Posted by Kristen Hyde on October 9, 2017 in Collections, United Kingdom

Derbyshire county – home to the Peak District, the world’s oldest football club, and the literary backdrop of Jane Austen’s romantic novel, Pride and Prejudice. But did your ancestors also call this corner of England home?

Let’s take a closer look at the Derbyshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriage and Burials (1538-1812) which detail the generations of baptisms, marriages, and burials that took place in the local area.

At the start of the 16th century, both the British government and the Church of England became particularly interested in record keeping and a 1538 Act of Parliament required ministers to document the key life events that took place across their parish. As a result of the act, the Derbyshire Parish Registers pre-date the censuses and civil registration making it a valuable resource for anybody looking to trace their ancestors back before official systems were established.

Searchable by name, birth date, parish, baptism, marriage, burial date, name of spouse and name/s of parents, the Derbyshire Parish records contain vital information for anybody looking to find out more about their ancestor who lived in the area.

The collection offers fascinating insights into the everyday lives of residents in the county, highlighting how society still believed in divine intervention which could lead people to find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Examples include Dorothy Mathy, who met an unfortunate end for reportedly lying under oath. Her burial entry reads ‘Dorothy Mathy supposed wife to John Flint of this parish forswore herself [gave false evidence on oath/lied] whereupon the ground did open and she sanke over hed. And being found dead she was buried March 24’.

Francis Taylor’s burial may have been a talking point locally, as the deceased was buried in a reinforced coffin to support his ‘corpulent’ body; the memorandum at the bottom of his record reads: ‘His Coffin was of the following dimensions, 6 feet 5 inches long; 2 feet 6 inches wide, across the shoulders; 1 foot 6 inches deep, and contained 56 square feet of boarding…His remains were lowered into the grave on Good Friday, by 8 persons of his more intimate acquaintance’.

Fans of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre can discover several records possibly serving as inspiration for the novel’s eponymous heroine in the collections. Thirty years before Brontë visited the Peak District in 1845, records in the Derbyshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials collection reveal a history of namesake residents, including baptisms, burials and marriages at Hathersage, the village which inspired the book’s picturesque setting. One such Jane was married to Benjamin Kirk, also of Hathersage, on 12th October 1818.

Names of historical interest and note within the extensive collection include the inventor of the bouncing bomb, Mick Jagger’s great grandfather and Charles Darwin’s grandfather:

▪ Erasmus Darwin – Erasmus was a highly-regarded physician, biologist and writer who went on to found the Derbyshire Philosophical Society, an intellectual circle of like-minded dignitaries. It appears his keen interest for nature and botany passed down the family line, with his grandson Charles Darwin penning the evolutionary masterpiece, Origin of Species. At the time of his death in 1802, records in the collection show that Erasmus was living at Breadsall Priory, near Derby, and was buried on 24th April of the same year.

▪ Sir Barnes Neville Wallis – An inventor and engineer, Barnes developed the concept of the bouncing bomb as a missile that would give the Allies an advantage during aerial attacks of Nazi Germany, made famous in the 1955 film ‘The Dam Busters’. A search in the collection reveals that Barnes was baptised at All Saints Church in Ripley, to parents Charles and Edith on 15th November 1887.

▪ Henry Cavendish – At the time of his death in 1810, aged 78, Henry had found fame in distinguished circles for his discoveries of hydrogen, tests with heat and water, as well as his measurement of the Earth’s mass, which became known as the Cavendish experiment. The records show that he was buried at All Saints Church, which is now Derby Cathedral on 12th March, leaving behind a legacy of comprehensive treaties that would make him a reference for the next generation of scientists.

▪ William Fanshaw – Great grandfather of the iconic Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, Fanshaw can be found in the Derbyshire Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1916 collection, showing he was baptised on 11th October in the parish of Eckington

The Derbyshire collection give budding family historians with ancestors in the area a new resource for exploring everyday rites of passage, as well as defining moments in Derbyshire society. Explore Derbyshire records now on Ancestry now.

Kristen Hyde

Kristen is Ancestry's Social Media Manager for the United Kingdom.


  1. TheodoreGilliam

    I’ve never understood why, unless it’s to prevent teachers who may have lived through some of the more recent stuff from sharing what are really political views rather than historical ones.


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