A guide to using church burial and civil cemetery registers and to finding the location of a grave.
Image: All Saints Church, Brailsford, c1930s (Ref: DCHQ002850)
Note: Before civil registration was introduced in 1837, burial registers are the main source available to identify when a person died, as burials would have taken place within a few days of death.
The earliest burial registers date from the mid-16th century and relate to burials in Anglican churchyards. The majority of non-Anglican burial records for Derbyshire begin in the 19th century, with a small number from the 18th century and Quaker burials from the mid-17th century.
Information about the registers available for each parish and non-conformist church can be found in our Parish Register Guide and Non-Conformist Guide. You can also search the online catalogue – search for the church in the ‘Title’ field (e.g. Bolsover parish or Methodist Long Eaton) for a list of all the records for each church, or use the ‘D’ reference number given in the above Guides.
The amount of information recorded in the burial registers varies over time:
- Before 1813, burial entries tend only to include the date of burial and name of the deceased; some may state whether they are a widow/widower and/or a reference to a family member, e.g. Sarah daughter of John Taylor.
- After 1813, the registers often include the age at death, place of abode (usually just the area not a specific address) and the signature of the officiating minister.
It is unusual for churches to deposit grave registers at the Record Office, usually because they are not created in the first instance. A small number of parishes have deposited plans of the churchyard that include information about some burials before a particular date (see below).
The burial registers for the Anglican parishes are available to search and browse via Ancestry up to 1991 – see our Parish Registers Online guide. A number of burial registers for non-conformist churches are available to search on Find My Past – these are the registers for which the originals are held at The National Archives (TNA) and Derbyshire Record Office has copies on microfilm.
By the mid-19th century, parish churchyards were becoming full and there was a need to open civil cemeteries. Following the Burial Acts of 1852 and 1853, the first civil cemeteries in Derbyshire opened in 1855. Originally managed by Burial Boards, in 1894 responsibility for these cemeteries transferred to parish and district councils and this remains the case today. For more recent records, please contact the relevant .
The majority of the original records for cemeteries remain in the custody of the District Councils, however records up to the 1990s are available at the Record Office on microfilm and DVD. See our Cemetery Records Guide for details of the records available.
If you can’t find an entry in the parish burial registers, or there aren’t any burial registers for the period you are interested in, check the civil cemetery records.
Unlike the church burial registers, the civil cemetery registers tend to include more information and are usually accompanied by an index and a grave register. Although the grave registers do not include a layout plan of the graves, they do include plot numbers and give a rough indication of burial area, i.e. consecrated or unconsecrated ground. This information can then be used to identify the location of the grave in the cemetery – you will usually need to contact the relevant district authority as well.
National Burial Index
The NBI contains over 18 million entries relating to burials in England and Wales between 1538 and 2008, including 125,000 entries from 54 Derbyshire locations. Published by Family History Federation (formerly Federation of Family History Societies), it is now in its 3rd Edition and over 12 million entries are available via Find My Past, giving details of burial place, year of death and religious denomination.
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 (MIs), 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 MIs do not include information about unmarked graves or graves where the headstone is no longer visible or legible. All the MIs held by the Record Office are available in the Computer Room, arranged alphabetically by place.
Finding the Grave
As civil cemetery registers tend to include a grave reference it is usually possible to identify the location of the grave itself, although sometimes you may need to contact the district or borough council responsible for the cemetery for guidance about how to interpret the reference.
It is unusual for churches to deposit grave registers at the Record Office, usually because they are not created in the first place. However, a small number of parishes have deposited plans of the churchyard that include information about some burials before a particular date:
|Aldercar||Schedule of identifiable graves||D2574/19/2|
|Ashover||Grave registers,1779-1828, 1846-1859||D253 A/PI 10/1-2|
|Ashbourne St Oswalds||Notes on graves (early 20th century)||D662 A/PI 26/7|
|Brimington||Schedule of graves, 1956||D626/A/PD/6/1|
|Calow||Grave Registers, 1862-1899||D1642/A/PI/63-4|
|Chesterfield, St Mary and All Saints||Schedules of graves||D643/A/PI/28-29|
|Chesterfield, Elder Yard Chapel||Churchyard plan, 1915|
|Chesterfield, Holy Trinity||Grave register, 1856-1864||D935/A/PI/108|
|Denby||Grave plan, 1902||D935/A/PI/181|
|Derby St Alkmunds||Clerk’s rough note book of burials 1853-1864||D916/A/PI/6/7|
|Derwent||Burial and grave registers, 1908-1927||D2036/A/PI/5/1-3|
|Doveridge||Churchyard register and plan, 1890-1955||D1197/A/PI/18|
|Eckington||Register of purchased graves||D750/A/PI/5/4|
|Edensor||Partial grave plan, c1850||D1192/A/PI/223|
|Hayfield||Graveyard plan and book of reference, 1849||D2462/A/PI/12/1-2|
|Horsley||Graveyard plan and list of graves, 18th cent-1920’s||D2467/A/PI/10|
|Ilkeston St Marys||List of burials, 19th-20th cent; Reinternment file, 1992||D3082/A/PI/41, 46|
|Ironville||Burial register includes some plot details||D3088/A/PI/4/1-5|
|Kirk Hallam||Cemetery plan||D1537/A/PI/8/1|
|Mappleton||Description of tombs and gravestones and inscriptions, 1911||D845/A/PI/12|
|Netherseal||List of graves||D809/A/PI/32|
|Old Brampton||Burials waste book, 1792-1887||D947/A/PI/288|
|Overseal||Plan showing graves to be disturbed, 1951||D812/A/PC/2/1-2|
|Shottle||Draft graveyard plan and list of graves, 1973||D964/A/PD/7/1-2|
|Somercotes||Grave register and plan||D2006/A/PI/5/1-6|
|Staveley||File concerning removal of graves||D661/A/PI/143|
|Stonegravels||Proposed gravestones, 1945-1950||D2083/9/1|
|Stoney Middleton||Grave register and partial draft plan, 1879-1941||D1455/A/PI/100-1|
|Swadlincote||Memorial Inscriptions, 1847-1931||D653/A/PI/18/2|
|Whittington||Grave register, 1879-c1914||D2528/A/PI/19/1-2|
|Wirksworth||Grave plans, 1952||D3105/A/PZ/2/6n|
|Wormhill||Grave plan and index||D1372/A/PI/145-8|
It may also be worth contacting the church directly as a small number do also hold their own records about location of graves in their churchyards.
Edited 19 Jun 2020 to include details about the National Burial Index