Jonathan Scott heads to Norfolk Record Office, home to collections of national and international importance
There have been a lot of changes at Norfolk Record office (NRO) since WDYTYA? Magazine’s last visit to Norfolk. First and foremost, a vast amount of the vital parish records held here have been digitised and are now available online through findmypast. co.uk, ancestry.co.uk,
thegenealogist.co.uk and familysearch.org. These include parish registers for most of Norfolk and, in the case of Findmypast, school records too. And county archivist Gary Tuson reports that they are currently in the process of organising further material for digitisation including Poor Law records and bishops’ transcripts.
Just because it’s online, however, doesn’t mean it’s plain sailing. In Norfolk there are plenty of bear traps waiting for researchers unfamiliar with the landscape. For example, there are three parishes called Rockland and parishes galore that share very similar-sounding names: Rougham/Roughton, Salthouse/ Salhouse and Watlington/ Wallington.
Norfolk also has its share of shifting boundaries. There are, for example, 25 ecclesiastical parishes within the Lothlingland Deanery, whose records are held by the NRO because they fall within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Norwich, despite the fact that they are located in Suffolk (Lowestoft being the largest).
When I asked the NRO team for tips, searchroom assistants Claire Bolster, Theresa Palfrey and Gordon Blacklock put their heads together. As well as the Lothlingland peculiarity, they explained that in 1914 a host of parishes in the west of the county, now in the deanery of Fincham and Feltwell, were transferred to the Diocese of Ely. This means that records for these churches from 1914 onwards are held at Cambridge University Library. The NRO still holds parish records for these churches, with the exception of parishes in the deanery of Wisbech Lynn Marshland, which are at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum ( wisbech museum.org.uk). Confused? Fear not – there’s a diocesan boundaries map in the NRO searchroom, and there’s an online parish map available at www.archives.norfolk.gov. uk/e- Resources/ Parish-Maps/ index.htm.
If you’re just starting out, and not yet ready to tackle parish records, you can in fact order Norfolk birth, marriage and death (BMD) certificates direct from NRO (spanning July 1837 to March 2011), either online, in person or by phone. There are also local BMD indexes available in the NRO search room, plus the Norfolk Marriage Index (1801-37) is available on computer.
The searchroom is split into three areas – manuscripts, microform and reference. The team also staffs the Norfolk Heritage Centre in Norwich’s Millennium Library and runs an office at the Town Hall in King’s
There are plenty of bear traps waiting for researchers unfamiliar with the landscape
Lynn, home to the King’s Lynn Borough Archives.
Victoria Draper, education and outreach officer, says: “The Long Gallery is our exhibition space. Exhibitions change every three months. Our current exhibition looks at the artwork created by participants of the Change Minds project. The project worked with people with mental health issues to look at the records of St Andrew’s Hospital [ Norfolk County Asylum] in the 1880s.” The next exhibition (21 August17 November) is Drawing in the Archive: The Visual Record of Norwich’s Medieval Churches, 1700-2017.
In our Norfolk Online box (right) we’ve included a host of useful websites for Norfolk
A sailing boat and windmill on the River Ant in Norfolk
A group of fishermen pulling a boat ashore at Cromer in the 1920s