A guide to the surviving records of the Derbyshire Coroners.
It has been the duty of county coroners since 1194 to investigate the circumstances of unnatural, sudden, or suspicious deaths, and deaths in prison, with additional functions acquired over time.
There are two coroners for Derbyshire:
Derby and South Derbyshire, based in Derby
High Peak, Chesterfield and North Derbyshire (Hundred of Scarsdale), based in Chesterfield
Very few coroners’ records survive for Derbyshire until the mid-20th century. Before then researchers are advised to look in local newspapers to discover more about deaths in Derbyshire. The following coroners’ archives survive at Derbyshire Record Office:
From 1752 to 1860, coroners were required to file their inquests at the County Quarter Sessions. Until 1926 all inquests were held before a jury. Only 38 examples of coroners’ inquests survive amongst the Quarter Sessions records. It is believed that all other early inquest reports were pulped during the Second World War, meaning that the principal primary source in this area is the coroners’ expenses returns (see below).
These inquests give: date of inquest; name of deceased; the verdict; date of death; cause of death; name of coroner; names of jurors; and constable’s receipt.
Under the Act 25 Geo II c29 (1752) fees and travelling expenses were payable to coroners. The claims submitted by the coroners usually giving place of inquest, name of victim, mileage and sometimes verdict.
Amongst a large collection of business papers and client records from Robothams Solicitors are three ledgers of William and William Harvey Whiston who acted as Coroners for County. The detail in the ledgers varies over time, but are similar to those in the Expense Claims that survive in the Quarter Sessions collection.
Due to the highly sensitive information held in the coroners files, the records are not generally available for public consultation. Please contact the relevant coroner directly if there is a specific inquest file that you require access to.
Jean A Cole and Colin D Rogers (1995) Coroners’ Inquest Records (Historical Association Short Guides to Records No. 46)
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:
Schedule of identifiable graves
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
Schedule of graves, 1956
Grave Registers, 1862-1899
Chesterfield, St Mary and All Saints
Schedules of graves
Chesterfield, Elder Yard Chapel
Churchyard plan, 1915
Chesterfield, Holy Trinity
Grave register, 1856-1864
Grave plan, 1902
Derby St Alkmunds
Clerk’s rough note book of burials 1853-1864
Burial and grave registers, 1908-1927
Churchyard register and plan, 1890-1955
Register of purchased graves
Partial grave plan, c1850
Graveyard plan and book of reference, 1849
Graveyard plan and list of graves, 18th cent-1920’s
Ilkeston St Marys
List of burials, 19th-20th cent; Reinternment file, 1992
Burial register includes some plot details
Description of tombs and gravestones and inscriptions, 1911
List of graves
Burials waste book, 1792-1887
Plan showing graves to be disturbed, 1951
Draft graveyard plan and list of graves, 1973
Grave register and plan
File concerning removal of graves
Proposed gravestones, 1945-1950
Grave register and partial draft plan, 1879-1941
Memorial Inscriptions, 1847-1931
Grave register, 1879-c1914
Grave plans, 1952
Grave plan and index
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
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.
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 (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.
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 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.
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!
Chesterfield was on Saturday night, for the first time, illuminated by the electric light. The experimental operations proved very successful; and as the Corporation are hopelessly in conflict with the local gas company, it is probable that the electric light will be a permanent institution in Chesterfield.
SINGULAR DEATH – John Shaw, the landlord of the New Inn, Greenhill lane, Alfreton, some three weeks ago was attempting to catch a wasp which was in the window of his house, when he stumbled and cut his wrist on a broken pane of glass. He bled very much at the time, and from blood poisoning and the shock to his system he died on Wednesday. It is not deemed necessary to hold an inquest.
The County Local Studies Library holds the Derby Mercury – just ring to book a microfilm reader. If you have a Derbyshire library card you can also view 19th century issues of the newspaper online.