Bishops’ Transcripts

A guide to finding Bishops’ Transcripts for Derbyshire and how they can help family historians.

What are Bishops’ Transcripts?

In 1598, parishes were ordered to send an annual copy of all baptisms, marriages and burials for the year to the church authorities.  These returns are known as ‘Bishop’s Transcripts’, or BTs for short, and continued to be made until the late 19th century, although there were lapses in local diligence in sending the returns.

Why are Bishops’ Transcripts useful?

The BTs can be very useful when the original registers are hard to read or if a register is missing (for example, early Bolsover registers are missing following a fire in the 1960s).  Both Bishop’s Transcripts and parish registers can contain entries not found in the other.

Draft registers were often used for compiling both the register and the Bishop’s Transcript. Discrepancies arose and there can be differences in dates, surnames and given names.

Bishops’ Transcripts for Derbyshire

Derbyshire was part of the Diocese of Lichfield until the middle of the 19th century, so the Bishops Transcripts were kept with the Diocesan archives Lichfield Record Office, now part of Staffordshire Record Office. Contact Staffordshire Record Office for guidance on accessing and consulting the BTs.

With the exception of a few parishes, the earliest transcripts survive only from the 1660s, traditionally thought to be as a result of loss during the Civil War and the Commonwealth period.

There is no uniform cut-off date for the transcripts of baptisms and burials and these can cease at any time between the 1830s and 1880s.  Marriages are rarely included after 1837.

Further Reading
  • Jeremy Gibson Bishops’ Transcripts and Marriage Licences, Bonds and Allegations: A guide to their locations and indexes – available in the Computer Room

Civil Registration: births, marriages and deaths

A guide to searching for information about births, marriages and deaths in Derbyshire after September 1837, including the information provided on a certificate and how to order a copy certificate.


Civil registration is the official recording of births, marriages and deaths. In England and Wales, the system was established in September 1837 and is still in place today. The registration of births and deaths was not compulsory until 1874, although non-registration of deaths before this date is uncommon as burial could not take place without a death certificate.

Registrations districts (main source:

The country was divided into Registration Districts, each under the control of a Superintendent Registrar. The districts were based on the Poor Law Unions, with no correlation to existing boundaries.

District Name Dates Comments
Ashbourne 1837-  
Bakewell 1839- known as Matlock district until 1839
Belper 1837-1994 superseded by Amber Valley
Chapel-en-le-Frith 1838-1974 preceded and later superseded by High Peak
Chesterfield 1837-  
Derby 1837-  
Erewash 1997- created out of parts of the Derby and Ilkeston
Glossop 1898-1974 created out of Hayfield; superseded by High Peak
Hayfield 1838-1938 preceded and later superseded by Chapel-en-le-Frith
High Peak 1837-1838, 1974- re-created in 1974 from Chapel-en-le-Frith, Glossop and Hayfield
Ilkeston 1938-1997 created from Shardlow and Belper; superseded by Erewash
Repton 1937-1974 created from parts of Burton-on-Trent; superseded by Swadlincote
Shardlow 1837-1974 superseded by Derby (many parishes transferred out before 1974)
South Derbyshire 1997 created from parts of the Derby and Swadlincote
Swadlincote 1974-1997 created from Repton and superseded by South Derbyshire

Some parts of Derbyshire were covered by the following non-Derbyshire districts up to 1938: Ashby de la Zouch (to 1938), Basford (to 1936), Burton upon Trent (to 1936), Ecclesall Bierlow (to 1935), Mansfield (to 1936), Rotherham (to 1895), Tamworth (to 1895), Uttoexter (to 1935), and Worksop (to 1936).

Find out which district a particular place was in with this online guide. Lists of the places covered by each district are also available.

What information is on a certificate?
  • Birth: child’s name, sex, date and place of birth, father’s name and occupation (usually blank if the child is illegitimate), mother’s name (and maiden name from June 1911), informant’s signature, residence and description (i.e. relationship with child)
  • Marriage: date, place, denomination (if marriage in a church), names of bride and groom, condition (i.e. bachelor/spinster, widow, etc.), age (or note that the parties are ‘of full age’), occupation, residence at time of marriage, names and occupations of their fathers, signatures of bride, groom and witnesses.
  • Death: name, age, date, place, cause of death, occupation, informants: relationship, signature and residence. On children’s death certificates, the parents’ names are usually found in the occupation field.
Civil Registration Indexes

Indexes are available for the birth, marriage and death registers from 1837. The indexes are arranged by quarter, so there are four separate indexes for each calendar year:

  • Quarter 1: Jan – Mar
  • Quarter 2: Apr – Jun
  • Quarter 3: Jul – Sep
  • Quarter 4: Oct – Dec

From 1837, all the indexes provide at least the subject’s name, registration district, volume and page number. From 1865, the death indexes include age at death, with dates of birth included from March 1969. From 1911, marriage indexes include the spouse’s surname. From June 1911, birth indexes include the mother’s maiden name.

The indexes are available to search for free online at FreeBMD and General Register Office, as well as via subscription sites such as Ancestry and Find My Past until the early 21st century. Indexes can also be searched on microfilm at Derbyshire Record Office.

Ordering certificates

Derbyshire Record Office is unable to provide any copy birth or death certificates. We can provide copy marriage certificates if the ceremony took place in a Derbyshire church. Certificates can be obtained online from the General Register Office ( or by contacting the relevant local register office (contact details for the Derbyshire register offices can be found on the County Council website). To order a certificate you will need to quote the information obtained from the indexes (see above). There is a standard charge for all certificates set by the General Register Office.

What about before 1837?

Before September 1837, there was no official system for recording births, marriages and deaths. However, since the mid-16th century Anglican churches had been required to record baptisms, marriages and burials taking place in their parish, and where the registers survive, these are available to search at Derbyshire Record Office.

Useful tips: Births
  • Before 1874 the Registrar would to travel within his sub-district to ask about new births. After 1874 when birth registration became compulsory the person having charge of the child was responsible for informing the Registrar; and there was a fine for late registration (after 6 weeks).
  • It was common for widows and widowers with small children to remarry quickly. As the bride will be registered under her first husband’s name it can affect the process of searching for her birth. At you can search for a marriage using only the bride’s first name and groom’s surname. However, the number of results may be too large to identify the correct entry with certainty.
  • Records (especially census returns) may not always record ages accurately. Search at least two years before and after. Inaccuracies and deliberate untruths mean the search often needs to be wider.
  • Still births are not included at all until 1927, but from 1 July 1927 onwards are recorded separately in their own volumes. Adopted children are also recorded separately from 1 January 1927. 
  • Children whose name has not been decided at the time of registration are listed as Male/Female at the end of the list of the relevant surname. Many such children died shortly after birth, so check the same or next quarter for a matching death record. If one cannot be found, this birth entry may be the one you are seeking. Children with no surnames are listed after Z at the end of each quarter.
Useful tips: Marriages
  • If you can’t find an entry, start by confirming the birth of the oldest known child (try the census for this). If you can only establish the birth of one child, assume it is the youngest of many, and search back from that child’s birth until the mother would have been 12 (the then legal minimum age for marriage).
  • Don’t assume there is a marriage just because a birth certificate implies one – unmarried couples were more common in large towns, though examples exist in rural communities too. Divorce was not an option for most, and long-term, stable unions could not be made legal because of earlier marriages.
Useful tips: Deaths
  • Burials could only take place after the death was registered; therefore it is unusual not to be able to find a death entry. If it can’t be found in the indexes, the problem is likely to be an error in the transcription. It may be necessary to pay for a search of the original registers at the local registry office covering the area where you think your ancestor died; or search for a burial first. You can also browse the original indexes on Ancestry.
  • Ages on a death certificate may be inaccurate, informants may remember the birth day and month but not known the exact year, so don’t necessarily rule out an entry where the year of birth is incorrect.
  • Name Changes: Surnames might be changed for a number of different reasons e.g. to inherit a legacy, to identify with a much-loved stepfather, to evade the police, desertion (army or spouse/family). Christian names could also change, with some never using their birth names in adult life or taking on names later for personal reasons. Changes are not always deliberate: order of names can change, spelling is not fully standardised, and with low literacy rates, spelling was determined according to how a name sounded to the person writing it down.
  • Missing Information: A woman’s previous married name may not be recorded; forenames are not always given in full; the lack of a father’s name on a marriage certificate implies illegitimacy but check the birth certificate; a marriage certificate will record the father’s name and occupation, but may not always indicate if the father is deceased (as it was not compulsory to record this information); where only one address is recorded on a marriage certificate, it does not necessarily mean that they were previously living together (it may be an administrative convenience, the bride’s address is the mostly likely to be recorded).
  • Human Error: Mis-spellings may occur at the time the original register and indexes were being written (e.g. due to illiteracy on the part of the parents, the registrar mishearing or misunderstanding the information, or simply more than one way to spell the name as standardisation of spelling had not yet occurred). Rare names are often mis-spelt as common names or something similar sounding. Errors may also occur on the online indexes that don’t appear in the original index (when the modern transcriber is entering the information into the online database).
  • Date of registration: events are filed in the index by the date they were registered, not the date that they occurred (e.g. a birth of 25 Dec 1867 was probably registered in Jan-Mar quarter 1868)
  • Events outside England and Wales: certain classes of people are not found in the indexes, including army, war deaths, at sea, abroad. Separate registers were kept for such events. See The National Archives online guides for more information.

Further Reading

  • Langston, Brett (2001) A Handbook to the Civil Registration districts of England and Wales
  • Dixon, Barbara (1999) Birth and Death Certificates: England and Wales 1837-1969
  • McLaughlin, Eve (2001) Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths


Church Registers

A guide to Derbyshire Anglican, Catholic and Non-Conformist church registers.

Derbyshire Record Office is also the Derby Diocesan Record Office for the Church of England.  Many non-conformist churches also deposit their records and registers.  Catholic registers, however, are mostly held elsewhere (see below).

Anglican (Church of England) Parish Registers

Parish registers are the main source for family history in the period before 1837 (when civil registration was introduced), and one of the key resource held at Derbyshire Record Office.  As a general rule, the registers do not record information about births and deaths; they record church ceremonies, i.e. baptisms, marriages, and burials.  Many of the parishes have registers dating back to the 16th century.  The earliest registers are written in Latin and we have produced a guide to help you understand the different entries – with just a little bit of knowledge and experience it is much easier than you might expect.

As a key family history resource, the registers are extremely popular and surrogates exist for the majority of items (on microfilm or DVD).  The majority of Church of England registers are also available online via the family history website Ancestry:

  • Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 (marriages to 1754 only)
  • Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932
  • Baptisms, 1813-1916
  • Burials, 1813-1991

There are hundreds of Anglican churches and chapels across the county.  Our Parish Register Guide (published 2010) provides an alphabetical summary of all the parishes identifying how the parishes have developed over the last four hundred years, e.g. Alsop-en-le-Dale was originally in the parish of Ashbourne and Belper was originally in the parish of Duffield.  It also identifies those parishes that were once in Derbyshire but have now been transferred to other counties or dioceses (such as Mellor, now Cheshire, and Norton, now Sheffield).

For registers deposited since 2010 and other church records, you can search the online catalogue using the reference number in brackets after the parish name.

In the 17th-19th centuries, Derbyshire parishes sent an annual copy of all baptisms, marriages and burials diocese in Lichfield.  Known as the ‘Bishop’s Transcripts’ they do sometimes include information from registers that have not survived amongst the parish archives, or entries that were perhaps missed from the originals.

For other records created by the Church of England in Derbyshire, see our Guide to Anglican Ecclesiastical Records.

Non-Conformist Church Registers

Non-conformist is a catch-all term for all non-Anglican (i.e. non-Church of England) Christian denominations, including Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Unitarian, Presbyterian, Quaker and Roman Catholic.

Some registers survive from the 17th century, but for most chapels registers only survive from the late 18th or early 19th century.  As a result of Hardwick’s Marriage Act of 1753, all marriages had to take place in Anglican churches, although many families may have continued to attend the Anglican church for their ceremonies and it is always worth checking the earlier Anglican registers.  Quaker and Jewish marriage ceremonies were also recognised as valid.  After 1837, marriages were required to be conducted by licensed persons and gradually more non-conformist ministers were licensed.

Under the Non-Parochial Register Act of 1840, all non-conformist and foreign churches (not synagogues) in England and Wales were required to send their registers to the Registrar General.  These are now held at The National Archives in series RG4, RG5, RG6 and RG8.  From 1880 non-conformist burial ceremonies were permitted in Anglican churchyards.

Burial registers from 1713 are held at The National Archives, with microfilm copies for Derbyshire Churches available at Derbyshire Record Office.

The information in the Non-Conformist registers can vary considerably, but they are likely to contain details of: births/baptisms, marriages, and deaths/burials.  The details given for each event also varies, but was normally very similar to that found in Anglican registers, although births and deaths are more commonly recorded.  Use the Non-Conformist Register List to see what records are available and check the online catalogue, searching the Title field for the place name and the word ‘church’.

Catholic Registers

Derbyshire Record Office’s holdings of Catholic Church registers is very sparse as they are designated repositories elsewhere for the preservation of catholic records relating to Derbyshire.  The majority of the county falls under the Nottingham Diocese, with records held at the Nottingham Diocesan Archives; churches in Chesterfield, Dronfield, Bamford, Clowne, Staveley, Hathersage and Spinkhill fall under the Hallam Diocese, whose records are held at Sheffield Archives.

As with other non-Anglican churches, after 1840, Catholic churches were also required to send their registers to the Registrar General.  However, with performance of Catholic ceremonies illegal before 1836, very few registers were submitted by Catholic churches.  Sometimes before the 1836 Emancipation Act, Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials may appear in Anglican registers with the word ‘papist’ or ‘recusant’ next to each entry.  Between 1754 and 1837, most Catholics married in Anglican churches to ensure their marriage was valid under English law.  However, many are not recorded in Anglican registers, either because a Catholic family refused to attend an Anglican church, or because the Anglican incumbent refused to conduct ceremonies for Papists.  In the absence of alternative burial grounds before 1855 Catholics were generally buried in Anglican churchyards, but not necessarily recorded in the registers.

Catholic registers held by Derbyshire Record Office are listed in the Non-Conformist Register List.

Other Faiths

Very few archive records for other faiths have been deposited with Derbyshire Record Office:

  • Derby Hebrew Congregation – D3290
  • Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sikh Congregation – D6659
Further Reading

There are a very large number of books and other guides available in the Local Studies Library about undertaking family history research all of which refer to church registers.

There are also a wide range of online guides from The National Archives.

The Catholic Archives Society promotes the identification and listing of Catholic records and publishes an annual periodical which is available in Local Studies.  The Society itself does not hold any archive records but may be able to offer research advice.

Beginner’s Latin

A guide for family historians using church registers before 1733 when Latin is the official language, identifying key words and phrases to help you make sense of the records.

Although not the common spoken language in England, the official written language was Latin until 1733. Many priests did start using English before 1733, and it is very common to find entries during the Civil War (1643-1653) and Commonwealth (1653-1660) periods too. If you studied Latin at school, this will help, but beware Medieval Latin can be archaic and is quite different from Classical Latin.

A few words of warning before you begin
  • Abbreviations: Latin words and names are heavily abbreviated. Although the abbreviations are not always consistent, they are often found as a at the end of the word or a line across the top near where the missing letters should be: e.g. Johes [Johannes – John] or Rici’ [Ricardi – Richard]
  • Inflections: Latin is an inflected language, meaning that many words, such as personal names, have different endings according to their meaning. For example, Hannah filia Caroli Lomas et Hanne uxoris bapt. Meaning: Hannah daughter of Charles Lomas and Hannah his wife was baptised.
  • Spelling: There is no standard spelling of surnames and many place names; this doesn’t mean a name has been spelt incorrectly as all forms are correct. It is also very unusual to find a capital ‘F’,; instead ‘ff’ is used, but it should be translated as ‘F’. Letters ‘i’ and ‘j’, and ‘u’ and ‘v’ are used interchangeably; and sometimes a ‘c’ will appear where you might expect a ‘t’.
Form of Register Entries

Baptisms: can be identified by the use of words such as baptizat; baptizatus; baptisata; bapt.; baptizarus erat.

The typical entry reads: ‘NAME son/daughter of FATHER’S NAME and MOTHER’S NAME his wife’, e.g. Johannes filius Ricardi Milnes et Helena uxoris baptizat – John son of Richard Milnes and Helen his wife.

  • filius – son of
  • filia – daughter of
  • uxoris – wife of

Marriages: often abbrievated to ‘nupt’, but may also appear as uxorati sunt; conjuncti fuere

Burials: identified by the use of the word ‘sepulta’, often abbreviated to sepult’ or ‘sep

Other words commonly found include:

  • vidua (abbreviation: vid.) – widow
  • spurious/nothus/vliciatus – referring to an illegitimate child
  • Months: Januarius, Februarius, Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Julius, Augustus, September, October,  November, December
  • Roman Numerals are often used for the date which is squeezed on to the end of a line. Read the dates above and below the entry you are interested in to make sure you have recorded the correct information.

Did you know? Before 1751, the year began on 25 March not 1 January. Entries between 1 January and 24 March are usually entered using the “Old Style” or civil year; but we should understand the date under the “New Style” or the historical year. An entry dated 14 February 1726 actually took place on 14 February 1727 from our point of view. This explains how a child baptised on 8 June 1687 could be buried on 19 March 1687 – as 1688 didn’t actually start for another 6 days.

Personal Names

Some names are generally quite obvious, e.g. Henricus (Henry), Edwardus (Edward), Robertus (Robert), Elizabetha (Elizabeth), Dorothea (Dorothy). But, there are some names that are a little more difficult, and others that are not as obvious as they may seem. Here are some common examples:

  • Antonius – Anthony
  • Carolus – Charles
  • Galfridus – Geoffrey
  • Gratia – Grace
  • Gulielmus – William
  • Helena – Helen
  • Hugo – Hugh
  • Jacobus – James
  • Johannes – John (beware Johanna for Joanne/Joanna)
  • Margareta – Margaret
  • Maria – Mary (sometimes Maria)
  • Petrus – Peter
Some examples from Derbyshire Parish Registers
  • Johes filius Rici’ Milnes baptizat – John son of Richard Milnes was baptised
  • Elizabetha uxor Thome Cartledge sepultus – Elizabeth wife of Thomas Cartledge was buried
  • Thomas Hand et Ellena Turner nupt. – Thomas Hand and Ellen Turner were married
  • ffranciscus Alwood de Newbold sepult. – Francis Alwood of Newbold was buried (note that ‘ff’ at the beginning of a word is the traditional form of the upper case ‘F’)
  • […] uxor Ed: Hurst sepult. – [Name unknown] wife of Edward Hurst was buried
Further Reading

There are practical online guides with activities available from The National Archives and University of Nottingham: Manuscripts and Special Collections, as well as a large number of published guides on Latin and other tips for using parish registers in our Local Studies Library.

Family History – Getting Started

A guide to where to start with your family history and the main types of record to help you.

The first thing to do, is to gather together as much information as you can from present day family members and any family documents you have at home.  Record what you already know such as names, dates and place of birth, marriage and death, then use this to work backwards and fill in any gaps.

Civil Registration of births, marriages and deaths: A national system of registration was introduced in England and Wales on 1 July 1837.  Search the indexes online, e.g. or Order copy certificates from or the local register office.

Church registers: as far back as 1538 (and up to the present day), church records that provide information about when people were alive through baptism, marriage and burial registers.  Registers for Anglican churches in Derbyshire can be consulted via Ancestry up to 1916 for baptisms, 1932 for marriages and 1991 for burials.  Free access to this site is available from all Derbyshire libraries.  See guide to Parish Registers Online. Before 1733, almost all of the entries in the church registers are recorded in Latin.

Similar registers are also available for a large number of non-conformist churches. Some are available via Find My Past (also be accessible for free in Derbyshire libraries), with others available on microfilm or as original documents in the archive search room.

Consult the Parish Register List and Non-Conformist Register List for details of the records available.  For more recent registers added to the church collections, please search the online catalogue using the reference number given in the summary guides (Parish Guide and Non-Conformist Guide) or by searching in the Title field as follows:

  • Church of England: place name and the word parish, e.g. Alfreton Parish
  • Non-conformist: place name and the word church (or chapel if applicable), e.g. Gresley church.

For some churchyards and civil cemeteries, local groups have produced Memorial Inscriptions, recording the details of memorials and gravestones in and outside churches, these are often useful for identifying family relationships.

Censusa national census has been taken every ten years since 1801, and from 1841 detailed returns listing individuals have survived.  The returns are available online (for example on Ancestry and Find My Past) up to 1911, and microfilm copies are available to 1901 at the record office.  From 1851, the returns include place of birth, and more detail is added over time making them very useful for helping to trace ancestors who may have moved around.  Depending on the date and place of residence, for some ancestors you may be able to identify the house they lived in, but house numbers and even street names are quite uncommon in most rural and semi-rural towns.

Bishops’ Transcripts: in 1598, parishes were ordered to send an annual copy of all baptisms, marriages and burials for the year to the church authorities.  For some parishes, the ‘Bishop’s Transcripts’, or BTs were made until the late 19th century and can be very useful when the original registers are hard to read or if a register is missing.  Both BTs and parish registers can contain entries not found in the other.  Derbyshire was part of the Diocese of Lichfield until the mid-19th century, so the BTs are held at Staffordshire Record Office.

Cemetery records: copies of cemetery records from 1855 to the 1990s are available on microfilm and DVD.  The registers tend to include more information and there is usually a grave register to help identify the location of the grave itself.

Consult the Cemetery Records Guide on our website for a full list of the records available.

Wills and Probate: by at least the 13th century the Church had succeeded in establishing a jurisdiction in testamentary matters, which it retained until the Court of Probate Act 1857.  Most early Derbyshire wills are to be found amongst the records of the Diocese of Lichfield held at Staffordshire Record Office and can be accessed online via Find My Past. One exception was Dale Abbey manorial court which exercised its own probate jurisdiction until 1858.  Wills of persons holding property in more than one diocese were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), see The National Archives guide to Wills or Administrations before 1858 Guide for more information.

Between 1858 and 1928 wills (and letters of administration to 1875) for many Derbyshire residents were proved by the Derby Probate Registry and copies are available on microfilm or DVD – search the catalogue using the person’s name and reference D96/*.

Wills after 1928 can be ordered online from the Probate Service.

There are also thousands of wills amongst family and estate collections, particularly where they form part of a bundle or series of deeds to prove the title to property.  The best way to search for such records is to search for the individual’s name in the ‘Any Text’ field in the online catalogue.

Guides to doing family history:  there is a lot of information online about how to research your family history, and we have lots of general and specific guides (for example relating to ancestors in particular trades, those who broke the law and those who emigrated) in the local studies library to help as well.

Find out more about your ancestors using records for digging deeper.