How to find Suffolk ancestors at Suffolk Archives

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13 January 2017
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Discover how to find your Suffolk ancestors with Dr Helen Band's guide to tracing ancestors at the Lowestoft branch of Suffolk Archives.

Discover how to find your Suffolk ancestors with Dr Helen Band's guide to tracing ancestors at the Lowestoft branch of Suffolk Archives.

Lowestoft Record Office is the smallest branch of Suffolk Archives. Our collecting area covers north east Suffolk. We hold one mile of archive shelving, housing treasures ranging from thirteenth-century manuscripts to yesterday’s newspaper.

Our archives are diverse and unusual such as a rare manuscript copy of the illicit seventeenth century play ‘The Farce of Sodom’, authored by the Earl of Rochester, the first English work to be banned on grounds of obscenity.

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Alongside, we hold the exotic Benares Roll depicting life on the banks of the Ganges in the 1800s in full colour. We hold items of huge political significance including the Great Seal of Edward III, Henry VIII, James II and even Oliver Cromwell. We also preserve items of deep personal meaning like condolence cards marking the loss of a whole family of sons in the Great War and the diaries of a teenage girl recording every air raid siren sounded in Lowestoft during World War II.

For family historians we provide free access to the staples of census, civil registration and emigration records. We hold complete microfiche copies of Suffolk’s Parish Registers and we are busy cataloguing and indexing non-conformist records. If your Ancestors fell on hard times, we hold admission registers, minute books and bathing registers from Shipmeadow and Oulton Workhouses.

Our newly indexed Gaol books from the 1800s evidence crimes ranging from gin smuggling to theft and even murder. We have microfilms of local newspapers dating back to 1800, where you can find everything from coroner’s reports to fashion advertisements. Our historic maps can give you a bird’s eye view from the sixteenth century onwards, illustrating the explosion in development during the industrial era.

Naturally we hold a huge expanse of fishing records. The Crew Lists and Fishing Boat Agreements from 1863 to 1914 have been indexed so that customers can search by surname of crew, owner of vessel or name of the ship. These documents give the name, position, residence and age of crew members sailing from Lowestoft providing a glimpse of men who are little recorded elsewhere.

The Port of Lowestoft Research Society collection is housed at LRO including vessel index cards which record the build, ownership and history of each ship. The collection boasts 14,000 photographs and paintings of Lowestoft registered vessels. Cross referencing these records can provide a glimpse of your maritime ancestor and the ship he took to sea.

Complementing these records is a personal favourite of mine; the minute book of the Suffolk Humane Society, set up in 1806 to reward those who saved lives at sea and to help shipwrecked individuals. They ran the first sailing lifeboat, the Frances Ann and their story begins with the miraculous tale of Benjamin Crowfoot, a surgeon who resuscitated a man believed to be dead for over 14 hours.

We have a fantastic new website where you can search our collections, view and download images of original wills and read about our exciting ‘Mapping Suffolk Stories’ project. Our best resource at Lowestoft, however, are our wonderful staff, with over thirty years’ experience helping visitors with their research, they are ready and waiting to help you get on with your family history, so why not visit our website, send us an email or give us a call to find out more?

Lowestoft Record Office, First Floor Lowestoft Central Library, Clapham Road South, NR32 1DR; tel: 01502 674680; website. Open: Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri, Sat 9.30-16.30 (closed Wednesdays and Sundays).

Images from top:

SRO/L/1300/72/42/144 Lowestoft, Ships Trawlers LT 165 Corona (1905-1919), LT 938 Superb (1902-1916), LT 209 Premier (1906-1932)

SRO/L/1300/72/3/91Lowestoft, South Beach c.1890

SRO/L/1300/72/19/12 Seven Lowestoft fishermen landing herring on board an unknown vessel c1930

SRO/L/1300/69/330 Kirkley Cliff c.1920