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Genealogy and Derbyshire, England

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Contents

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Introduction

This page is devoted to the county of Derbyshire, England, and covers the origin of its name, an outline of its history and geography, links to other web sites concerned with the county, genealogical resources relating to the county and the same types of information in more detail for those cities, towns and villages in the county in which I have a family history interest. In doing this, it is not my intention to duplicate unnecessarily, nor to compete with, web pages which already do some of those things, but to complement such pages and provide links to them, with appropriate description of what they have to offer.

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Origins of the Name

The name Derbyshire was first recorded in 1049 in the Old English form Deorbyscir, and means the district associated with Derby. The city name is derived, via the Danes who occupied the area in the ninth century, from the Old Norse djúr and , meaning deer village.

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Geography

Derbyshire is situated in the north midlands of England, bordered in the east by Nottinghamshire, in the south by Leicestershire, in the west by Staffordshire, in the north-west by Cheshire and in the north by Yorkshire (West Riding). It measures about 52 miles from north to south, and for most of that length is only about 20 miles from east to west (although it reaches 85 miles at one point).

In topographical terms it divides into two very different areas, the north (especially the north-west) being the heather and peat-covered high limestone and gritstone hills and moorland of the southern end of the Pennines, rising to over 2,000 feet above sea level and with a harsh climate, while the smaller southern part is low-lying and relatively flat and fertile. In terms of human use, however, three divisions are more appropriate; the north-west, largely within the Peak District National Park (Britain's first), is largely dependant on tourism; the south, especially the south-west, is mostly agricultural, but almost all the eastern side is industrial, originally based on coal mining, iron and steel manufacture, and engineering.

A short stretch of the River Trent cuts from west to east across the county a few miles south of Derby, but the main drainage of Derbyshire is provided by that river's major tributary the River Derwent. The latter flows roughly north to south for almost the entire length of the county, to join the Trent shortly after passing through Derby; it includes a spectacular gorge where it emerges from the hills at Matlock Bath. Also important is the picturesque River Dove, also flowing roughly north to south, and forming most of the boundary with Staffordshire; it finally swings a little to the east to join the Trent where that river enters Derbyshire south-west of Derby.

Derby is by far the largest town in the county. Other towns of some importance are Alfreton, Ashbourne, Belper, Buxton, Castleton, Chesterfield, Glossop, Heanor, Ilkeston, Long Eaton and Matlock. Nearly all of them are within the eastern industrial part of the county.

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History

Some of the earliest traces of human activity ever found in Britain were discovered at Creswell Crags, an area shared between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. In the caves at this spot men cooked and ate locally caught hippopotamus and rhinoceros, with the remains being eaten by hyenas. Paleolithic carvings were also found there. The caves were inhabited before and after (but not during) two separate ice ages, thousands of years apart.

There are other prehistoric remains, including a large early Bronze Age stone circle near Youlgreave.

The Romans built a number of roads and fortifications, but largely avoided the highest ground. The only non-military settlement from their time was the spa town of Aquae Arnemetiae at Buxton. There are also signs that they mined for lead in the hills.

Derbyshire was a part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, but later came under the Danelaw. It was the Danes who established the town of Derby.

The county remained basically agricultural, with a little quarrying and the mining of lead and some coal, until the late 17th century. Then the exploitation of iron ore began in earnest. Industries developed rapidly in the 18th century, with the country's first modern factory (a silk mill at Derby) being built in 1717 and the first water-powered cotton mill at Cromford in 1771 being the beginning of a major textile industry. Iron, steel and engineering developed on a large scale in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Internationally renowned Rolls Royce Ltd. (known for their aircraft engines and luxury cars) established their first factory at Derby in 1908.

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Web Pages about Derbyshire

"This is Derbyshire" gives general information about the county, including an account of its history.

Derbyshire County Council has a useful site giving news as well as the services offered.

Jayne's NE Derbyshire site provides links to numerous sites of Derbyshire interest. She also had a number of excellent Derbyshire town/village pages of her own (each of which is linked from my Genealogical Resources for Derbyshire section below), but now maintains only one of them.

Derbyshire UK is a guide to Derbyshire and the lower Peak District. It aims to provide information on the towns and villages of the area, as well as its other attractions, its stately homes, its customs, its curiosities and its people. It includes folklore, tourist information and history, as well as accommodation and business information. [Descriptive text copied from the site]

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Genealogical Resources for Derbyshire

The UK Genealogy Interests Directory, a new and growing facility, has a page of surname interests in Derbyshire.

Also, like other counties, the GENUKI Derbyshire page should be consulted as the main reference for addresses, resource locations, on-line links, etc.

Derbyshire Family History Society is the appropriate family history society for the county, although Chesterfield and district has its own local society (contact Mr. J. Robinson).

Three extracts from Phillimore's Atlas and Index to Parish Registers relating to Derbyshire have been made available for download. These are List of Derbyshire parishes, Map of Derbyshire parishes and (I haven't checked, but presume it's the same thing) a Word 97 document.

Derbyshire Record Office snail mail address is: County Hall, Matlock, Derbyshire, DE4 3AG. Telephone (+44) (0) 1629 580000 ext 35201. They publish a large number of booklets, maps and broadsheets of particular interest to genealogists and those studying local history. I would recommend contacting them for an up to date list of what is available, with prices, etc. They also offer a search service for family historians. As well as parish registers, they also hold the records of many nonconformist chapels, schools, societies and businesses.

Derbyshire Ancestral Research Group (DARG).

The Derbyshire Archaeological Society.

As mentioned in the previous section, Jayne had a number of pages devoted to individual towns and villages in Derbyshire, each of which includes an old description of the place, historical information, photos, and numerous invaluable transcripts, covering such material as censuses, parish registers, civil registration data, workhouse inmates lists, etc., etc. In the list below the present maintainer is named after each link. The places covered are:
Brampton - GENUKI
Chesterfield - Pat Connors
Newbold - GENUKI
Staveley - Jayne
Whittington - GENUKI

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A Derbyshire Bibliography

According to C.R.J Currie and C.P.Lewis A Guide to English County Histories, no general history or description of Derbyshire has ever been published. There is a wealth of literature about the Peak District in particular, and more specialised books have also been published on more specific areas, industries, periods and other aspects. Some of the better examples are:

J. Farey: General View of Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire (1802), which includes comparisons with neighbouring counties.
White Watson: Delineation of the Strata of Derbyshire (1811) covers the geology.

Various aspects of ancient history are covered well by:
S. Pegge: The Roman Roads, Ikenild Street and Bath Way through the Country of the Coritani or County of Derby (2nd edition, 1784);
T. Bateman: Vestiges of Antiquities of Derbyshire (1847);
T. Bateman: Ten Years Diggings in Celtic and Saxon Grave Hills in Counties of Derby, Stafford and York from 1848 to 1858 (1861, reprinted 1978).

Rev. John Charles Cox: Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire (1875-1879, 3 volumes) deals with the churches, but other buildings are largely undocumented.

The feudal period is well described in John Pym Yeatman: Feudal History of the County of Derby (1886-1912, 10 volumes).

K. Cameron: The place-names of Derbyshire is volume XXIX of the English Place-Name Society Series (Cambridge University Press, 1951-2). In 3 Volumes.

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Some Places in Derbyshire

To appear in this section a town or village has to meet a number of criteria. First, it has to be of family history interest to me; in other words, one or more of my or my wife's ancestors lived there. Second, I must have, or have access to, the appropriate information to be able to set up the page. Third, I must have managed to find the time to do it. Finally, if I am aware that it has already been done by someone else, all that will be found here is a link to that other site.

However, for completeness sake, if the place meets the first criterion but fails on one or more of the others, then it will at least appear here as a heading, so the reader will have some idea which places may "get the treatment" at some time in the future.

Creswell

My wife's mother, Constance WARD, was born in this little village on the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border in 1911, but the family soon moved away to Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire.

The location of Creswell can be seen on the detailed map of Derbyshire. It is about 4.5 miles east of New Whittington

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New Whittington

My wife's maternal grandparents lived here for a time, and some of their children were born here, before they moved to Creswell. The village is now a suburb of the town of Chesterfield, but still retains something of its separate identity.

New Whittington is too close to Chesterfield to show on the detailed map of Derbyshire. It is about three and a quarter miles north of the town.

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An extra village - Morton

Andy Goodwin is setting up a web site for the history of the village of Morton , and is seeking help with any relevant material to include. If you can help in any way, please contact him direct.

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My Surname Interests in Derbyshire

WARD, 20th century, Creswell
WARD, 19th-20th century, New Whittington

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Acknowledgements

The following have provided information which I have paraphrased on this page:

C.R.J Currie and C.P.Lewis A Guide to English County Histories (Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1994), ISBN 0-7509-1505-6.

A. Room: Dictionary of British Place Names (1988), ISBN 1 85605 1775.

GENUKI Derbyshire page

Encyclopædia Britannica

L. du Garde Peach: Derbyshire chapter in C.E.M. Joad (ed): The English Counties (reprint 1949).

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