Nothing but Nuns!

Index of Nuns

Following hot on the heels of the Record Office appearance at Derbyshire County Council’s International Women’s Day is a female-focused addition to the Local Studies Collection. It’s a searchable Index of Nuns from the Catholic Family History Society on CD.

It lists records of approximately 14,000 nuns who professed later than 1795, with information about their parents, birth, religious name, profession and death. It should provide a fascinating and useful reference to anyone who might be researching their family history and knows there might have been a nun in the family!

February is LGBT History Month!

LGBT History Magazine 2016It has Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year & Shrove Tuesday, to name a few events, but February is also LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month. It aims to promote equality and diversity by making LGBT stories more visible to the public, and campaigning for greater awareness through education. It is always a challenge to find positive accounts about the LGBT experience in history, as so many historical experiences have involved persecution e.g. of homosexuals by the Nazis during World War 2.

However, with the release of popular films such as Pride, about a London based gay and lesbian activist group joining forces with a mining village in Wales against the policies of the Thatcher Government in the 1980s, there has been more mainstream coverage of the LGBT experience and its role in the history of protest and contribution to positive change. The LGBT History Month website has lots of great examples (as well as reminders that there is still plenty of work to do to where discrimination is concerned). It also has a link to an online LGBT Archive (the ‘Random page’ option is a marvellous lucky dip for fact lovers!)  LGBT Archive image

So what LGBT history and references do we hold at the Record Office?

There are limited references to anything obviously LGBT related in the catalogue, but I eventually turned up a few finds. Firstly, an absolute gem of an article, courtesy of the Derbyshire Family History Society periodical (from December 2014). It’s a family history research article with a twist, which also demonstrates the importance of talking to family members and uncovering those hidden ‘secrets’ when researching relatives.

Farewell to Frocks

Its title is ‘Farewell to Frocks’ and is about the difficulties of tracking down the history of a relative who changed their gender identity (in this case the Uncle had started life as a girl).  Incredibly, this all happened in the early 1920s.  What is even more remarkable is that the researcher discovered that there was even a news story published in the News of the World about it. It’s a fascinating and informative read.

 I also came across a selection of novels by Narvel Annable who is a local author and LGBT activist.  His books, which describe in detail life in 1960s Derbyshire, have been called ‘gay thrillers.’  They are often ‘whodunnits,’ written in a colourful style, with plenty of dialogue, that follow a coming of age theme and deal with the issues of homophobia, identity and local language and dialect.  Well worth a read! Narvel’s novels can be found in our ‘Local Authors’ section of the Local Studies library.

Last, but by no means least, another book in our Local Authors collection stood out – ‘Born this Way: the life of Joshua’ by Brett Bradley-Howarth.  It’s a coming of age story about Joshua, growing up as a young man and coming to terms with being gay.

Online information about the author is limited, but judging by some online reviews the book has been well received and really enjoyed by those who have read it.  If anyone has any information about Brett, can recommend some further local LGBT reading, or have a review or an opinion about any of the books or articles we have mentioned, please get in touch!Born this Way

Advent Calendar – Day 20

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Derbyshire Parish Registers, edited by WPW Phillimore. and Lt Lt Simpson, often referred to simply as Phillimore’s

Published in 15 volumes this incredibly useful resource (which is available on the open shelves in the Computer Room) provides printed transcripts of marriage records from the earliest extant registers for each of the 75 parishes covered.

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Phillimore’s ‘Derbyshire Parish Registers’

As any of you who have used early (i.e. mid 16th to early 18th century) parish registers will know, the handwriting and language you find does not make life easy for family historians – or indeed other researchers searching for information amongst these wonderful volumes. Fortunately, however, there are a good number of transcripts available to speed up the process and help along the way. Some transcripts, such as those by Phillimore, were created for publication; many of the transcripts available (particularly for Derbyshire) have actually been produced by enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers and we are grateful that copies are donated to us to make available to you.

The transcripts can vary in how useful they are (and with a small number being handwritten there can still be issues reading the handwriting occasionally). Some transcripts include merely a chronological list of the main information, some add a little more detail from the registers – if there is any that is – some will provide a name index to help you mop up all occurrences of the name you are looking for. Many transcripts are available in electronic format as well or instead of, which can make finding the information very quick indeed. You may already know that there are a large number of transcripts for Derbyshire parish registers available via the International Genealogical Index (produced and maintained by the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints), but comprehensive indexes and transcripts for some parishes are also available to search via the PCs at the Record Office.

Nevertheless, whatever transcript you might use, we would always strongly recommend following up that information in the registers themselves. All the transcripts have been made by individuals and are subject to human error, regardless of how diligent the transcriber may have been (and some are certainly more diligent than others). Besides seeing the information as it was actually written, particularly for post-1754 marriages where you are likely to find your ancestor’s signature or ‘mark’, does make the whole process even more rewarding.

Advent Calendar – Day 18

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Chesterfield and District Family History Society magazine, no. 92 (Sep 2012), available in Local Studies

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Featured in this edition are

  • a report of the meeting held on 3 July, which included a talk from Ian Morgan about “Within Site of the Gibbet”, ‘a tale of murder, highway robbery and transportation in the Peak District and featuring the well-known story of Robert Blincoe, an apprentice at Litton Mill
  • details of records and information found amongst the archives here about Chesterfield during the Civil War
  • an account by Doreen Rodgers of her great-grandmother Sarah Milner, and the difficulties she had faced and had caused her family to face as well.

The Chesterfield and District Family History Society (CADFHS) was established in September 1989 and their first newsletter was published that October. CADFHS continue to donate a copy of their quarterly magazine to our Local Studies collection, and these are preserved amongst our periodicals section in the main Local Studies store room at the Record Office.

There are hundreds of titles of local magazines, newspapers, newsletters as well as national journals and periodicals, in the local studies collection spanning a wide range of themes and subjects across Derbyshire. From family history magazines and society newsletters, parish magazines, research journals, printed minutes, reports and other publications of local organisations, including local authorities, year books and more.

If you are interested in taking a look at any of these items, just drop by and we can get them out for you. Unlike material held in the archive collection, we can retrieve almost all material held in the local studies collection within a few minutes – some items on the public access shelves, but we will still be very happy to help you find the right items.

Advent Calendar – Day 11

Getting closer…

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‘My Ancestor was a Lunatic: A Guide to Sources for Family Historians ‘, by Kathy Chater – this is a new book that has recently arrived in the Local Studies collection.

'My Ancestor was a lunatic: a guide to family history sources' - available in the local studies collection

‘My Ancestor was a lunatic: a guide to family history sources’ – available in the local studies collection

If you’re doing family history, the ‘My Ancestor was a …’ guides are really useful, search for them on the Derbyshire Libraries Catalogue.

There are some 19th century records relating to lunatic asylums now available on Ancestry and other family history sites. Where they have survived the original records for the Derby County and Derby Borough asylums are here at the Record Office (see our online catalogue for collections D1658 and D5874 for information about the records available). However, due to the personal and very sensitive nature of the records, it is not possible to view most of the records in person. For more information about obtaining information from the records using our research service, please contact the Duty Archivist on 01629 538347.

Advent Calendar – Day 7

And behind number 7 is…

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Hilary Marshall’s Palaeography for Family and Local Historians

Hilary Marshall's 'Palaeography for Family and Local Historians' - available in Local Studies

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Available on the shelves in the Computer Room, this is a great guide for beginners and intermediates trying to read old handwriting in different documents, all used for family and local history. From parish registers to title deeds, this guide includes handy alphabets showing the different shapes each letter might take, example documents with transcripts and explanations to help you practice.

Another day in the life of…

I may have been a bit eager to get the next instalment of ‘a day in the life of…’ written, as back at the beginning of November I did promise that another would follow in December, well we’ve hit 1 December so here it is.

It felt like we probably had an ever so slightly busier day yesterday than last time, with more customers visiting the search room (and local studies who I know had a very busy yesterday). However, as I looked back at our statistics we didn’t actually retrieve as many documents from the stores as the previous day I blogged about. It is often the case that more people in the search room does not necessarily mean more documents being requested (and vice versa with fewer people and a higher number of document orders) – this usually depends on the documents themselves and the information they contain, for example is it a document that is quick to look at or needs some time to be read and considered. Yesterday, the main reason for difference is that three of the customers each spent a few hours in the search room, looking at only two documents each. Although not all working together, they were all consulting the documents in great detail in order to make accurate transcripts that can then be used to obtain the same information without necessarily consulting the original document – which also helps us to protect the document by reducing handling.

We also had visits from people researching the geography and buildings in Duffield, two colleagues from the Legal Services team investigating the history and status of a particular road in the Peak District (see them hard at work below), a regular customer and researcher with various interests, this time looking at Methodist records, a new customer looking for an ancestor in the school admission register, as well as others who have visited for reasons that I do not know…

As before, here are the rest of my snaps from the day showing the range of resources used (click on an image for a full description)

A day at the archive issue desk…

Every day the search room staff produce a wide range of documents, differing not only in the information they provide, but also the dates they were created, how and why they were created, how and why they will be used. All documents are collected and returned through the issue desk so we can ensure the best protection and security possible during access. As part of this procedure, all our visitors must order the documents required so that we can retrieve the correct item from the stores, sign to say they have received the document, initial to say they have returned it, and a staff member must sign to say they have returned it to the stores.

The gallery below includes many of the documents that were requested and consulted on one particular day last month (Tuesday 13 October). On that day, we had visits from:

  • a county council colleague working in the legal services department
  • an Australian lady trying to find a photograph (unsuccessfully) and other information (successfully) about a criminal ancestor
  • a medieval historian searching for clues about land ownership in Eggington
  • a budding local historian interested in that peculiarly Derbyshire tradition of well-dressings
  • a second family historian searching for the father’s name of one of her ancestors who was born a bastard in 1818
  • a third family historian endeavouring to discover the exact grave location of an ancestor buried at St Oswald’s church in Ashbourne
  • a National Trust volunteer from Calke Abbey looking for various bits of information relating to the house and the Harpur Crewe family for a new learning resources being developed there.


Not  all our visitors go away satisfied with what they have found out, sometimes because they were expecting to find something else, and sometimes because the records didn’t actually give them an answer at all. However, it is very rare that we have that we have visitors who have not enjoyed the experience of searching through and handling the archives. Often they have to test their skills of reading old handwriting (and the archivist’s skills sometimes too!). Usually they unintentionally discover how different records were created and kept at different times and in different places – for example, it is extremely uncommon to find a record of where in a churchyard a particular grave is located, but there are some churches or vicars that did record this information.

Another day in the life of the issue desk coming next month…

Key players in the FitzHerbert Family

When you’re cataloguing a large family collection such as this, it’s fair to say there’s always a large number of people involved! The FitzHerbert family is no exception and throughout the listing process where I’ve been looking through all of the material in all the boxes (see my earlier posts), there is certainly a large amount of correspondence.

Some of this correspondence is business related, regarding the Tissington estate (also some of the other estates), Whilst some of the correspondence is private, between friends and family about a whole array of subjects.

This adds to the already catalogued material of this collection and fills what would otherwise be an incomplete gap. Take a look at the catalogue for collection D239 here.It also gives an insight into the lives and personalities of those who are writing the letters. Given that the material in these particular boxes dates rom the late eighteenth century to the 1960s, it is four of the FitzHerbert Baronets who are the main authors of the letters, the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Baronets: Sir William, Sir Richard, Sir Hugo Meynell and Sir William.

Including friends and workers on the Tissington Estate, they correspond with some interesting people, Edward Ford being one significant individual. A gentleman called Col. Weetman is a name frequently mentioned, he was an insurance agent for the FitzHerberts. Why not come and read the correspondence when its all sorted and properly catalogued?

In my next post I hope to tell you about some of the items I’ve discovered which are ‘treasures’…

A week in the life of a work experience student…

As a student with an interest in history (hoping to go on to studying this at university), I chose the archives as the ideal work placement for my year 12 work experience. With this in mind I applied to the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock and have been spending a week here observing the work that is done.

On Monday morning I began my week of work experience at 9 o’clock starting with a tour of the record office itself (including archives and local studies). I was surprised by the amount of resources available especially in terms of the number of documents kept at the record office; with almost five miles of shelving to boast of throughout one can only imagine the amount of information available. Then there are the documents themselves. It was amazing to see the original and unique documents kept at the record office as well as how well they have been preserved. My first afternoon was spent in conservation, something I was eager to see; as well as being made aware of the different dangers posed to the documents kept at the record office (including temperature, humidity, insect damage, wear and possible fire damage) and how these risks are managed (for example through carefully monitoring the environment), I was also shown the different methods of repairing documents that have been damaged. I was even able to try a preservation technique for myself in the form of cleaning some documents.

On my second day I helped in a year five school session, in order to complete a project on local history they wished to use the facilities at the record office. The areas of interest included John Smedley, the hydros of Matlock, and begin to look at how leisure has changed from the industrial revolution. In order to fulfil this a session had been planned in which the children would look at documents relating to John Smedley, use documents to create their own exhibition on hydros, and create a timeline of leisure activities which had been sourced from the information available from the archives. There were two groups of students; those who weren’t at the record office were taken into Matlock in order to see how the town has changed from past photos to the present day. I found it enjoyable to work with the children and see how enthusiastic most were about the activities that had been planned for them. They seemed pleased to be able to use primary sources to find out more about figures they had studied (such as John Smedley).

Wednesday morning was spent in local studies which houses books relating to Derbyshire and also has computers where people can begin to research their family history. I was given a tour of the facilities offered then using Ancestry.co.uk was able to look at different types of census data (for example how the census changed between 1911 and 1841). Then, using the available facilities, I was given an example enquiry and had to find information about the given person – this included looking at their family through different censuses and finding baptism records to place approximate dates of birth. Although I did attempt some family history the fact that my surname is so common made it difficult. After lunch the project work began and my first task was re-cataloguing documents relating to Derbyshire sent from Sheffield Archives, this was a rather broad collection (ranging from a deed from 1386 to accounts). Admittedly some of the text was difficult to read (especially the older documents), however it became much easier over time to provide a description and locate a date. The information will soon be input into the online catalogue. The documents also needed to be numbered so that they worked with the system employed at the record office. Part of what I enjoyed most about the placement was the fact that I was able to get so close to the original documents therefore the project work was some of my favourite that I completed over the week.

Another part of the record office I experienced on my placement was the search room, this was on Thursday morning. After a tour and introduction to the services offered (including how specific documents could be found), I was able to order recipe books so that the second project could begin. This involved typing up the contents of recipe books which would then be available on the online catalogue. Whilst some of the recipes were familiar to me (including Bakewell pudding and gingerbread), others were not for example the extraordinary variety of wine. As these had been hand written it was often difficult to decipher exactly what the recipe was of, especially due to the fact that multiple authors were sometimes involved, although eventually the meaning could be found resulting in a lovely sense of accomplishment. The afternoon was then spent with ‘Picture the Past’, a project involving Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby City and Nottingham City aiming to digitise original photographs of the areas. These could be from libraries sent by the local authority or donated by the public and, as a result, there are photos of most areas on the website. Work here included checking links on the website and discussing how the services offered by ‘Picture the Past’ could be used in schools. To see the work done by the ‘Picture the Past’ project please see http://www.picturethepast.org.uk/. From searching the area in which I live I was able to see images of the railway and factories that had been present. It was fascinating to see how much the local area has changed even if there was some sense of familiarity in the landscape.

On my final day at the record office I continued with the work sent from Sheffield Archives (as several boxes were to be catalogued). Handling the documents myself made me aware of the huge amount of information held by the record office not only including legal documents but also personal letters and pedigree charts.

My week spent at the record office has been a truly interesting one, I have been fascinated by the documents I have seen and also the amount of resources that the record office and local studies offers to the public. As a result of my interest in history it has been remarkable to view and touch the documents that have evident historical importance.

Anna Burton