Accessing our resources from home

As we cannot provide access on site at the moment due to the coronavirus, here are some links and tips for research you can do from your computer at home.

Do your family history

  • Baptism, marriage and burial registers for Church of England parishes, some as early as 1538, are on Ancestry (charge applies).  See the guide below for advice on the best way to search and browse these records
  • Baptism, marriage and burial registers for some non-conformist churches in Derbyshire have also been made available by The National Archives on The Genealogist website (charge applies).
  • Over 550 Derbyshire school admission registers and log books (i.e. head teacher’s diaries) up to 1914 are available to search and browse on Findmypast (charge applies), plus thousands more from across England and Wales.
  • Find My Past also includes Derbyshire wills before 1858 and marriage licences held by Staffordshire Record Office and selected Derbyshire electoral registers up to 1932
  • Information about Derbyshire wills between 1858 and 1928 can be searched via our catalogue using the person’s name and reference D96/*, but we are unable to provide copies at this time.  Wills after 1928 can usually be ordered online from the Probate Service
  • Any skeletons in your family closet?  Search our database of prisoner records from 1729-1913

Discover local history

  • Family History websites like Ancestry and Findmypast can also be useful for local history. Take a look at sources like the census and trade directories on these websites.
  • Browse and search nearly 60,000 historic photographs of Derby and Derbyshire on Picture the Past
  • View old maps and explore how the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site has changed over the last 200 years on the Derbyshire Heritage Mapping Portal.
  • Many historic Ordnance Survey maps for Derbyshire are also available from the National Library of Scotland
  • Several Derbyshire newspapers are searchable on the British Newspaper Archive (charge applies)

Learn something new

Don’t forget you can still search our catalogue online to discover what is held in the archives and local studies collections and start planning a future visit?

During the closure, staff will be working on several projects to make more information about our collections available online.   We will be sharing our progress here on the blog and via Twitter and hope we can provide some relief from the stresses and boredom of being inside.

If you are doing any research, why not let us know below, we are sure our other followers will be interested or even have some tips for you.

From all the staff at the record office, stay safe and well, take care.

“History is no good if it doesn’t empower you in some way” – Paul Crooks

October is Black History Month in the UK, and for several years the Record Office has taken part in the annual event hosted by the Council’s BME Employee Network.  Today I was fortunate to be able to attend on behalf of DRO, and take the opportunity to promote to local organisations our collections and deposit services, to learn more about how we can support BME historical discovery, and also to indulge in some amazing Caribbean food.

With so many of our visitors and enquirers researching their family history, I was really looking forward to hearing Paul Crooks speak about his own experiences of researching his African and Caribbean Ancestry, and perhaps even learn some tips to help us support others along the same journey.  In fact, Paul’s talk was much more wide ranging and after an introduction to the Maroon Wars of Jamaica between 1720 and 1739, he talked about two women he has discovered through his own historical and family history investigations.

The first, Nanny of the Maroons, was the matriarchal leader of “freedom fighters” who had escaped slavery in Jamaica and fought to liberate others from the island’s plantations.  A running theme throughout the day was the significance and value of individuals and individual actions on the wider world, and Nanny’s story highlighted this perfectly – the efforts of the Maroons of Jamaica may have delayed the coming of the Industrial Revolution, but they were certainly an early incarnation of the abolitionist movement of the later 18th century.  (Until today, I hadn’t heard of the Maroons – have you ever noticed how the heroes of the abolitionist movement who feature in our collective national memory are white men?  They were certainly the only people taught in my history lessons).

The second woman was somebody whose story may have remained untold had Paul not discovered her during the search for his own ancestors.  Ami Djaba was Paul’s great-great-great-great grandmother.  Born in 1777, from Krobo in Ghana, Ami was sold into slavery as a child, transported across the Atlantic and died aged 47 on a Jamaican sugar plantation.  Of all the slaves on that plantation, Ami was the only one to retain her African name.  Unfortunately, there was no time today to learn more about Ami and her life, but I shall certainly be looking up Paul’s books to find out more:

Ancestors: a novel inspired by Paul’s own forebears.

A tree without roots: the guide to tracing British, African and Asian-Caribbean ancestry

Without Paul’s fascination and determination (having been told in the 1980s that no records survive that would help him discover his ancestors), Ami’s story and her legacy could have lain hidden in the archives forever.  Archives – including at Derbyshire Record Office – are full of stories waiting to be told.  History still happened even if no-one has written it down yet and shared it with others.  The role of the archivist is to preserve the rich and wonderful evidence of people from the past who created, developed and inspired the communities we live in today so that their stories can be told.  Anybody (Everybody!) can be a historian, can discover a story, can uncover a hidden legacy, can share with the world the lives of individuals who have changed our world but are yet to be recognised.

We have been raised on a British history full of empire yet almost exclusively white (and for that matter mostly male too).  BAME individuals, families and communities at worst have been written out of our national and local histories, and at best have been merely overlooked.  Black History Month is just one way of starting to put this right, but it is through the efforts of people like Paul telling the stories of their own ancestors that as a nation we can start to put the black (and Asian, and Chinese, and all minorities) back into our shared history.

Putting the black back was very much the inspiration of the day’s next speaker Dr Gabriella Beckles-Raymond (Senior Lecturer in Womanist Theology, Philosophy, and Culture at Canterbury Christ Church University), but more on this soon.  For now, I want to end in the same way Paul ended his presentation as it genuinely brought tears to my eyes, thinking not only of the powerful story he shared of Ami’s stolen childhood and freedom, but of the power of or rather in history…

Having spent 13 years researching his ancestors (mostly before the availability on online research tools), in 2004 Paul visited Cape Coast Castle in Ghana where Ami had been imprisoned before walking through the ‘Door of No Return’ and onto the slave ship that transported her to the other side of the world in 1785.  From the 16th-19th centuries, over 3 million human beings were sold into slavery, walking through similar doors knowing that there would never be coming home.  When Paul visited,  he too walked through the door of no return, but in the opposite direction.

 

Digitising History

Have you ever worried that your old letters, certificates, photographs, maps and diaries are getting damaged whenever you handle them?  You want to share them with the family, give everyone the opportunity to connect with long-gone relatives, but you can see creases gradually turning into tears. And what about those framed photographs hanging on the walls?  They are fading in the light, changing gradually, getting irrevocably damaged.  The best way to keep all these treasures safe, is to make copies: this allows you to store the originals out of harm’s way, while the copies can be handled and displayed. With a digital copy you can even print off as many duplicates as you like, as often as you need them.

We have been copying our records in order to protect them for a long time, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve opened up our copying service to everyone, from individuals to heritage organisations: we can now digitise your history for you.

Digitising history image

Our experienced staff, using the same equipment they use for all the historic records we hold, are able to digitise:

  • diaries, journals and other bound volumes
  • letters, certificates and other documents
  • photographs
  • maps and plans
  • drawings, watercolours and prints

What are the advantages of trusting Derbyshire Record Office with your family’s history?

  • We have a state of the art digitisation system, including a book cradle for safely copying bound volumes.
  • Our staff are highly trained in handling delicate historic records.
  • Whilst in our care, you records will be kept safe in one of our secure archive stores.
  • We provide high quality images of at least 300 pixels per inch (ppi).
  • We give you the choice between TIFF files, which have a very high resolution but take up a lot of space and can be slow to open, or Jpegs, which have a smaller resolution, but take up a lot less space.
  • We put the images on a CD for you for free, or for a small charge on a USB stick

To ask for a quote, simply fill in a Digitising History quote request form on our website.

 

‘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

Archives at the Abbey: 1 (un)stately home, 4 boxes, 8 hours, 600 visitors (well almost)

It was the busiest weekend I think we have ever had for staff from the record office, you have already heard about how we popped up at the Wirksworth Festival, which sounded amazing. I couldn’t make it along myself as I went along to Calke Abbey, home of the Harpur-Crewe family, with a small selection of original archives from their large collection (ref: D2375).

Oh my God! I can really touch it?! Oh my God!

It’s mouth watering stuff – are you putting up beds? I could stay all night. It’s wonderful

With over 580 visitors over just two afternoons, we were thrilled with how much people enjoyed handling the original material and amazed at some of the things they found out. Continue reading

Aliens! Internees during the Second World War

Curious people that we are, we do like to receive enquiries that test our research skills. We recently received another interesting research enquiry, on the subject of internship during the Second World War.

The enquiry we had was regarding an employee of the John Smedley company based in Lea, near Cromford, originally from Vienna. We were asked whether we could add any information regarding her life, as a potential internee as an ‘enemy alien’ during the Second World War.

Via this enquiry we came across the National Archives Internees Records which can be viewed online and downloaded. Having looked through some of the images, they provide a fascinating and often sad insight into the backgrounds of many of who had escaped the Nazis and come to the UK to find work. Many were overqualified for the work they were doing and had often left other members of their families behind.

It’s also an interesting insight into the use of language during the prevailing political and social climate of the late 1930s and 1940s. Here are some examples of the information in these records, all of whom were exempted from internship (thanks to the National Archives who granted permission to use the images) :

internshipinterns

Internee 5Internne2Internee 3Internee 2

intern#

We would really like to hear of any memories or stories you have relating to this subject in Derbyshire.

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!

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

Distant family…or not so distant?

A recent visitor to the Record Office reminded me of a really important point when researching your family tree – distance! It’s important to remember how people travelled and why, in the past, which can help when searching nearby parishes and areas for those ‘lost’ ancestors.

The example in question was of a relative who had been born in Hucknall, but had possibly travelled ‘over the border’ for work.  The visitor initially thought that Heanor parish would have been too far away, having used a satnav to calculate the distance.  They obviously realised that this was giving them the distance by modern road, which we all take for granted so much these days (the distance was around 15 miles). However, as the crow flies, the distance was around 7 miles, a not unfeasible mileage for someone in the early 1800s to have walked to find work (particularly as the ancestor in question was an agricultural labourer).

It’s easy to assume that ‘in the old days’ our ancestors simply stayed in one place and worked wherever there was labour available locally. However, like the present day, people did travel long distances to a place of work, or perhaps where more lucrative work was available.

Capture

Of course many people also emigrated from the UK to try and increase their opportunities. If you think a relative may have emigrated, passenger lists for ships heading overseas can be found on family history websites such as Find my Past and Ancestry To get an idea of how many people emigrated from the UK between 1890 and 1960, I entered my name into the passenger lists, and it came up with 386 entries during those years!

Parish Map

Old maps can be a really useful source of information about the conditions, providing information about distance, terrain and settlements. Knowing the occupation of the person you are trying to trace is also useful (these can be found on census returns, or in trade directories). Additionally, knowing the main employment centres of the time can help e.g. mills, farms, manor houses.

Learning about the historical background as to how, why and where people travelled in the time period you are looking at can really help narrow down a tricky search (even though family members might convince you that your relatives never moved from one area!)

We have plenty of resources at the Record Office to help you with this: in addition to the online local studies and archive resources our Local Studies Library has county parish maps, trade directories and guides to ancestors’ occupations.  The other resource we have of course, are our helpful staff!

Let us know if you have ever been ‘led up the garden path’ by a relative you were sure never could have strayed far…

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!