‘Is there any post?’ -FitzHerbert project catch up

The FitzHerbert project has been quiet for some time so I wanted to write a catch up blog to update you on progress and share with you one of the highlights of the collection.

Firstly, I want to mention the title of the post: this is surely a familiar phrase in every British household. Especially with the increase in email usage there is always a keen sense of anticipation when you are expecting something to arrive in the post, especially a letter. When something arrives unexpectedly it is always exciting (except if it’s from the bank!). Continue reading

Digging up information about Burial Locations

Some of the diverse subjects that have been researched in the Local Studies card catalogue this week include air wrecks, monetary equivalents, the surname ‘Lomas’ and Florence Nightingale.

Cards

Florence

 

In particular though, this week, burial locations have been a frequent feature of research requests, so we thought this subject was well past its expiration date (if you’ll forgive the pun) for a mention.

In many cultures, the idea of being able to visit the physical location of a place of rest is reassuring for friends and relatives. Here’s how to make a start on searching.

Burial Registers

Burial Registers (found in parish registers) record information relating to the date of burial and the person buried rather than the location of the grave. Unlike civil cemeteries, it is unusual for churches to deposit grave registers at the Record Office, usually because they are not created in the first instance.

Memorial Inscriptions

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For some Derbyshire churchyards, groups of volunteers have created transcripts of the headstones and plaques in the church. These transcripts are known as Memorial Inscriptions, and include information only about those graves where the headstone/plaque was extant and legible at the time the transcripts were created usually, most were created in the 1990s and later. The Memorial Inscriptions do not include information about unmarked graves or graves where the headstone is no longer visible or legible.

They do also sometimes contain a very useful background to the cemetery or churchyard, and in particular these are a regular feature of the The Derbyshire Ancestral Research Group  transcripts. There may also be a graveyard plan.

Cemetery Records

Cemetery 5Cemetery 2

Cemetery Records can be tricky and a little time consuming to search as the indexes, although alphabetical, are not usually alphabetical after the initial letter.  For example, as shown above, under the ‘Hs’ you are very likely to find ‘Hewitt’ after ‘Hill.’ If the name you require is found in the Index, there will usually be a reference (normally a number and folio reference).  You then need to make a note of this in order to then search the Burial and/or Grave Register to find more details about the location. As with all records, the information provided varies from Cemetery to Cemetery.

Online Catalogue

Of course it is always worth searching our online catalogue for any information regarding graveyard plans or burials as you never know what you might unearth!

A busy week with some interesting finds

As you may know we are constantly adding “new” material to our collections (some of it new, i.e. recent, especially in local studies, and some of it much older). It is rare to go more than 3 or 4 days without accessioning new material, this was a little exceptional though with 7 new and additional  archive deposits and gifts in just 2 days.

Some of this was fairly typical of the material we take in on a regular basis, for example, late 20th and early 21st century school governors minutes. Some was was a little less typical and I got a little excitable as I looked through these new accessions to produce a summary for the official receipt and online catalogue.

One of the key professional duties of an archivist is to undertake an initial assessment of material that is being offered (whether it is being offered as a donation or a deposit, where the organisation offering the records remains the owner and the Record Office acts acts the custodian). We then summarise and describe the records and record in our database where the material has come from. This is known as as the accessioning process, and also involves assigning a running number to each new accession in addition to giving it a catalogue collection number. If we already have other records relating to the same collection (for example, in the case of a parish, school or business), we use the existing “D” reference number. If this is the first accession of material for a particular collection it is also assigned the next “D” reference (we have almost reached D8000 by the way).

Once we have entered all the necessary information into the database (which may also include information about access restrictions and copyright, amongst other things), we produce an Accession Receipt for the donor/depositor to sign along with the duty archivist. Both parties then each have a copy of the receipt.

Screenshot of our internal database for recording accessions and catalogues, showing list of accessions received on 14 July 2016

The next stage is to add information about the new accession to our online catalogue so that people know what we have. Very occasionally, if the new accession is quite small and individual records easily identified, we can add individual catalogue entries for each record and assign it a unique reference number. I was actually able able to do this on two occasions this week, for new material that came in from the Parish of Draycott and a separate accession from Ilkeston St Marys Mothers’ Union.

When it is not possible for this to happen a summary of the new accession is added under ‘Description’ at home collection level entry on the catalogue until full cataloguing and number if can take place in the future. This is what I have done with the rest of the new accessions received last week.

So what new accessions did we receive this week? Can you guess which ones I was particularly excited about?

On Monday, two boxes of governors records arrived from Aston-on-Trent Primary School (ref: D6701) this was by far the largest deposit and contained a large number of documents that are not required or considered appropriate for permanent preservation in the archives. I undertook an initial assessment of which files contained archive material, returning those that didn’t to the school this week. The remaining files have now gone to be processed by our Records Assistants, checked, boxed and added to our archive strongrooms. However, as only the initial assessment has yet been completed, further appraisal will be required to identify other material within the files not appropriate for permanent preservation – for example there are a number of duplicates of items and publications from other bodies that do not relate to the school.

On Thursday, the first to arrive were were the minutes and reports from the Ilkeston St Marys Mothers’ Union, which sadly disbanded earlier this year. This material has already been fully catalogued and added to the existing collection under the reference D4603. Two deposits were received from the Parish of Wilne with Draycott, including an original Register of Apprentices for Draycott, 1804-1816 (ref: D2513/5), an apparently very comprehensive survey and valuation of the whole of Draycott, including names of owners and occupiers, produced by William Cox in 1810 (ref: D2513/6) – see images below.

The deposit for Wilne (the mother church to Draycott) was much larger and generally much more recent, including for example, Parochial Church Council minutes 1993-2004, inspection reports, inventories of 1908 and 1935 and papers relating to various works and improvements undertaken between the 1950s and 2000s  (although these latter files will be appraised further as part of the cataloguing process – see my post in February “to keep or not to keep”) – ref: D2513. The star of the accession was undoubtedly the addition of the parish copy of the Wilne Tithe Map and Award of 1847-1848. Although we already hold the Diocesan copy of these important and incredibly useful records, Wilne was one of the few Derbyshire parishes for which we were not also protecting and preserving the parish copy. Nevertheless, the parish had clearly been taking good care of it as it is in very good condition:

Parish copy of the Wilne Tithe Map and Award 1847-1848 (D2513)

We also took in a small collection of printed items (see picture above), with a couple of photographs and news cuttings, relating to William Rhodes Junior School (later, and now, Primary School), donated by a friend and former colleague of the teacher who collected them during her employment there from the late 1960s to her retirement in 1983. Although not yet fully catalogued this material has been added to collection D5234, which also includes log books and admission registers for the infants and juniors from the 1930s.

Finally, we had two donations via the British Cave Research Association Library in Ashbourne. The first consisted of the only collection of material specifically relating to the Peak Forest Mining Company, including letter books and accounts from the late 19th century (ref: D7981). This material had once been in the possession of a past member of the Association (formerly the British Speleological Association), Mr Peter Crabtree, who passed away in 2003. And it was the research and other papers of Mr Crabtree that complete our list of new accessions received  (ref: D7982).

Picturing the Past in Photos, Postcards and Illustrations

We’re often asked for images, illustrations and photographs for a variety of reasons: house or building history, planning and model making are just a few. So we thought it might be useful to list a few sources of useful information about how to access images, both online and in our collections.

Firstly, with a title including ‘Picturing the Past’ we couldn’t forget to mention the fantastic website Picture the Past which has thousands of searchable images from throughout the East Midlands.  If you are particularly taken with an image you come across, you can even have it made into a cushion cover, coaster, or mug, among other items!

The images range from the scenic

PtPbike

to the posed

Family

to the celebratory

celebration

We also have an A-Z Illustrations card index in our collection Local Studies collection which can be accessed in our Card Catalogue Room in the Local Studies Library. This contains references to photos, illustrations, postcards and other imagery. These often provide clues as to what a building may have looked like internally as well as externally, railways, mines and industry, and family and public events.

 

You can also find photographs and images in our Archives.  A search for ‘photograph’ under ‘description’ in our online catalogue revealed 633 results.

In addition, if you are looking for aerial photos, the incredibly useful website Britain from Above has some useful images from around Britain. This is one of Derby.  Let us know if you have any useful sources for illustrations, photos or other types of images!

Derby from the Air

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation finished

For those of you who followed Clare’s posts about the work she was doing on our two very badly damaged lead mining account books: the conservation is now finished.  Clare went on maternity leave a few months ago (a boy!), but we were lucky enough to be able to recruit newly qualified paper conservator Madeleine Marshall to finish off the project.  Clare’s last post described how she washed all the pages of the 18th century volume, so let me explain what happened next…

Once all the pages were clean, they needed to be repaired so they would be safe to be handled again.  You can see in the photographs how Madeleine carefully needles out infills for the missing areas – basically we put new hand made paper where the original paper has crumbled away. We also sandwich the page between two sheets of very thin tissue, made from manila fibres, which gives it extra strength without obscuring the writing.  To stick it all together we make up our own adhesive, wheat starch paste, so we don’t add any potentially damaging chemicals to the documents.

 

D307 B 19 1 Maddie repairs 03

Needling out the repair

 

D307 B 19 1 Maddie repairs 01

Laying the repair in its place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The repaired pages are then re-assembled in their book sections and re-sewn:

D307 B 19 1 repaired sections trimmed 02

The repaired sections

 

D307 B 19 1 re-sewing

Sewing the textblock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we have our textblock we attach new boards:

D307 B 19 1 re-binding

Then we cover the book in book cloth:

D307 B 19 1 boards covered 01

The newly covered book drying out under weights

 

 

During the project we managed to turn this jigsaw puzzle

D7925 puzzling the pieces

Clare puzzling the pieces

 

into these readable sheets

D7925 after repairs

Fragments we couldn’t place with 100% certainty have been encapsulated, so they can still be examined

 

and this disintegrating book

D307 B 19 1 volume before repairs

into this readable one

D307 B 19 1 rebound

If you’d like to see either the actual volumes or their digitised images, ask for D7925 (the 19th century former jigsaw puzzle) and D307/B/19/1 (the 18th century rebound volume).

We remain grateful to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for their funding.

Free talk: Preserving Your Past

Many of us have our own little (or even quite large) archive at home: letters, photographs, diaries and other treasures that remind us where we’ve come from and bring us close to loved ones who aren’t around anymore. If you’d like to find out how best to care for these unique family heirlooms, do come along to the Derby Family History Festival on Wednesday 8 June at Derby Central Library, where I will be delivering a talk at 12.30 entitled ‘Preserving Your Past’.  I’ll explain how paper and other records get damaged and what you can do to protect your archive, so you can pass it on safely to future generations.

The Record Office will be there all day with a stall as well and there are lots of other talks and activities going on, as you can see on the poster:

 

poster 3

 

poster 2

We hope to see you there!

 

To keep or not to keep – that is the question

One of the key professional responsibilities of the archivist is to decide which records to select for permanent preservation and which to dispose of. In fact, you could argue that the role of the archivist is not one of preservation but of “destruction” (though I’m not sure we would quite argue that).

Here at Derbyshire Record Office we typically receive several enquiries and deposits/donations a week. Each time the archivist will judge (often in discussion with colleagues) whether the item/s have sufficient historical and research value to justify permanent preservation. We must ask questions such as:

  • Is it archival? i.e. is it a record generated by the everyday activities of a corporate body (or family, or individual), no longer in current use and providing evidence of the past
  • What is the research value of the material? This requires the archivist to think about the actual content of the item/s, what else could be inferred from it about society, individual or place, what kind of historical research could the material support and whether it could be useful for more than one type of historical research (e.g. useful for family historians and social historians)
  • Does the material provide only information that is already available elsewhere?
  • Is the material legible and in suitable condition for preservation?

We also need to be sure it is of Derby or Derbyshire content or origin. It would be outside the collecting remit of Derbyshire Record Office to collect material that didn’t have some connection to the city and county, and their peoples.

Case Study: Moody and Woolley Solicitors of Derby
A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I with the support of Lien, DRO’s Senior Conservator, surveyed and appraised the records in “the dungeon” of former Derby legal firm Moody and Woolley. After nearly 170 years in business, the firm ceased trading in April 2015, and having returned records to clients where possible, offered the remaining records to us and to Derby Local Studies and Family History Library.

“The Dungeon” when we first visited

What we found were primarily of bundles of title deeds and related papers for properties and businesses across the city and county, executorship papers for deceased clients, probate copies of wills and a small number of business records for the firm from the 1990s to early 2000s. There were also a small number of boxes containing family artefacts and photo albums, mostly from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Undoubtedly these items would have held some intrinsic value for descendants of their original owners, however the firm had been unable to identify who the items belonged to and so could not return them to living relatives. For the same reason, we also had to make the decision not to add such items to the collection as they were not identifiable and therefore had only very limited (if any) historical research value.

After four hours, much sifting, many puzzled looks, head scratches and a fair bit of dust and grime, we had selected a van load of material to be transported back to Matlock.

Other material “left behind” included the probate copies of post-1858 wills and the majority of executorship papers and ledgers. In the case of probate wills, although we do hold some examples of such wills already amongst family and estate collections, these particular wills are only the probate copy, i.e. not the original signed by the individual. The information available from the probate copy is the same as the copy that can be obtained from the Probate Registry – for which handy online indexes already exist on Ancestry and Gov.uk (the latter also includes a search and ordering facility). Therefore the use of such records at DRO would be extremely limited, if indeed they were used at all.

In a world of unlimited space and budgets we may have taken much more than we did. However, such limitations are not necessarily a bad thing. The sifting and selection undertaken by the archivists has the added benefit of saving customers and researchers some time in sifting through material. Another example in this case were the executorship papers: the probate copy of a will identifies the executors and the beneficiaries, the papers of the executors merely record the process of following through the wishes of the deceased. Where there are disputes it can be useful to retain such records; however, in most cases there is little added information and the frequency of use would be extremely low. There is no defined threshold for how often a record should be used to justify its preservation in the archives, but this is certainly one factor that is considered when appraisal and selection decisions are made.

The decisions and judgments we made have ensured that the enduring archive collection for the firm reflects the nature of the business undertaken (as far as was possible with the records presented to us). The final collection includes:

  • sampled business papers of the firm (e.g. a sample correspondence file relating to notarial transactions),
  • 18th-20th century title deeds and abstracts of title for property across Derby and Derbyshire including the Railway Tavern at Belper, mills and other businesses in Ripley, Shirland Park and Lodge, and
  • the personal papers of John Moody, the firm’s founding partner.

All the material is now in our quarantine room waiting to be assessed by our Conservation team and any necessary remedial action taken (including the removal of mould). It will be some time before a full catalogue is available for the collection, but in the meantime, you can access basic summary information through our online catalogue for the collection, reference D7935.

Ultimately, as archivists we must always make judgments about what to preserve and what to destroy with the knowledge that histories can only be written in the future using the evidence we have preserved. The material that isn’t preserved cannot act as evidence, therefore the first question we must always consider is how will this affect histories yet to be written. That is not to say the first responsibility of future history relies with the archivist, this first responsibility inevitably always lies with the creator of the records who may indeed destroy them before an archivist even knows they exist. Nevertheless, archivists do have a very important role to play and it is one that we take very great care over.

Postscript: The judgments we are required to make are likely to become even more important and difficult with digital records – but more on that another time.

Mini Explore: ‘Coal not Dole!’

Coal not dole poster

Until the last decade, coal mining was once one of the biggest industries in the East Midlands, especially in Derbyshire which had many mining communities when the industry was at its height.

Just a few of months ago, the UK’s last deep pit coal mine closed for the last time. Another deep pit mine will close in December (Kellingley, in North Yorkshire) and after this there will be no more deep pit mines in the UK.

This is of particular historical significance because it reflects the changing nature of British industries and economy. There is also an underlying theme about workers rights which originates from the Magna Carta.

Employment rights, equal pay, fair working conditions and the right to protest have featured heavily in the loss of the mining industry. Over the centuries they have developed to become apparent features of human rights, which have evolved from the original Magna Carta clauses. Because of the impact of Magna Carta over the course of history, it remains our democratic right to be able to protest for fair employment rights.

This featured poster with the slogan ‘Coal not Dole!’ (D5756/5-7) was issued by the National Union of Mineworkers during the Miners’ Strike in 1984-85. Although not overly exciting to look at, it deals with the point relating to workers rights and employment. Perhaps it reminds you of this event?

A few months ago a blog was published about the Magna Carta as part of the Mini Explore Your Archive campaign. This year’s main Explore Your Archive week starts this Saturday.

For this year’s event we are welcoming poet and designer Jane Weir to the record office to talk about her work, inspired by archive collections.  To find out more about this free event or to book a place go to the Events page on our blog (just scroll back to the top of this page).

Archives at the Abbey

To celebrate this year’s Heritage Open Day specially selected items from the Harpur-Crewe family archive, held at the record office, will return home to Calke Abbey.

Visitors to the National Trust property can view original records of those who lived and worked at Calke. We are taking a fascinating selection of records with us, including family letters and diaries, photograph albums, tenant’s registers, maps and one of the oldest documents in the collection – a deed dating from the 12th century.

D2375 179 3

Our staff will be based in the Learning Room and will be on hand to talk to visitors about these historic documents and offer advice and information about the work of the record office and the services we offer.

So, if your family has links to Derbyshire come along to Calke and find about the kind of information you can access for free at our office in Matlock.

We’ll be there on Saturday 12 September and Sunday 13 September from 12pm-4pm. Why not make the most of free entry to Calke on the Saturday (normal admission charges apply on Sunday).

The mansion house will also be open to visitors. From 11am – 12.30pm the ground floor will be open for those who want a short visit and get a glimpse of the collections and house. From 12.30pm – 5pm the house will be fully open allowing people to discover this unusual property which has been frozen in time.

For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/calke-abbey or telephone Calke Abbey on 01332 863822.

 

Calke Abbey, Ticknall, Derbyshire, DE73 7LE

Opening Arrangements:

House: 21 February – 1 November House taster tours 7 days a week from 11am- 12.30pm House fully opens at 12.30pm for generals visits Saturday – Wednesday and themed house visits on Thursday and Fridays.

Garden: 7 February – 1 November 2015

Restaurant & Shop:1 January – 31 December 2015 10.00am – 5pm.

Park & National Nature Reserve: Daily 7.30am – 7.30pm, dusk if earlier

Heritage Open Days

http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk