Derbyshire Burials

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.

Churchyard Burials

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.

Civil Cemeteries

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.

Memorial Inscriptions

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:

Parish/ChurchDescriptionReference
AldercarSchedule of identifiable gravesD2574/19/2
AshoverGrave registers,1779-1828, 1846-1859D253 A/PI 10/1-2
Ashbourne St OswaldsNotes on graves (early 20th century)D662 A/PI 26/7
BrimingtonSchedule of graves, 1956D626/A/PD/6/1
CalowGrave Registers, 1862-1899D1642/A/PI/63-4
Chesterfield, St Mary and All SaintsSchedules of gravesD643/A/PI/28-29
Chesterfield, Elder Yard ChapelChurchyard plan, 1915

 

 

D6414/6/2/2
Chesterfield, Holy TrinityGrave register, 1856-1864D935/A/PI/108
DenbyGrave plan, 1902D935/A/PI/181
Derby St AlkmundsClerk’s rough note book of burials 1853-1864D916/A/PI/6/7
DerwentBurial and grave registers, 1908-1927D2036/A/PI/5/1-3
DoveridgeChurchyard register and plan, 1890-1955D1197/A/PI/18
EckingtonRegister of purchased gravesD750/A/PI/5/4
EdensorPartial grave plan, c1850D1192/A/PI/223
HayfieldGraveyard plan and book of reference, 1849D2462/A/PI/12/1-2
HorsleyGraveyard plan and list of graves, 18th cent-1920’sD2467/A/PI/10
Ilkeston St MarysList of burials, 19th-20th cent; Reinternment file, 1992D3082/A/PI/41, 46
IronvilleBurial register includes some plot detailsD3088/A/PI/4/1-5
Kirk HallamCemetery planD1537/A/PI/8/1
MappletonDescription of tombs and gravestones and inscriptions, 1911D845/A/PI/12
NethersealList of gravesD809/A/PI/32
Old BramptonBurials waste book, 1792-1887D947/A/PI/288
OversealPlan showing graves to be disturbed, 1951D812/A/PC/2/1-2
ShottleDraft graveyard plan and list of graves, 1973D964/A/PD/7/1-2
SomercotesGrave register and planD2006/A/PI/5/1-6
StaveleyFile concerning removal of gravesD661/A/PI/143
StonegravelsProposed gravestones, 1945-1950D2083/9/1
Stoney MiddletonGrave register and partial draft plan, 1879-1941D1455/A/PI/100-1
SwadlincoteMemorial Inscriptions, 1847-1931D653/A/PI/18/2
WhittingtonGrave register, 1879-c1914D2528/A/PI/19/1-2
WirksworthGrave plans, 1952D3105/A/PZ/2/6n
WormhillGrave plan and indexD1372/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

Explore Your Archive – Prisoners of War

I first became aware that there had been Napoleonic prisoners in Derbyshire when I came across an unusual gravestone at St Mary and All Saints church, Chesterfield, aka the Crooked Spire.  The inscription translated as ‘In memory of Francois Raingeard, thirty years of age, Prisoner of War, died 1oth March 1812’ and bore the message ‘Stop Traveller!  If thro’ Life’s journey, Sympathy Has found a seat in thy Breast; thou’ll drop a pitying tear to the memory of one who…’; the last line started ‘In Friendship…’, but the rest had worn away.

This wasn’t the first time there had been prisoners of war in Derbyshire.  During the Seven Years’ War with France, the Victoria County History (Vol 2) states that 300 French prisoners were sent to Derby in July 1759.  Apparently the churchwardens of Derby All Saints made an “absurdly boastful and vainglorious entry” in their books concluding:

Their behaviour at first was impudent and insolent; and at all times vain and effeminate; and their whole deportment Light and Unmanly; and we may venture to say from our observation and knowledge of them that in any future war, this Nation has nothing to fear from them as an Enemy.  During their abode here, the road from this place to Parliament was by an Act of Parliament repair’d; the part from St. Mary’s Bridge (which by reason of the floods was impassible) being greatly raised.  Numbers of these people were daily employ’d, who work’d in their Bag Whigs, Pigtails, Ruffles, &c., a matter which afforded no small merriment.  But to their Honour let it be remembered, yet scarce an Act of Fraud or Theft was committed by any of them during their stay amongst us.    

Whilst prisoners of war from the lower ranks were held in prisons or on prison ships, officers were placed on a parole of honour in which they promised not to leave or escape from the town they were sent to.  Derbyshire’s central geographic position made it an ideal place to hold the men.  Our local studies library copy (940.27) of part of the National Archives’ general entry book of French prisoners of war on parole shows that from December 1803-July 1812 there were 172 prisoners on parole at Ashbourne and from November 1803-June 1811 there were over 400 held at Chesterfield.  The parish registers for Chesterfield show that aswell as Frenchmen there were at least a few Polish, Swiss, German, Italian and Hungarian prisoners too.

D302 Z/W 1 Weekly accounts, December 1812

D302 Z/W 1 Weekly accounts, December 1812

We have at the Record Office a bound volume of letters, accounts and reports (to the Transport Board) by John Langford (D302 Z/W 1) who was appointed as the agent for the care of parole prisoners at Ashbourne in March 1812.  The accounts and the discharge information can sometimes record prisoner’s names, the name of the prize i.e. from which vessel or place the prisoner was captured, whether the prize was a man of war, privateer or merchant vessel, what rank the prisoner held, and in some records the date of the beginning of their parole at Ashbourne, their date of discharge and how much they were paid.  One particular list which records prisoners at Ashbourne who hadn’t been held on parole or in prison anywhere else in the country, also records details of their age, height, hair colour, eye colour, face shape, complexion, figure, and any wounds or distinguishing marks.

D302 Z/W 1 Accounts of subsistence paid, 1812

D302 Z/W 1 Accounts of subsistence paid, 1812

Whilst the papers don’t reveal that much about their day-to-day activities, there are some letters which let us glimpse into individual lives, such as one from 26th November 1812 giving the account of a Monsieur Frohart who was judged to be in a state of insanity.  He was lodging with a Mr Mellor in the town and it was Mellor who reported to Langford that Frohart, having been restless and singing and making a noise the preceding night, appeared deranged the next morning and ran into the street only half-dressed and broke the windows of several neighbouring properties.  Apparently a couple of years previously he had been in a similar state whilst being on parole in Chesterfield.

Other letters record the various escapes of prisoners, such as Jacques Perroud, the captain of the privateer the ‘Phoenix’, who ran away in the night in April 1812 and was believed to be heading to the Kent coast.  A physical description of him is included and it also reports what he could be wearing, topped by a new hat with a narrow crown, broadish brim, a ribbon and a small white buckle.  Captain Perroud left behind at his lodgings a trunk, four small French dictionaries, three pairs of cloth pantaloons, four old cotton shirts and two cotton pillow cases.

Between 1803 and 1815, around ten prisoners (all men on parole at Chesterfield) appear in the Quarter Sessions Calendars of Prisoners, though I’m sure the actual figure was much higher.  Half of them are being tried on charges of breaking or exceeding their parole and the other half are up on bastardy charges for fathering illegitimate children.  There are at least twelve prisoners of war, including Francois Raingeard, buried in the Crooked Spire churchyard.  From 1806 onwards there are approx. ten marriages of prisoners of war to local women and about eighteen baptisms of children of prisoners, either with wives who were also taken as prisoners or women they had met and married in Chesterfield, and also a few illegitimate children.  

The Ashbourne St Oswald registers seem to show that one local family was particularly welcoming:  15th August 1808, Vincent Pierre Fillion, a French Prisoner of War, married Hannah Whitaker, spinster; 7th May 1810, Louis Hugand, a French prisoner, married Mary Whittaker, spinster; 30th December 1811, Peter/Pierre Dupre, Prisoner of War in Ashbourne, married Elizabeth Whittaker, spinster; 26th November 1812, Otto Ernst d’Heldreich, Prisoner of War, married Margaret Whittaker, spinster. 

Whilst a few remained in Derbyshire, most of the prisoners of war, and their families, eventually returned to mainland Europe.  But aswell as the legacy of a method of glove-making which carried on and thrived in Chesterfield during the nineteenth century, as the story goes it was a French prisoner who first introduced the recipe for what is known as Ashbourne Gingerbread, which is still made and sold in the town two hundred years later.

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