Derbyshire Probate: Wills and Administrations

A guide to locating Derbyshire wills and administrations 

A Will is a legal document by which a person outlines their wishes for how their property and estate should be managed, divided or disposed of after death.

Letters of Adminstration/Admon were granted to an administrator where a person died intestate, i.e. without making a valid will.  The Letters are granted by the court of probate.

Probate is the process by which a will is proved to be legal and valid and confirms that the executor or administrator can begin fulfilling the wishes of the deceased as outlined in the will.

Wills would usually have been proved by the court or registry covering the county where the biggest proportion of property was owned, but is also affected by where the person died and how much their estate was worth.

When searching for or obtaining a copy of a will, it is usually the probate copy that survives, i.e. the copy that has been proved to be legal by the relevant court.  This means it is not the original as dictated or possibly written by the individual, very few of these survive, and without comparison to the probate copy there is no way to know whether it was the final and therefore legally valid will.

Probate before 1858

Before 1858, proving wills and granting letters of administration was an ecclesiastical responsibility.  Derbyshire was not a Diocese in its own right until 1927, but was part of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry until 1884 (then the Diocese of Southwell to 1927).  Therefore, most pre-1858 Derbyshire wills are held at Staffordshire Record Office and wills proved in the Consistory Court of Lichfield from c1520 are available online through Find My Past.

Wills of persons holding property in more than one diocese would have been proved in one of the two Prerogative Courts depending on where their property was located.  The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills (including those proved 1653-1660 in a court of civil commission which transacted all testamentary jurisdiction during the Commonwealth) are held at The National Archives.  Many of these wills, including over 1 million from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury can be searched and viewed online: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/wills-1384-1858.  For information about the wills proved at the Prerogative Court of York, please see the Borthwick Institute website.

A small number of Derbyshire wills before 1858 (usually originals that do not record a note of probate) are available in the archive collections, often amongst bundles of title deeds.  Search the online catalogue, using the ‘AnyText’ field – search for the full name in the first instance, with the parish of residence if necessary.

Derbyshire 1858-1928

Since 1858, proving wills (and granting letters of administration) has been a civil responsibility.  In Derbyshire, this work was carried out by Derby Probate Registry until 1928 when the Derby office was closed.

The Record Office holds the Probate Books which include copies of all the wills proved at the Derby District Probate Registry between 1858 and 1928, and and letters of administration granted to 1875.

Search the online catalogue entering the person’s name in the ‘Any Text’ field and D96/* in the ‘RefNo’ field.  The catalogue entry gives the name of the testator, the year the will was proved (note, this is not necessarily the same as the year of death), place of abode and the total number of pages.  The reference number includes the first page number of the will within the book.  The catalogue entry also includes the reference number for the DVD or microfilm that the will can be viewed on.

UK after 1858, including Derbyshire after 1928

Following changes within the Probate Service in the last few years, all wills and administrations from 1858 are available to search and purchase through www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance. This includes all wills from 1858, including for Derbyshire.

Further Reading

The Monocled Mutineer’s early career at Blackwell Colliery

On the 100th anniversary of the death of Percy Toplis, I thought it appropriate to look into the connections he had to the local mining industry. Toplis, better known as the Monocled Mutineer, is a bit of a local celebrity for being an imposter, claiming to be an army officer, being mutineer, deserter and a criminal. With that fairly long list of wrongdoings, it is clear that Toplis was a ‘wrong ‘un’, as we’d say in Derbyshire. It is not known how real the character created by the media at the time, who viewed him as Britain’s most wanted man at the time, actually was. It is clear that he was a troubled soul from an early age.

Having been born to poor parents in Chesterfield who couldn’t afford to keep him, he was passed around family between the Mansfield and Alfreton/South Normanton area. The main guardians for him were his grandparents, who lived in South Normanton. It was here that he went to school and was known to get into trouble often for bullying other children. They cared for him until his first criminal conviction in 1908 for obtaining two suits under false pretences. It was then that his grandparents admitted that they didn’t know what to do with the boy. He was passed on to his Aunt Annie Webster, who lived in Colliery Row, Blackwell.

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Photograph of Percy Toplis

His connections with Blackwell Colliery started when he left the school at South Normanton he’d been attending until he reached the age of 13. He then took up a blacksmith’s apprenticeship at Blackwell Colliery. An apprentice to a blacksmith was expected to learn the job for around four or five years until they were deemed qualified. Their job was an important one in the daily running of a colliery. They would help to create and maintain tools, mend machinery and shoe the pit ponies. However, the thoughts of a steady job appeared too much responsibility for Toplis and he didn’t enjoy the work at all. He seldom attended and was eventually caught skipping his night shift, in favour of spending a night in the pub at the Blackwell Arms. For this he was sacked and Toplis decided to become a wander, mainly in Scotland, and partaking in petty crime.

What happened to him following the outbreak of the First World War is widely known, so this post won’t go into the mutiny he was supposedly a part of or his various attempts of defrauding soldiers’ salaries or disguising himself as an officer, although I would recommend researching into that if you wish. Instead, I have tried to look at how Percy Toplis didn’t wish to conform to the Derbyshire tradition of working at a colliery, despite living in a time when it would have probably been expected of a boy growing up around many pits in the area around Alfreton, Blackwell and South Normanton. During Toplis’ lifetime, these places were built on the unity and pride that colliery working provided within a community built around this industry. Instead Toplis became famed for not conforming to any of society expectations, instead walking his own line at every given opportunity, no matter how wrong this was.

percy toplis

Headline from the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 09 June 1920

As we mark the anniversary of his death today, during a police shootout in Cumbria, after being recognised by a local constable, perhaps it is best to remember the charity given to him following his death. The Penrith Board of Guardians organised his burial in Christian ground at the Beacon Cemetery. There was opposition to this because of his many crimes but the Rev R H Law, Vicar of Christ Church, insisted upon a Christian burial, reminding others that Percy Toplis had been “violently removed from this life before he could be judged on earth.”

Bibliography:

‘How he deluded hotel guests’, Dundee Courier, 8th June 1920

Eden District Council, Percy Toplis, https://www.eden.gov.uk/leisure-culture-and-events/penrith-and-eden-museum/museum-collections/percy-toplis/

Emery, J., ‘Belonging, Memory and History in the North Nottinghamshire Coalfield’, Journal of Historical Geography, 59 (2018), pp. 77-89.

National Mining Museum, Skilled Colliery Craftsman, https://nationalminingmuseum.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/FF2-Craftsmen.pdf

Pixel Surgery, Percy Toplis Bothy, Tomintoul – The Enchanting Secret Behind the Monocled Mutineer, 17 March 2018, https://pixelsurgery.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/percy-toplis-bothy-tomintoul/

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Census Returns

A guide to the census returns for England and Wales, 1841-1911; with invaluable information for family and social historians, especially when used with other resources like maps and directories.

Historical background

By the late 18th century the Industrial Revolution had resulted in great changes in employment and population movement. Governments wanted greater knowledge of their populations for military, economic and social planning. The first UK census was taken in 1801, though along with the censuses of 1811, 1821 and 1831 this contained mainly statistical information. Most of these returns were destroyed, and only a few local copies have survived in archives (including a few Derbyshire parishes) or in newspaper reports. Most of these early censuses are of limited value to the family historian, being without names of inhabitants. The England and Wales census has continued to be taken every 10 years. The 100-year rule applies with regards to access, meaning the 1921 census cannot be viewed until 2022.

Dates taken

It’s important to remember that the census only gives a snapshot of a given place on a given Sunday evening in spring, once every ten years (see dates below). People were expected to be mainly at home, but remember that your ancestor could be away from home that night, visiting or working elsewhere.

  • 1841: 7 June
  • 1851: 30 March
  • 1861: 7 April
  • 1871: 2 April
  • 1881: 3 April
  • 1891: 5 April
  • 1901: 31 March
  • 1911: 2 April
What you can expect to find

Names, ages and relationships of family members; addresses in some cases; occupations; birthplaces. Sometimes the wife’s maiden name can be inferred. Human error is there at every stage of the process: what the householder told the enumerator; what he heard; what was copied into the books; and importantly, the indexing: there are many mistakes in the online indexes. Keep an open mind and use lateral thinking and alternative spellings. Full addresses are often not given, especially in smaller places or in earlier censuses, but there is a description of the parts of the parish covered at the start of each section. The Schedule Number in the first column should not be read as a house number; it is a rolling enumeration household by household. Street indexes are available for larger towns, plus some locally-compiled name indexes.

The 1841 census gives much less information than the others and does not include the relationship to head of household (this has to be inferred) or the birthplace (only a yes/no answer to the question “born in same county?”).  Ages over 15 tend to be approximate; and it contains many people born in the 18th century.  From 1851, in addition to the relationship to head of household and birthplace, the census also includes a note about any disabilities.  More detailed addresses tend to be included from 1901 depending on the size of the town/village in question.

From 1911, there is one page per household (plus a cover page) and the householder themselves usually completed the form so you can now see your ancestor’s handwriting.  The return also now gives number of years married, number of children born, including those who have died. Note: some women abstained in protest over lack of the vote.

How to access the returns online

All public computers in Derbyshire Libraries and the Record Office have free access to Ancestry and Find My Past, which both provide access to the England and Wales census returns 1841-1911, including a digital copy of the original page. The emphasis is on searching by surname, though Ancestry also has a county/civil parish browsing option and for some years Find My Past has an address search facility. For Scotland only a transcript is included, there are no images. Ancestry also includes census returns for the USA and Canada; Find My Past for Ireland, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Derbyshire returns for 1841-1901 can also be accessed on microfilm. The place name card index to help you find the right reel. It is advisable to book a microfilm reader in advance as space is limited. For social historians wanting an overview of a locality, its employment, population and so on, microfilm can be a quicker option than waiting for each page to download online, and internet sites tend to assume you want to search by name.

Modern census and the 1939 Register

The UK census continued to be taken every ten years; unfortunately the 1931 returns were accidentally destroyed by fire in the 1940s and no return was made in 1941 due to World War II (see 1939 below). Personal information cannot be viewed until 100 years have elapsed. However, the Local Studies Library has some statistical information for Derbyshire from 1921 to 2001 (2001 has individual printouts for each parish), and statistics for 2011 can be viewed online at http://observatory.derbyshire.gov.uk; this site also includes mid-year population projections.

The 1939 National Register was taken as an emergency measure at the outbreak of World War II. It is available online via Find My Past and Ancestry, though records of people younger than 100 and still alive, or who died after 1991 are officially closed.

Other sources similar to the census

Published transcripts for the Domesday Book, 1086; Derbyshire Feet of Fines, 1323-1546 and Hearth Tax Returns, 1662-1670 are available in Local Studies, as is the 1851 Religious Census (on microfilm for Derbyshire only). Original muster rolls for the militia, 18th-19th centuries, and the “Domesday” Valuation Office Survey of 1911 are available via the archive search room.

Further Reading: a few books to help you
  • Christian, Peter (2014) Census: the expert guide
  • Jolly, Emma (2013) Tracing your ancestors using the census
  • Levitan, Katherine (2011) A cultural history of the British census

See also The National Archives guides to the census and 1939 register.

Lockdown Stories: Working from Home

From earlier blog posts, you will have realised that I, like my colleagues at the Record Office, am working from home during this period of lockdown.

For me, in my modest cottage, this has taken some adjustment. Firstly, child number two, aged 21, arrived home from University with a friend in tow – both with the huge pressure of deadlines to meet for coursework, dissertations to complete and final exams to pass for their undergraduate degree courses. Hmmm, a puzzle to solve. Three adults into a small cottage has meant one of us in the basement bedroom (fondly known as the ‘dungeon’), one in the dining/sitting room (also referred to as the ‘yoga studio’) and me in the kitchen (near the food).

Archivist Becky dropped off a laptop, keyboard and mouse, which after 72 hours of quarantine were ready for use. With some assistance from the Derbyshire County Council IT department, I had already set up my personal PC and phone to allow limited access to the Record Office databases and communications system. Once switched over to the laptop and equipment Becky had dropped off, full access was enabled and I was ready to go.

The work task assigned to me has been a pleasure to work on, for which I feel extremely grateful.

The Miller Mundy family of Derbyshire has provided us with a true insight into their lives as landed gentry and politicians from the 1700s onwards. Based at Shipley, Markeaton and Walton, the family was extremely large and unravelling the different strands of this family has been challenging at times, particularly with their fondness for the names Edward, Frances/Francis, Godfrey, Robert, Nellie, Georgiana and Alfred, used in almost every generation. The astounding number of children born to each generation, with Edward Miller Mundy (1775-1834, son of Edward, father to Edward) fathering 13 children with his wife, Nellie, adding to the puzzle.

Aside from the family seat in Derbyshire, there is a long history of involvement in both local and national politics. Several members of the family became Members of Parliament, High Sheriffs and Magistrates. With so many children, it was usual for sons other than the first born heir to enter the military or church.

I have been transcribing letters from George Miller Mundy written to his Father, Edward Miller Mundy. George was in the navy, Captain of The Hydra, and wrote extensively about the Napoleonic War. George’s writing style is clear, and he is well educated, sometimes quoting Shakespeare, although not always entirely accurately. He writes of battles and strategies naming ships familiar to us, as well as naval officers such as Collingwood, Hardy and Nelson, the enemy Villeneuve and Napoloeon; politics as well as his feelings. Reading them transports me to another era.

It has become clear that in spite of the size of the family, there is a deep affection and respect for one another, which is very touching to read.

My working day is a stimulating break from being stuck at home baking, reading, learning Spanish and playing the Ukulele. As a part-timer, I work four hours per day over four days, which is ideal for this task. I have now rigged up a large monitor, discovered in child number one’s room (on a sabbatical and currently isolating in Panama). The large screen has helped considerably in trying to decipher the somewhat tricky handwriting. Zooming in on a big screen aids with seeing how letters are formed, leading to understanding specific words.

Generally, the internet connection has been very reliable for all three of us working. Today has been the first day of failing, which has made me realise how reliant we are on technology. I fear this lockdown would have been far more isolating without our Skype and zoom meetings with colleagues and friends. Working from home would have been a completely different story, and may have been nigh impossible in some cases.

Melanie's workstation

 

This image shows my home office set up in my kitchen; I am lucky to have enough space for a desk. The handwritten/highlighted notes show my first attempt to plot the Miller Mundy family structure! I choose to work with the radio on (Radio 4 or 6) as I like some background noise. This is not heard by the two students elsewhere in the house.

Not far from wherever I am, you will find my two dogs, Nora the Greyhound and Nelson, my Jack Russell. Nelson is 13, and when I named him as a nine week old puppy, I did not envisage I would be reading letters about Lord Nelson’s heroic actions, victories and demise.

So, here is ‘my’ Nelson.

Nelson the dog

Melanie Collier, Archives Assistant

 

Lockdown Stories: What work can we do without access to our collections?

Well the answer to that is quite a lot actually. One of the tasks that I have been given/been volunteered for (?), has been responding to the email enquiries that have been received by the office during this unusual time.

As you can imagine, the number of enquiries at the beginning of lockdown was quite small. I, along with most of the population, I would think, thought this situation would probably last a few weeks and everyone thought they could wait that long for any information they required. However, as time has gone on the enquiries have started to increase in number, and a few people have found that, even though we are all staying at home, there are some things that just cannot wait! Several of the enquiries are from people needing copies of documents for legal purposes and one enquiry was from someone who needed a copy of their baptism certificate for their wedding to take place in August. As all Record Office staff are working from home without access to the collections and all the finding aids, we are striving to reply to enquiries as fully as we possibly can under the circumstances, but I should stress that we are very far from business as usual. We have very limited access to the building currently, just for security purposes and to check, for example, the humidity levels to ensure the documents are stored in optimum conditions, especially during the incredibly sunny couple of months we’ve just experienced!

Unsurprisingly, many of the enquiries have been from people who have taken up or have decided to re-visit their family history and are trying to solve that elusive family connection. One of our researchers has even traced her family back to 1044 (a very unusual occurrence!).

House history has also proven to be very popular (unsurprising since we are all spending so much time there at the moment!). Fortunately, there are many online resources available to whet your appetite, until such times as we are able to access the collections at the office again.

Hopefully, the Research Guides we have been publishing on the blog are proving useful to both novice and experienced researchers.

One of the more unusual enquiries we have received was from someone trying to find out the place and date of death for an Arthur Rodgers, who was born in Derbyshire on February 18, 1885. Apparently, Arthur was a footballer for Nottingham Forest, and, later, Turin FC. Unfortunately, I had to refer the enquirer to the General Register Office, as I am sure many of you are already aware, Derbyshire Record Office doesn’t hold copies of birth or death certificates.

A lot of the enquiries have been from overseas researchers, one, for example, looking for the reason an ancestor was transported in the 19th century and another, looking much more recently, for their parents records at St Christopher’s Railway Servants Orphanage in Derby.

As you can see, I certainly haven’t been bored whilst locked away in my makeshift office (spare bedroom!). Responding to your enquiries has kept me intrigued, entertained and above all still in touch with our researchers. I look forward to continuing to try and assist with your research and, hopefully, in the not too distant future, once public health restrictions allow, to meeting you in person at the Record Office.

Anne Lawley, Assistant in Charge

Electoral Registers

A guide to the collections at Derbyshire Record Office.

First produced in 1832, electoral registers are a record of all those persons entitled to vote at parliamentary, local and parochial elections.

They are a useful tool for family historians looking for the addresses of their ancestors, for house historians looking to see previous occupiers of their property, and local historians interested in the residential development of a particular area.

What is available

Derbyshire electoral registers are available between 1832 and 1999. For registers after 1999, please contact the relevant district or borough council. Registers were produced annually from 1835, except:

  • 1916 and 1917, due to World War One
  • 1940-1944, due to World War Two; registers were produced in 1945 or 1946 for a particular district, not both
  • 1919-1929, when two registers were produced, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn.

Registers covering Derby borough (later city) are available up to 1900 only (for registers after this date, please contact the Derby Local Studies and Family History Library). There is an incomplete run of registers for the borough of Chesterfield – Chesterfield Library holds a complete run from 1974.

Finding the Right Register

Between 1832 and 1867, Derbyshire was divided into two electoral divisions, North and South; each then sub-divided into smaller polling districts. The districts have changed many times since 1867 and it is essential to know which division covered the place in which you are interested to be sure you order the correct register.

Details of the electoral registers available can be found via the online catalogue (note the registers themselves cannot be seen online). You can also Search the Catalogue to find the results for the place you are interested in:

  • Reference Number: ER/*
  • Any Text: enter the place name you are interested in (we recommend using the parish name)
  • Date: if you have a particular date in mind, e.g. 1876 or 1920-1935

The full reference number of each volume will include an abbreviation for the division and the date, e.g. ER/ILK/1920. It is this reference you will need to order the relevant register through the search room.

Electoral registers covering 1832-1900 are available on microfiche in the Computer Room, and these original registers will not normally be retrieved in the search room. The microfiche are arranged by year and then by division. It is advisable to search the online catalogue in the first instance to identify the correct division. A hard copy index which includes the microfiche reference number is also available in the Computer Room.

Using Electoral Registers

The arrangement of electoral registers changes over time, as does the level of detail included. Before 1918, only registers covering larger towns such as Derby and Chesterfield will include specific addresses. In these cases, the information is generally arranged alphabetically by street name within each polling district. Other registers tend to be arranged alphabetically by surname, which is generally very handy for family historians, but less so for house historians.

Particularly after 1948, identifying which polling district a specific street is in does become more problematic, and there are some streets that have one side in one district and the other side in another district. There are even some streets where the two sides are in entirely different divisions. In the absence of street indexes (which may be available for some divisions from the late 1980s), it is advisable to search all relevant districts to identify the street.

Remember, the right to vote (enfranchisement) was extended to various categories at different times during the 19th and 20th centuries. Not finding an individual or a property does not always mean that they or it was not there.

Timeline of Voting Entitlements for Parliamentary Elections
  • 1832: Great Reform Act – Men over the age of 21 years, and who either owned property worth at least £10, or who occupied land worth between £2 and £5, or were tenants paying rent of £50 per annum.
  • 1867: Second Reform Act – Extended to men over the age of 21 years, and who owned property worth at least £5.
  • 1884: Third Reform Act – Extended to freeholders of inherited land (or land acquired by marriage) worth 40s; freeholders of any land worth £5. 60% of male householders over the age of 21 now have the vote.
  • 1918: Representation of the People Act – property qualifications abolished meaning the franchise is extended to all men. Women over 30 also enfranchised if they also own property, are a University graduate, or a member of (or married to a member of) the Local Government Register (a record of persons paying property taxes).
  • 1928: Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act – Franchise extended to women over the age of 21, on equal terms with men.
  • 1971: Registration of the People Act (1969) – Voting age for all citizens reduced to 18 years.
Absent and Service Voters’ Lists

Due to the First and Second World Wars, at the calling of the 1918 and 1945 elections, many citizens were not resident at home as they were serving in the military. For this reason, Absent Voters registers (known as Service Registers after the Second World War) were produced. Derbyshire Absent Voters Lists for 1918 have survived only for the Chesterfield, Ilkeston and Western electoral divisions – follow the links for each division to download PDFs of the original registers.  Service registers for May 1945 are held for the following divisions: Belper, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derby City, Ilkeston and High Peak. Service registers for October 1946 are held for all divisions.

Poll Books

Before the Secret Ballot Act of 1872, poll books were produced recording how individual electors voted.  Sometimes the cause of eligibility (such as residence, burgess/freeman) is also included.  Books for disputed elections 1768-1869 can be accessed in the search room (Ref: Q/RE/2/1-93). A number of other poll books survive elsewhere among both the archives and local studies collections.

Further Reading

There are a number of articles available concerning electoral registers for family history (please see the local studies card catalogue for specific details). Jeremy Gibson’s Electoral Registers 1832-1948 (published 2008) contains useful information about content of registers and voting entitlements.

A letter from Trafalgar

Part of a very moving collection of letters in the Miller Mundy collection (D517) from October and November 1805, George Miller Mundy wrote an account to his father just two days after the Battle of Trafalgar.  George was captain of HMS Hydra and spent many years patrolling the seas around Cadiz and Gibraltar, engaging in combat.  It is clear that Lord Nelson was very much admired and respected by his men, and his demise at Trafalgar was sorely felt, in spite of the tremendous victory.

D517-Box A part 2 00057

Letter from George Miller Mundy to his father, 1805 (D517 BOX a 3 part 2)

George writes about the day of the battle, and describes how Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Lord Nelson inspired his men to victory:

“One of the most characteristic circumstances of his conduct on the great day was a Telegraphic message to the fleet in general just as they were going into action. It was!

“England espects [sic] British Seamen will do their Duty, this Day”

what could have been more expressive and more exhilarating to men who looked to him as a father? Can you conceive any more to the purpose? The Captains of course turn’d their men up and read the short but nervous sentence to them. Imagine the unanimous response of

“We will do it”

and three lusty Cheers”

The letter continues to describe how Lord Nelson’s unique and inspired strategy repeatedly broke the French line of ships, demolishing the fleet of their enemy.  The cost was:

“the loss of Lord Nelson. A Frenchman shot him of the Fore tops thro’ his shoulder which lodg’d in his back, he liv’d some hours, and when Hardy went down & told him the Trinidad (the pride of Spain) had struck! & some others. He said, he was satisfied it was a victory, and almost immediately expir’d, so departed, this wonderful man.”

D517-BoxA-3-part2-00058 Nelson's demise (002).jpg

Letter from George Miller Mundy to his father, 1805 (D517 BOX a 3 part 2)

History tells us that Nelson was recognised as a hero by the nation.  The monument, Nelson’s Column, in Trafalgar Square in London, has the inscription ‘England expects every man will do his Duty’ at it’s base, the same message described by George in his letter.

Melanie, Archives Assistant

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”

Museum

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”

wills

…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!)

Lancaster

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.”

PS

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.”

pheasent

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…”

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

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.
Photographs
  • 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.