Find the past in Draycott’s parish registers

Very few people will have noticed, but a major new book describing some of the history of Draycott-in-the-Moors has just been published.  Titled ‘Draycott Parish Registers 1669-1900’, it is a faithful transcription of 250 years of our church records – outlining christenings (i.e. births), deaths, marriages – and more.

These parish records had to be kept by law, and it was the local clergyman’s job to fill in the register every time somebody in the parish was born or died.

St Margaret's Church, Draycott in The Moors

The registers of St Margaret’s Church noted births, deaths and marriages for 500 years

You can imagine what a huge job it must be to copy and type up these registers.  One is working from old, illegible, fragile documents very often in Latin and very often written out by a priest who didn’t necessarily have easy-to-read handwriting!

The Draycott book alone is 250 pages long… and yet it was compiled by a volunteer, working alone.  The person who took on this huge task was Marion Hall.  Marion says it’s simply just what she likes doing, even though each register that she transcribes can take her over six months to complete.

Family history

As you’d expect, Marion’s interest in these papers began when she was researching her own family history. She told us that it took her four years to really learn how to do it – and then it turned into her all-abiding interest.  She would spend a third of her holidays in old record offices…
Of course nowadays, she doesn’t need to spend all her time in record offices.  Having bought a microfiche reader, she can purchase microfiche copies of old documents to take home and read there.

By 2002 she was ready with her first completed project – a transcription of the parish register at Fradswell, which was taken up and published by BMSGH.


Draycott Parish Registers book front coverSo…  how did Marion come to choose the Draycott parish registers as a project?   She told us: “I don’t have a direct connection with Draycott in the Moors, but I have used the parish registers and other sources here in family history research – particularly the Lymer family.
“Some of my ancestors moved to Milwich and the Belcher family in the parish of Leigh were also in the family tree.  So, that’s how I came to be examining the Draycott registers, which are stored these days in Stafford.”

Unfortunately, the early registers of Draycott are missing, (this has led to some online trees showing incorrect connections in fact), and the earliest records for Draycott still existing consist of a single loose leaf of paper!

But, Marion explained that it’s just a matter of copying what you can. “One also has to check other contemporary sources to make sure everything is as correct as it can be.  Registers can have all sorts of mistakes.  For example, old marriage bonds are useful to verify names – especially if the clergyman used a style of handwriting which is extremely difficult to read.”

Draycott specials

For the local family historian, this book makes fascinating reading.  Names that you see in the district to this day pop up all over the 250 years of the records:  names like Bagnall, Perry, Warrilow, Tabberner and Shelley which come from local families that all go right back to the seventeenth century (and probably before that).

The most interesting thing in the book for the general historian is the number of people and families locally who were described as “Popish Recusants” – i.e. they remained Roman Catholics even when practising Catholicism openly was outlawed.  They were usually recorded as having been buried “on the north side of the church”.

Page from the Draycott Registers book

Page from the Draycott Registers book

And sometimes, just one entry can summon up a whole image.   On May 29 1834, the death of Joseph Cope is recorded as “An Idiot and Draycott Pauper, who died in the Dilhorne Workhouse.” What a terrible life he must have had.

Buy a copy

Being a very specialist item, the book has only had a short print-run, no more than a few dozen copies.
The publishers (the Staffordshire Parish Registers Society, SPRS) only have around ten for general sale.  They cost £5.50 + £1.51 postage.   When they are sold out, the work will be available as a (paid-for) download.
A cheaper way (in the long run) to get the book is to become a member of the SPRS: it costs £7.50 – for which members receive three registers a year. Those who join this year will receive the Draycott one as part of the deal.

And what of Marion?  Is she worn out after her endeavours?
Not at all.  “I am currently working on Bramhall and Marchington. I picked Marchington for my next project because some of it was done already, but it was very incomplete, and I have had to pay a number of visits to Lichfield to check what I have against the original records, and to extend what I have …  It will run to 300 pages, this one.  It will be my seventh published project!”

A note on family history sources in Staffordshire
There are two separate main sources of these registers (unless you want to go to the Record Offices and use the original documents).  These are the SPRS and Staffordshire Find My Past (which works with the Staffs Archive Service to digitise their parish registers).  Each is independent of the other.
The FMP people are, unlike the SPRS volunteers, paid to do it (and Marion has noticed that errors do creep in to their transcriptions).   As yet, the FMP Staffordshire collection is not complete, and also will not cover all of Staffordshire, as some agreements are not in place yet.
The general editor of the SPRS series, Bob Morton, would welcome a call from you if you think you can help in this kind of work.

Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment).

4 responses to “Find the past in Draycott’s parish registers

  1. Late parish registers

    I am slightly confused as to why the parish registers only began in 1669. Did the church not exist before the parish registers were kept?
    Peter Ellis


  2. Catholic burials

    I would be interested in seeing plans showing those Catholic burials on the north side of St Margaret’s church. How do we buy the book without subscribing?
    Fr David Hartley


    • Gravestones map

      If you want to buy the book without subscribing, you can do that… Just do it by mail order.
      However, this parish registers book doesn’t have a map as such; it only lists the burials year by year (though they do often state if the deceased was ‘Popish’!

      However, if it is just a gravestones map of St Margaret’s graveyard that you are after, you will find that in the ‘St Margaret’s Church Gravestones’ book (published by the local Women’s Institute in 1982). It’s in the local library.


  3. Church records

    The church records at Draycott St Margaret’s were kept in a small tin trunk purchased by my father John Kellaway when he was church warden. This was to prevent the mice getting to the books!
    In about 1970 old church records were all taken to the archives at Stafford for safe keeping. Draycott’s registers stretched back for many years due to it only being a small parish.
    (We also researched and brought the churchyard burial maps up to date as the old one was a totally chaotic plan).
    Sara Gibson (now in Australia)


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