble in finding a suitable friend:

“I then immediately applied to Mr Balgay for a letter of recommendation…& by 5 o’clock in the evening I was in possession of a reading order”


He even tells us when the British Museum opening hours were:

“…the time of reading is five days a week from 11 o’clock in the forenoon till 3 in the after.”

time of reading

Researchers in the 18th century clearly faced similar problems to their modern counterparts, whether it be reading old handwriting…

“the whole day in Doctor’s Commons and found the following wills which I read with great difficulty being in very old character & in Latin”


…or the expense of getting access to collections, in this case the Duchy of Lancaster:

“…the most minute research is charged 10/6 which must for every opening of a book be repeated…” (That’s £41 in today’s money!)


There is also every researcher’s greatest fear, written in a PS on a letter from 1792:

“Preserve this letter lest I should lose my notes by any accident.”


Dakeyne didn’t do all his research himself – he had some help from Samuel Ayscough (possibly the same Librarian of the British Museum?), who showed his appreciation for an unusual form of payment in 1794:

“A pheasant & a brace of remarkably fine hares is a reward by far greater than any little assistances or civilities I may have showed to you could merit.”


And all of us at the Record Office echo Ayscough’s sentiments that:

“To render the researches of others more easy, was it not part of the duty of my situation, I should find it my inclination…”


The original typed list from the 1960’s has now been copied into a spreadsheet and all the extra detail about the collection will appear on our online catalogue soon.


Online Resources

There are hundreds of online resources for Derbyshire history, this guide highlights some of the most useful.  As web addresses tend to change, only the site name is given.

Family History Records
  • Ancestry: billions of records from across the world including UK census returns 1841-1911, birth, marriage and death (BMD) indexes 1837-2007, Derbyshire Anglican church registers from 1538.  Access: Subscription required.  Free access at all Derbyshire libraries
  • Find My Past: in addition to census and BMD indexes, also includes registers of several Derbyshire non-conformist churches, many Derbyshire school admission registers and log books 1870-1914.  Also includes Diocese of Lichfield records covering Derbyshire, including marriage licences and pre-1858 wills.  Access: Subscription required.  Free access in Derbyshire libraries
  • FamilySearch: volunteer-submitted transcripts of many Derbyshire parish registers back to 1538.  Worth trying this site if an Ancestry search is unsuccessful.  Also includes a wide range of research guidance and background information on places.  Access: Free, registration required
  • FreeBMD: volunteer-transcribed indexes to civil registration of births, marriages and deaths between 1837 and 1992, with transcription work ongoing.  Access: Free with no registration; often some search advantages over subscription sites, so often worth a try
  • FreeREG: volunteer-submitted transcripts “of baptism, marriage, and burial records, from parish registers, non-conformist records and other relevant sources in the UK”, including Derbyshire.  Access: Free, no registration
  • Find A Grave: volunteer-submitted transcripts of over 180 million memorials and gravestones including for many Derbyshire cemeteries and churchyards.  Access: Free, no registration
  • General Register Office: search indexes of and ordering copy birth, marriage and death certificates from 1837.  Access: Free to indexes, registration required to order certificates
  • National Probate Index: search for and order copies of UK wills after 1858.  Access:  Free, no registration.  Derbyshire wills 1858-1928 can also be searched via the record office online catalogue and copies ordered.

Newspapers are the most valuable source for many aspects of family and local history, particularly where other sources no longer survive:

  • British Newspaper Archive:  includes full text access to the Derbyshire Times, Derby Mercury and several other Derbyshire titles.  Access: Subscription required.  Free from the record office or any Derbyshire library (short registration required)
  • The Times Archive: access from 1795 to 1985.  Access: Subscription required.
  • Picture the Past: Delve into the rich history of Derby and Derbyshire with this extensive collection of photos, postcards, glass plates and engravings from the city and county libraries
  • Images of England: was English Heritage’s photographic library of listed buildings across England.  Historic England has split the site into two: 1) the Official Register of nationally protected historic buildings and sites includes photographs alongside the corresponding description, and 2) over a million photographs via the Historic England website.
Information Services
  • Derbyshire Observatory: wide range of data and statistics on topics including population and households, health, census, crime, children and education, economy and employment
  • Derbyshire Mapping Portal: Ordnance Survey mapping showing key Derbyshire sites and boundaries, including parish boundaries, schools, public rights of way and schedules monuments
  • Derbyshire Heritage Mapping Portal: Ordnance Survey mapping of Derbyshire, with options to overlay a small number of historic maps
  • Derbyshire Historic Environment Record: digital records of archaeological monuments, findspots, designated assets, historic landscape information, aerial photographs
  • National Library of Scotland: view some editions of Ordnance Survey maps for Derbyshire over modern satellite images.
Research Guides
  • GENUKI: charity and volunteer-run site containing a wide range of information for researching family history across the UK and Ireland, including links to other sites
  • The National Archives: a wide range of guides on various family, local and other history research, plus detailed guides for reading old handwriting and Latin
  • Find an Archive: contact details for archive repositories across the world
  • University of Nottingham Manuscripts and Special Collections: detailed research guides on using historical documents and specific records such as deeds, accounts and manorial records.
Other Derbyshire collections
  • Record Office Guide: a summary of archive collections at Derbyshire Record Office, searchable by type of record creator, i.e. school, business, society, family, organisation, local authority
  • Online Catalogue: the main finding aid for all archive collections held at Derbyshire Record Office, and increasingly for the local studies collection also. A separate guide is also available
  • Hospital Records Database: searchable database of hospitals across the country, with a summary of records held at relevant repositories and brief history.
  • Manorial Documents Register: searchable database of manors across selected counties (including Derbyshire) and a summary of the records held at various repositories
  • National Archives Discovery catalogue: contains references to most archive collections at the Record Office, as well as Derbyshire records held at The National Archives and elsewhere.
Other sources
Local History Groups

A large number of local history societies or local interest groups have websites and social media pages with a range of information and some resources.  Unfortunately, it is not possible for Derbyshire Record Office to maintain a list of the groups and an online search is often the best approach to finding a relevant local group.


This guide outlines the different sources available relating to adoption, only some of which are held by Derbyshire Record Office.

Updated 19 June 2020.

Note: Information about adoptions and adoptees can only be released to adoptees and must be obtained through the County Council’s Data Protection team.

Adoption since 1927

The National Register of Adoptions for England and Wales was established in 1927 an act of 1926. In part, this was a response to the high number of orphans from World War One and illegitimate children of soldiers. The Register records adoptions granted by courts since 1927. Adoptees can order a copy of their adoption certificate from the General Register Office online or by writing to them.

Under the Children’s Act (1975) adopted children over 18 may apply for access to their original birth record, giving date and place of birth, name at birth, and mother’s name. The father’s name is not always included. Individuals adopted in England or Wales before 12 November 1975 are asked to see a nominated counsellor before they can be given access to their records. Individuals adopted after 11 November 1975 can choose whether or not to see a social worker for counselling before a copy birth certificate is issued.

Between 1959 and 1984, records of adoption had to be kept for 25 years; from 1984, the retention period was extended to 75 years after which point the records should be destroyed; this increased to 100 years from 2005. Therefore, depending on the date of the adoption, not all records will have survived to the present day.

Obtaining information about your adoption

Derbyshire Record Office cannot process any requests for information about adoptions, we can only confirm if we hold any relevant records. Due to the personal and sensitive information contained in the court registers, they are not generally available for public consultation. To obtain information about your adoption, please contact the County Council’s Data Protection team (or call 01629 533190). The team will then contact us to obtain the full information from the records (see below), as well as determine if there are any other records available elsewhere.

Records held by Derbyshire Record Office

Records held include juvenile court registers which may contain information about adoptions and for some Derbyshire courts there are specific adoption registers. Generally such registers are available from the early 1930s, when cases were kept in a register separate to the main court register. Generally the record does not include much information that wouldn’t already be found on the adoption certificate, but the information can vary between different cases.

The Record Office does not hold any adoption case files. For adoptions arranged by charities, such as Barnardo’s or The Children’s Society, it advisable to contact them directly about the records available. The BAAF’s guide on ‘Where to find adoption records’ (2002) is available in the local studies collection or see the BAAF website for the most current information.

As of November 2015, procedures have been established for descendants of persons adopted between 1927 and 2005, subject to certain conditions. The procedures require that information is obtained through an intermediary agency. Details of such agencies can be obtained from the Adoption East Midlands.

Adoption before 1927

There were no official adoptions before 1927, although private informal arrangements for ‘long-term fostering’ were often made. As a result there are generally no formal records; however, there are a number of sources that may provide some information to indicate who took care of individual or groups of children.

  • Search catalogue - parishOverseers of the Poor: may include records of bastardy and apprenticeship, settlement and removal. Since 1575, parents of illegitimate children could be imprisoned, and pauper children were often apprenticed by the parish from 1597. Under Knatchbull’s Act of 1722, children of vagrants could be apprenticed (usually by the parish) against the will of parents. Search the catalogue for the relevant Anglican parish to see what records have survived: in the title field enter ‘parish’ and then the place name in question. We also recommend selecting ‘Fonds’ from the Level field drop-down box.  You can then click the link to see the full catalogue list for the parish collection. 
  • Census: some families or enumerators may specify in the return that a child is ‘adopted’, and the child may or may not have the same surname – if not, this can help trace one or both of their birth parents
  • Poor Law Union (after 1837): may include registers of children “boarded out” in the community under the responsibility of the Board of Guardians who also ran the workhouses. Generally these children are aged over 5 and were boarded-out rather than housed at the workhouse.
  • County Quarter Sessions and local Petty Sessions: may also include bastardy records and examinations, 1733-1862 (see reference Q/RV)
  • Probate records: individuals will often leave bequests to children they have informally adopted or fostered.
  • Hospital records: a small number of early maternity records do survive.  Access restrictions apply to records dated within the last 100 years.

Derbyshire Record Office holds records for St Christopher’s Railway Home (formerly Railway Servants’ Orphanage), 1875-1992. Information about the records held can be found via the online catalogue, under reference D3732. Records less than 100 years old referring to individuals are not generally available for public consultation. To request information out your own records, please contact us about submitting a Data Subject Access Request. Subject to approval of the controller of the records, we can undertake searches for individuals no longer alive, under the terms of our Research Service.

Further Reading

The following guides are also available in the Local Studies Library:

  • Georgina Stafford (2002) Where to find adoption records: a guide for counsellors, adopted people and birth relatives (British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering)
  • For information on pre- and post-1927 records see Family History Monthly (Jan 2006, pp. 20-24)
  • For information particularly regarding tracing relatives and ancestors see Practical Family History (Dec 2008, pp. 50-57).

Staffordshire History Centre – have your say

Followers and customers of Derbyshire Record Office may be interested in the following notice from Staffordshire Archives:

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage and the William Salt Library are working in partnership to create and deliver the new Staffordshire History Centre, with its associated learning, outreach and engagement activities. The Project will transform the way the public engage with our services, our collections and create an exciting new educational visitor experience.

We are currently in the Development Phase of the project, kindly supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Please follow the link below for further information about the “History at the Heart of the Community: The Staffordshire History Centre” Project:

It would really help us if you spent 10 minutes filling out this survey on the Audience Surveys website – we need your opinions to inform our Stage 2 application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.  The survey has been developed in partnership with the Audience Agency and will run until 21 June 2020.

Stay connected, get creative and keep learning

Over the past few years the record office has been working with our friends at Junction Arts, the Chesterfield-based arts charity, on the project The Art of Letter Writing. The project celebrates the unique relationships we make with each other by writing and receiving letters, using historical letters from the record office’s collection, the participants’ own letters from home, and the art of illuminated letters.

D5430 76 23 excerpt

Excerpt from a letter written by Elizabeth Winchester, lady’s maid at Chatsworth House (D5430/76/23)

Usually a hands-on project, whilst we’re all socially distancing, the project has been specially adapted to go online. So what better time than now to connect with family and friends? The project is also connecting people with more vulnerable and isolated members of our community by offering people the chance to connect through letter writing. It might even be the start of a friendship that lasts beyond the lockdown!

For more information on the project and details of how to get involved see the Junction Arts website. If you do get involved, we’d love to hear how you got on.


Connecting families and creating history during COVID-19 and beyond

‘History Begins at Home’ is a new national campaign which aims to connect people through conversations about history and to capture and then share these conversations, memories and stories through the campaign’s Facebook page and Twitter.

The idea behind the campaign is to encourage family members of different generations to connect or re-connect by discovering previously unknown facts or family stories, sharing memories, experiences and expertise, and then capturing these conversations and findings for the future.

Gary Tuson, County Archivist at Norfolk Record Office and Campaign Lead at History Begins at Home, comments: “COVID-19 has created all sorts of challenges such as separation, isolation, hardship, the need for resilience, the power of community and the desire to help one another. History Begins at Home is the perfect antidote during this period when people can’t visit their family members due to the current restrictions. It’s a fun way to pass some time together on the phone, via FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp or other apps. And, with so much emphasis on mental health and well-being during the lockdown, the campaign is an ideal way for people to engage with the recommended ‘5 ways to well-being’: Connect, Give, Be active, Take Notice and Keep Learning.”

Gary adds: “The campaign will initially focus on the past within families, with the goal of sparking discussions around aspects of childhood and adulthood across the generations, such as toys, food, precious things and memories. Each week, we’ll focus on a different theme about the past and encourage people to start a conversation about it, engage in an activity relating to it and then record something about it and, if they like, share what they’ve found out on our Facebook page and Twitter

Getting involved in History Begins at Home is easy – start off by asking a relative for one of their old recipes and share it, find and share a picture of a family member’s favourite childhood toy, an old love letter (or a new one), or ask them about a funny, incredible, interesting, remarkable or obscure story or memory from their past. Who knows what you might discover!

This week being Mental Health Awareness week, its even more important to stay connected. The record office is supporting the History Begins at Home project via Twitter, follow us at @FranklinArchive. This week we have memories of favourite toys!

Take a look and join the conversation on Facebook at:


and on Twitter:





Collection spotlight: Cooper’s Corsets

If you’re interested in fashion, take a look at the archive of corset makers Richard Cooper and Company (Ashbourne) Ltd.  The catalogue for this lovely little collection has just had a major refresh which has improved the descriptions and arrangement to make it much easier to delve into.

D4984-F-3-1-000003 reduced

Richard Cooper ‘Top Labels’ scrap book (D4984/F/3/1)

Richard Cooper and Company (Ashbourne) Ltd started in the 1850s as ‘stay makers’ (the term ‘corset’ didn’t come into common use until later in the 19th century).  The business proved so profitable that in addition to the company’s main site in Ashbourne there were factories in Uttoxeter and Derby, and from the 1950s, Buxton.

Corsets are often thought of as torture devices which squashed women’s internal organs and caused them to be constantly fainting.  No doubt a small minority of women did tight-lace their garments to harmful degrees in pursuit of a tiny waist, but for the majority a well-fitted corset was a comfortable and supportive garment.  It was an essential item of clothing worn by women of all classes, from working women to the well-to-do; our female ancestors managed to wear corsets whilst pregnant, doing physical labour and playing sports, without any ill effects.

Sadly, we have very little from the early days of the firm and only one Victorian corset pattern survives.  This is somewhat unusual as it was drawn in pencil onto some calico, the fabric was sewn into a kind of book, labelled and posted to the Uttoxeter factory.  The postmark helpfully dates it to May 1889.

D4984-11-2-000004 reduced

Part of Richard Cooper 1889 corset pattern (D4984/D/1/1)

There are a number of pattern books from the 1920s to the 1960s with drawings and specifications of the various designs of girdles, brassieres, corsets, corselettes, wraparounds and suspender belts, mostly sold under the trade name ‘Excelsior’.  The collection also includes some lovely marketing material from the 1940s onwards.

Excelsior 1

Excelsior illustrated price list (D4984/F/6/1/3)

Excelsior 2

Excelsior girdles and suspender belts (D4984/F/6/1/5)

Coopers was a major employer in Ashbourne and for anyone interested in the workers, a few staff records survive, including a register of ‘young persons under the age of 18’ employed at the factory between 1895 and 1900.

Sadly, changes in fashion meant that the market for girdles and corsets dwindled towards the end of the 20th century and the factory closed in the 1980s.  The archive, however, means that although Richard Cooper and Company may be gone, it is not forgotten.  You can browse the full collection on our online catalogue.

Sir John Franklin’s last expedition

It was on this day 175 years ago that Sir John Franklin and the crews of the H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror departed from the port of Greenhithe on the coast of Kent in their attempt to complete the fabled North West Passage. They set off in good spirits, in two purpose adapted ships proven to be up to the rigours of polar exploration and now fitted with the most modern equipment, supplied with 3 years’ worth of provisions and led by an experienced captain used to the demands of the harsh Arctic conditions. Although nobody would have taken the undertaking lightly, the general expectation was that it would ultimately prove successful.

Sir John Franklin

Sir John Franklin, portrait by Negelen, 1836         (DRO ref. D8760/F/LIB/8/1/4)

The new expedition had come in the wake of James Clark Ross’s largely successful voyages in the southern hemisphere (1839-1843), when the existence of the continent of Antarctica had been confirmed. Calls for a similar success up north were heeded by Sir John Barrow, the indefatigable Second Secretary of the Admiralty, who had revived the mission to find the North West Passage almost 30 years before. Due to retire soon at the tender age of 80, it would be a fitting finale to his career to dispatch the expedition which would make that final breakthrough, when, in his own words, “so little now remains to be done”. He got his wish, as the Admiralty approved the proposal in December 1844.

The next and most important step was to appoint the expedition’s leader. It has to be said that at this stage Sir John Franklin was by no means the obvious choice. This would have been James Clark Ross, a veteran of several Arctic voyages himself, and whose recent Antarctic success had earned him a knighthood. He had, however, recently married and promised his wife that he would not undertake any more perilous journeys. Also citing his own “old age” (he was then 44), he effectively ruled himself out of the game right from the start. There were other, younger candidates, though. Barrow himself had favoured James Fitzjames (32), something of a rising star but unfortunately lacking any experience in Arctic-type conditions.

Commander James Fitzjames

Lieutenant James Fitzjames, 16 May 1845    (DRO ref. D8760/F/LIB/8/1/5)

The First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Haddington, had also asked Ross’s second-in-command in the Antarctic expedition, Francis Crozier (48), whether he would be interested in the command. He was now an experienced captain whose career included extensive service in Arctic waters, so it was very logical to ask him, but his lack of confidence in his own leadership abilities made him decline the offer.

Captain Crozier

Captain Francis Crozier, 16 May 1845            (DRO ref. D8760/F/LIB/8/1/5)

So that left Sir John Franklin, and there can be no doubt that he was ever going to turn down any such offer to command. His niece Eliza Jupp, in her short biography of him, “A Brave Man And His Belongings”, published anonymously in 1874, reported that he was heard to say “he considered the post to be his birthright, as the senior Arctic explorer in England”. Like Barrow, it would be a fitting culmination to his career, having commanded one of the ships on the first Arctic expeditions back in 1818. In addition, he must have felt he had something to prove. He had returned home to England in June 1844 after a difficult and draining period as governor of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). Unable to navigate the muddy waters of vested interest and political wrangling rife in the colony, he had suffered what he regarded as the humiliation of recall to England before the end of his governorship by the Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley. For 6 months his life was dominated by attempts to clear the perceived stain on his reputation. He failed to get the apology he wanted from Lord Stanley (who would only grudgingly acknowledge Franklin’s honest intentions), so he set about preparing, writing and publishing a pamphlet defending his actions and his honour, for which he enlisted the help of his wife, Lady Jane and his teenage daughter, Eleanor.

Eliza Jupp's 1845 memories

Eliza Jupp’s account of Franklin’s interview for the expedition and her memory of her last encounter with him    (DRO ref. D8760/F/LIB/5/10)

It would still take another couple of months for the higher echelons of the Admiralty to accept the appropriateness of Franklin’s appointment. His age and general physical condition (already characterised for many years as “stout”, he had lately become a good deal rounder) were not to be treated as irrelevancies. It was, however, the support of several of the leading Arctic explorers that helped to sway things his way. Franklin’s great friend, Sir John Richardson, in his capacity as a doctor, ruled him fit on health grounds; Sir Edward Parry agreed on his fitness for command, also adding that Franklin would “die of disappointment” if he did not get it; and most importantly, Sir James Clark Ross, who, when approached to reconsider reversing his own decision not to go, staunchly put forward Franklin’s case, somewhat ironically, given his own age excuse. The interview in February 1845 between Lord Haddington and Franklin went well, which included the celebrated exchange about age recorded by Eliza Jupp (inaccurately, as Franklin really only 58 at the time), and the matter was settled in Franklin’s favour.

There was not long left until the expedition was due to set off, about 10 weeks, and there was much to do – in a letter written to Reverend Philip Gell he mentions “how short a period has been given us for our equipments”. Franklin first made two key appointments, choosing the two younger rival candidates for his post: Francis Crozier was to take command of the ship he knew so well from his time in the Antarctic, H.M.S. Terror, and James Fitzjames, who was to be Franklin’s second-in-command on H.M.S. Erebus. Crews for the two ships were recruited, with Fitzjames being assigned the task of appointing all the junior officers. There was also great activity at the Woolwich dockyards, where hurried preparations were made to fit the state-of-the-art propeller, powered by a steam engine which also helped to provide the added bonus of central heating. Supplies and provisions were procured and loaded, including the controversial tin-canned food, which may, or may not, have contributed to the ultimate failure of the expedition. There was also the usual flurry of officials, dignitaries and visitors that seemed to accompany the preparations for any Arctic expedition. Much of the hullaballoo would, no doubt, have been irksome to Franklin, but there was one special social gathering, organised by his wife, when he got the chance say farewell to his friends and supporters like Parry, Ross and Barrow. It was also a chance for him to apologise to his niece Eliza Jupp for not being able to attend her wedding, which was due to take place just two days later.

White Hart Greenhithe

The White Hart Inn – Postcard sent by Richard Cyriax to Dr Henry Willingham Gell, 1935 (DRO ref. D8760/F/GHW/1/4)

On 12 May the ships were towed by tug-boats from Woolwich 9 miles down the river to Greenhithe, where the last of the supplies, including scientific equipment, were to be loaded. Franklin stayed at the White Hart Inn, something which would be later commemorated when the inn was re-named the “Sir John Franklin”. This was a period when there was a more intimate atmosphere, and family members could spend the last few days together before departure. In a letter to his prospective son-in-law, John Philip Gell, he records that his wife Lady Jane, daughter Eleanor and niece Sophy Cracroft had remained with him in Greenhithe for a few days so that they could say the last farewells. They got the chance to see his cabin, and Eleanor and Sophy even helped to arrange his books (the ship as a whole was stocked with a veritable library of books to help stave off the men’s boredom). They also got the chance to meet and get to know his officers and find out that “theirs hearts were in the right place as respects the objects of the Expedition”. He goes on to add that these conversations soothed their minds and “broke the sorrow” they felt at his going, which “they bore … with a very proper spirit”. It was also at Greenhithe that the extraordinary daguerreotype photographs of Franklin and his officers were taken, arranged by Lady Jane Franklin with the photographer William Beard, which would go on to become iconic images of the expedition.

D3311 32 3_00001

First page of letter from Sir John Franklin to prospective son-in-law John Philip Gell,                     23 May 1845         (DRO ref. D8760/F/GJP/1/1/1)

On the day before setting off a service of divine worship was held on board ship. Franklin led the service, speaking eloquently and with feeling, greatly impressing his new young officers in the process. Then, the day of final departure arrived. A good omen was observed, when a dove was seen to land on one of the masts and stay there for a while, a symbol of good news and peace. When it comes to omens, however, a bleaker one had unwittingly been provided by Lady Jane Franklin earlier. Seeing Sir John taking a nap, she had solicitously lain a home-made Union Jack flag over him to keep him warm. Waking up, he was somewhat alarmed to find this had happened, as it was common practice in the Royal Navy to use the Union Jack as a shroud before burial at sea. It is highly likely that he would, indeed, have been lain out in a similar way for real after his death over two years later on 11 June 1847. His final resting place is not known.


Sir John Franklin, 16 May 1845, suffering from influenza before leaving for the Arctic (DRO ref. D8760/F/LIB/8/1/5)

To find out more about the fate of the expedition, take a look at our online Google Arts and Culture exhibition, The Last Voyage of Sir John Franklin.

Building History – Next Steps

A guide to other detailed records and tips for specific types of building.

If you are new to researching the history of a building try our getting started guide first.  There are also more complex records available for discovering the history of property and land, including:

  • Estate records: including rentals and terriers which can be used to identify tenants
  • Manorial records: primarily court rolls/books containing information about land tenure and changes in ownership and occupation.
Sources for standards of living, i.e. wealth of owners/occupiers
  • Wills and probate inventories listing goods and chattels in the house
  • Medieval and early modern Inquisitions Post Mortem are held at The National Archives and provide evidence of land ownership, inheritance and transfer
  • Tax returns, including land tax assessments for 1780-1832 (available on microfilm in Local Studies) and The Derbyshire Hearth tax returns (published 1982).
  • For some farms business records may have been deposited, check the online catalogue to see what is available.
  • Surveys of farms were undertaken during both World Wars. The records of the WW2 National Farm Survey are held at The National Archives.  During WW1 surveys were undertaken by local War Agricultural Committees, and only a small number of records survive, including for the Ilkeston (reference D331/1/21).

For all churches the first place to check is the archive of the parish or church in question.

For Anglican parishes, glebe terriers provide a written survey or inventory of the church’s property in the parish, e.g. the rectory or vicarage, fields and the church itself. They may contain the names of tenants and the holders of adjoining lands, information on cultivated land, or how the income from tithes was calculated and collected.  Most terriers are held under reference D2360/1, but some are in parish or estate collections – search the online catalogue for the place name and the word glebe.

Some Diocese of Derby archive collections will also include information about church property, for example the Diocesan Registers (reference D4633/2) give details of consecrations, mortgages, sequestrations and licences.  Records of Queen Anne’s bounty at The National Archives may also include useful information about Anglican churches and parish property.

Under the Toleration Act of 1688 dissenting congregations were obliged to register their places of worship with the bishop, archdeacon or justices of the peace.  From 1812, registrations were retained by both authorities.  The returns to the justices are held under reference Q/RR/12 and Q/RR/13.


Search the online catalogue for records relating to a particular school – we recommend searching the Title field using the name of the school – if you’re not sure about the school name or if it might have changed, try searching just for the word school and the town/village name:

For most school buildings it is also worth checking the records of the relevant School Board.  There are also architects plans for many schools that were built in the 19th and 20th century, click here for a full list from the county and borough architects.  

Public Houses

Licensing registers between 1753 and 1827 can be found under Q/RA/1.  There are no registers available between 1827 and about 1870.  Thereafter, the registers were maintained by the local magistrates at the Petty Sessions courts to 1974. Click here for a full list of the Petty Sessions archive collections.

The National Brewery Centre Archive at Burton on Trent launched it’s new catalogue in July 2020, including collections of various brewery companies, and many references to Derbyshire.

Shops/Trades buildings

Goad maps are detailed rolled street maps showing individual buildings with their uses, for example shop names.  Available in the Local Studies Library for Alfreton, Ashbourne, Bakewell, Belper, Buxton, Chesterfield, Derby, Glossop, Heanor, Ilkeston, Long Eaton, Matlock, Ripley, and Swadlincote.

Trade (and later telephone) directories survive from the mid-19th century, usually listing prominent landowners, officials and residents, with a commercial section arranged by surname and by trade, although not everyone is included.  Original and microfiche copies of Derbyshire directories are available in the Local Studies Library, as are published town guides for the 19th and 20th centuries.

See the Looking for Organisations guidance for tips on searching for archives relating to specific businesses and industries.

Public works/buildings

For County Council buildings contact County Property.  Check the online catalogue for records relating to the authority that owns/owned the building in question – see also Looking for Organisations guidance.

For buildings associated with late 18th to early 20th century public works such as canals, railways, roads, gas and waterworks see deposited maps and plans under reference Q/RP.

Listed Buildings

The Department of Environment Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest can be consulted in the Local Studies Library or online via the National Heritage List for England.  Each listing gives a precise location, historical information and full architectural details of the site.

Also available in Local Studies are Derbyshire County Council Planning Department’s Listed Buildings record cards which often include a photograph.

Further Reading

Always search the online catalogue and the onsite indexes for other sources.  The following publications (and many more) are available in the Local Studies Library

  • Nick Barratt (2006) Tracing the History of your House
  • Anthony Adolph (2006) Collins Tracing your Home’s History
  • Pamela Cunnington (1980) How old is your house?
  • Colin and O-Ian Style (2006) House Histories for Beginners