Treasure 38: Eyam parish register 1630-1768

Since their introduction by Thomas Cromwell in 1538, parish registers have been used to record baptisms, marriages and burials across the country. They also provide a window on the past. In the case of this parish register, from the village of Eyam, it’s a window looking in on the outbreak of plague which killed 260 people in the village in the mid 1660s (D2602/A/PI/1/1). In this image, you can see how the names of the plague victims have been identified by a pointing finger.

treasure-38-eyam-register

Did you know that the “pointing finger” device for highlighting key information is the earliest form of index? In fact, that’s why the index in the back of a book is named after the forefinger. It’s also the root of the word “indicate”. Isn’t etymology wonderful?

This register is unusual for another reason – the earliest entries were copied into it from an original register, by Rev Joseph Hunt, Rector at Eyam between 1683 and 1709. What happened to the original? We may never know.

A published edition of the parish register from 1630 to 1700, edited by John G. Clifford and Francine Clifford, is available from the Derbyshire Record Society.

Advertisements

Advent Calendar – Day 20

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

image

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 14

10 days to Christmas eve…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Marriage record of John Peach and Hannah Rowland on this day 237 years ago, in 1778. (Ref: D650/A/PI/1/3)

Congratulations to everyone else who is marrying today, and around this time.

image

It is a little unusual to find marriage records in this format at this time. Following Hardwick’s Marriage Act, all marriage records had to be kept in a separate register which was pre-printed. In the case of Thorpe St Leonard this register (ref: D650/A/PI/1/3), it is possible that the parish didn’t have all the necessary registers, as the single marriage register does not start until 1767, breaking in 1772. The previous baptism and burial register also finishes in 1772, and a few loose pages are used until the new registers start in 1784 for baptisms and burials.

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)

Treasure 7: the Pleasley burial register, 1813-1893

Treasure 06 Pleasley register (a)

This register (D739/A/PI/5/1) records all the burials in the parish of St Michael, Pleasley, from April 1813 to January 1893.

Pleasley is one of the ancient parishes of Derbyshire, lying in the north-east of the county on the border with Nottinghamshire (Pleasley Hill is actually part of Nottinghamshire). It originally consisted of the townships of Pleasley, Shirebrook, and Stoney Houghton, which included the colliery villages of Upper Pleasley and New Houghton. The earliest surviving registers of baptisms, marriages and burials go back to 1553.

The register was nominated by Kate Henderson, a regular user of Derbyshire Record Office and a member of our Focus Group. Strictly speaking, the purpose of the register was to record the fact of a burial having taken place, and the name and age of the deceased – but Kate notes that this is not always all: “Occasionally a clerk will give fuller details of an unusual cause of death or of a great age achieved…

Treasure 06 Pleasley register (b)

…One can appreciate the interest such a vicar had both in his parishioners but also his understanding of the interest in these people in future generations.”

Registering a Complaint

As someone who spends a fair amount of my time searching through parish registers, I have been known to silently (or not so silently) curse the handwriting of a long-dead vicar or parish clerk.  They should have foreseen that a few centuries later I would need to decipher their scrawl to find Great-Great-Great-etc-Grandfather Fred!  So I was rather amused to find this note in one of the Castleton registers:

(unless the Parish will provide better Parchment, it is impossible to write on it legibly   

Castleton parish register

Perhaps I shall be a tad more charitable in future, though it’s a poor workman who blames his tools…

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.

EYA-poster-poetry-workshop

More from Sutton-on-the-Hill’s parish registers

Another notable burial spotted by Helen Betteridge of Derbyshire Family History Society.  The entry is dated 17 April 1737 and reads:

“Dame Elizabeth, relict of Sir Samuel Sleigh of Etwall, knight, was buried.  It is remarkable that the first wife of the said Samuel Sleigh was buried 103 years ago and upwards.”

Amazing but true.  J C Cox’s “Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire” says the parish church has memorials to Sir Samuel himself (died 1679), to his first wife Judith (d. 1634), his second wife Margaret (d. 1647) and Dame Elizabeth (who was 82 when she died).  And we have a document referring to the licence for the second marriage of the three, as described in our catalogue.

A warning to gluttons from 1593

A sternly unsympathetic entry in the general register for Sutton-on-the-Hill, recording a burial:

“Alice Cathener a poore woman of Osleston choked, or as some supposed beinge drunke fell downe flatt uppon her face, and so stopped her breath and was buried the 2 of Sept. anno predicto [year aforesaid, i.e. 1593].  A caveat for all drinkers, gluttons, and beastly belliegods, to beware of gods severe iudgment agaynst them”.

For any word-watchers: the Oxford English Dictionary defines “belly-god” as “One who makes a god of his belly; a glutton”.