17 February 2014

Family History Trip: Day 1 Wirksworth

*If you only want to see the pictures, scroll down to the bottom you lazy bums. There are plenty of them, just for you.*

I'm obsessed. With Family History. But to be fair, the Spirit of Elijah is a bit addicting, so I don't think it's entirely my fault. Whatever it is though, I've had it on my bucket list for years to visit some of my family history sites, especially those here in the UK. And since January I've been feeling the push to start making it more of a priority. Since basically everything in my life is currently a priority, I wasn't sure how to do this.

However with the start of the new term came the start of new institute classes. The second hour classes didn't really interest me, though, so I worked it out that I would do family history at the church for that hour while everyone else was in institute. That way I would have a set time every week to work on it, I wouldn't feel like institute is a complete waste of my time, and I would still be able to socialize with the YSA during the week. PERFECT.

This term it so happens that I don't have classes on Tuesday and most Wednesdays, but that's really my only break during the week since all of my weekends are now booked through mid-April. Well the Spirit made me feel like I really couldn't wait that long to start going on these research trips. Now I know it's because there are several people waiting up there for me to search through the records, find them, and help get their Temple work done. I don't know who is the driving force behind the urgency I feel about this, but I know at least one person has been anxiously waiting for hundreds of years and they are tired of waiting.

After checking around I found that a short research trip up to the Peak District was actually affordable for my tight student budget, so I booked it. The Peak District, where several generations of my mother's family comes from, is in central England, just about 60 miles north of where I live, so it wasn't too difficult to get there. The cheapest place I could find to stay in the area happened to be the Willersley Castle in Cromford. It might be the most charming place I've ever stayed. 

I was worried about the weather, since it was surprised to be miserable the entire time I was there. But God loves me, and He works miracles on behalf of those who do family history, and boy did He really go all out for me. It didn't just stop raining and snowing. The skies cleared and I had the most glorious day I've experienced in a long time.

I took advantage of the amazing tender mercy and explored Cromford and Wirksworth until it got dark. I fell in love with the area at first sight. It just felt so much like home. It reminded me so much of Pennsylvania where I grew up, so maybe that's why it felt like My Place. Or perhaps it was my ancestors helping me feel the love that they have for the area, and they helped me feel that Their Place was also part of me. I really can't explain why I fell so in love, but I am completely charmed and can't wait to go back!

I told a friend that I was in at least 7 different kinds of heaven that day. He didn't really get it, but here's what I meant by that:
  1. 'I'm finally out of Birmingham' Heaven! (Not that I don't love it, but a girl needs a break every now and then. And I definitely needed one now.)
  2. 'I'm fulfilling a lifelong dream!' Heaven
  3. 'The sun is finally shining, and I'm convinced it's especially for me!' Heaven
  4. 'I'm doing Family History work!' Heaven
  5. 'I'm in adventure/exploration' Heaven
  6. 'I feel so loved by my Heavenly Father!' Heaven
  7. 'I'm staying in a castle!' Heaven
I want to remember these feelings and tender mercies forever, and this is really the only way I document my experiences these days. But here are all the photos you've been waiting for.
River Derwent
Cromford Canal

Since Heavenly Father had so generously turned it into the PERFECT DAY for me, I decided to walk the 2 miles to Wirksworth. Of course I didn't realize that it was almost entirely up a hill of 12% grade... but it was still a delightful journey. Plus I got some great pics along the way.

Girl, your future's so bright you need shades.
A memorial to soldiers of the World Wars, but I thought it was a fitting motto for my trip: They died that we might live.

Eventually I reached the summit and finally got to walk DOWNhill for a bit.

While I was walking I came across this old cemetery that I originally had just assumed was the cemetery I'd been looking for. I really love cemeteries. Quirky I know, and I can't explain why. I guess I just love reading the inscriptions and the different ways people choose to mark the lives of those they love. Maybe because it makes the Spirit World feel more tangible, or helps me feel closer to my father. Or maybe it is just the appreciation for the perfect Plan of Happiness that is for ALL of God's children, whether they knew it here or not. Whatever it is, I love exploring cemeteries. And even more so when I have names to look for.

So look I did. But after about an hour the thought came to mind that I wasn't in the right cemetery at all. haha Whoops. No matter. I got some beautiful pictures regardless.

"And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection...."
"... But there IS a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ."
-Mosiah 16:7-8

Well, after a bit more exploration of Wirksworth, I finally found what I'd been looking for: St. Mary's Parish church, the original church for the town, with sections of it dating back to the 12th Century. It is beautiful! Absolutely magnificent, really.

Finally found a readable headstone of an ancestor, though she wasn't in our direct line. Doesn't matter. I was thrilled!!!
Told ya it is magnificent!

Another headstone for an ancestor, but it is almost entirely unreadable except for a couple names: Mary, Hannah, and William Wall. Hannah and William Wall are direct ancestors, though their daughter Mary is not.
I really wanted to get closer to read as much as I could, but it was fenced off. And I'm short. Not a good combo. :/
Happy to know that she is buried in such a picturesque and peaceful place.

The way the sun was hitting the stones made them look all different colors. So lovely.

I didn't get to spend much time exploring the inside of the church, so that's on my list for next time. I didn't want to be walking back in the dark, so I decided to head back to Cromford. Luckily I got back just in time, because within about 20 minutes of being back another storm blew in and it rained all night. See! I KNEW the weather was just for me!

Riber Castle on the hill that separates Cromford from Matlock to the north. I hear they are in the process of turning it into luxury apartments... Maybe one day I'll have the time to hike to the top. I bet the view is incredible!
You can see Willersley Castle, where I stayed,  in the lower center of the photo (between the roofs and the trees), with Riber Castle above it. 


  1. You're an inspiration! Go Family History! Love the photos. They're beautiful.

  2. I love cemeteries too :D I wish I had made family history more of a priority while I was there! I keep telling the Lord He should let me go back so I can work on it :)