How to find Norfolk ancestors at Norfolk Record Office

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20 December 2016
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Discover how to find your Norfolk ancestors with our guide to family history resources held at Norfolk Record Office.

Discover how to find your Norfolk ancestors with our guide to family history resources held at Norfolk Record Office. Discover more expert family history advice in our how-to guides.

Norfolk Record Office (NRO) holds records relating to over 1,000 years of people and places in Norfolk, as well as parts of Suffolk and beyond. The NRO holds millions of documents, which together occupy almost ten miles of shelving. Among the resources are diaries, maps, royal charters, title deeds and records relating to Norfolk’s 700+ ancient parishes.

NRO’s online catalogue NORCAT is a good starting point for exploring what records are held by the office, and this provides brief descriptions of documents. You can search by keyword, category – including parishes, maps and probate, or catalogue reference. The catalogue also covers the Norfolk Sound Archive and the King’s Lynn Borough Records.

Do remember, though, if you don’t find what you’re looking for on the catalogue it doesn’t necessarily mean the Record Office doesn’t have it; always contact the service to see how else you might be able to find out what you are looking for.

The NRO website has a number of helpful leaflets which can be downloaded free of charge, including The Story of Norfolk’s Parish Registers, Wills & Other Probate Records, Researching Ancestors from Abroad and Prisons & Prisoners in Norfolk. You can explore the full list on the website

Visiting the searchroom

The NRO is based in purpose-built premises on Martineau Lane in Norwich, which opened to the public in 2003. The Archive Centre is one of the most modern archive buildings in Europe, and the home of one of the UK’s largest, richest and most diverse archive collections. In 2005, the Norfolk Record Office became the first county record office to have all its collections Designated as being of outstanding importance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and in 2015 it became an Accredited Archive Service.

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The NRO searchroom is open every weekday (with late opening on Thursdays) is free to use. Here, you can see original documents, as well as microfilm or fiche copies and get free access to the major family history websites. Catalogues and indexes in the searchroom can help you to identify documents relevant to your research and experienced staff are also on hand to help with queries and to point you in the right direction.

Many of the most popular family history resources are available on microfilm and fiche, including many parish registers and most pre-1926 wills and other probate records. Other family history sources are also available on microform, such as the IGI for Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, and the Norfolk censuses, 1841-1901. Microforms are kept in the searchroom, where they are on open access.

The NRO also runs an extensive programme of events, volunteer projects and exhibitions.  Further details of all of these can be found on the NRO website.

Norfolk Record Office, The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ; tel: 01603 222599; website; Open Mon, Wed & Fri 9am-5pm; Tue 9.30am-5pm; Thu 9am-7pm.

(Images copyright Norfolk Record Office)