NOR­FOLK ANCESTORS

Jonathan Scott heads to Nor­folk Record Of­fice, home to col­lec­tions of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional im­por­tance

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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.

Tricky ter­ri­to­ries

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.

First re­sources

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

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