Earlham Cemetery: In search of those lost in the 1912 Norwich floods

A quick blog this one, reporting through images my trip to Earlham Cemetery this morning. I also include some information on the cemetery and its records.

If you know it already, you'll perhaps appreciate the scale of what is otherwise known as "City Cemetery" in Norwich. The cemetery on Earlham Road is the same as the one on Bowthorpe Road, and Dereham Road, and both sides of Farrow Road. There are a few places to park - entrances for cars off Farrow Road and Earlham Road - and some space along Dereham Road too (but look out for double yellows!). Earlham Crematorium is in the middle of the cemetery, and can be accessed from Earlham Road, opposite Somerfield.

Opened after the Rosary Cemetery (a nonconformist cemetery dating from 1819), City Cemetery was a response to the dire situation of overcrowded churchyards within the city walls. City churchyards were finally closed when the cemetery opened in 1856. A helpful note in St Gregory's Church register, for example, reads "All the churchyards in the city are closed by the order of Queen in Council taking effect from 1st March 1856". Thereafter, some registers, St Gregory's being one, continue to record burials of people from the parish but in the cemetery. These people should therefore appear in a church register as well as in the cemetery burial register and grave book. Other registers later recorded only the scattering of ashes, or special interments by permission of the secretary of state - for example, famously, the reburial of Thomas Browne's skull on 04 July 1922 at St Peter Mancroft. Look up the entry, and you'll find his skull's residence as "since 1846/7 or 8, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital Museum" and its age "317 years". 

Anyway, I digress. In December, I'm giving a lecture about the 1912 floods in connection with the NR3 exhibition at the Norfolk Record Office. Before doing this sort of thing I like to visit some of the places I'm going to talk about, and in this case, I wanted to find the final resting place of three of those who died during the events of that August.

I was not really expecting to find headstones, firstly because many of those buried in common graves never had one, and secondly because not all of those that once stood still remain. It has become quite difficult, in the older sections of the cemetery at least, to locate specific plots as the trees have matured and the once regimented paths and stones have softened and gracefully adjusted and submitted to mother nature over time. Many of the iron grave markers which once dotted the sections have also been lost or removed, so take a plan with you.

If you have an interest in the cemetery before the 1970s, visit the Norfolk Record Office or Norfolk Heritage Centre (in the Millennium Library). In both places you can view grave books (all those buried in each plot - usually up to four individuals, who may or may not be related), burial registers (chronological records of burials) and indexes (to help you access the first two). While you're there, you can also view and print a cemetery plan and detailed section plans. Off the top of my head this final useful film is MF 812, but it would be worth checking when you get there - the NRO has print outs of all of these in a large folder, too. Alternatively, and for more modern burials, contact Norwich City Council.

The three people I was looking for didn't have stones, at least that my husband and I found, but I did take some images of section 28, in which they rest, and a couple from close by in order to illustrate my lecture. I won't be using them all, so I post a couple of them here, in the hope that they give a flavour of the corner of the cemetery bounded by Dereham and Bowthorpe Road for anyone else who has connections to this special place. Further images are on my facebook page or flickr photostream.


If you'd like to know more about those I was looking for, then check back after the lecture, as I hope to write about them then.




When was the last time you…?

….visited an archive?

Before I even start, I’m going to say one thing. I love archives and local studies libraries and libraries. On honeymoon, I took my brand new husband to no less than four – Boston Public Library, Mass Archives, Cambridge Public Library and Harvard (although I couldn’t get into the last one). I’m also going to be open about the fact that I work in one, so I’m biased.

But I really believe they are wonderful, and they need our support.

So many people I talk to exclusively research online at home, many of them believing that everything they could possibly want is already digitised and available if they type it into a search engine or one of the market leading genealogy sites. In reality, despite the giant leaps taken in recent years, there is still a great deal more information available offline.

Don’t get me wrong, I make extensive use of online resources and am very pleased that so many ‘staple’ resources can be easily accessed via my laptop, iPad or my phone (in many cases, importantly, in the form of images of primary sources). Having said that, I think that those that don’t look elsewhere are seriously limiting themselves, both in terms of what they look at, and in terms of the whole ‘experience’ of researching. There is a balance to be struck between online/offline, and depending on what you're looking for, that balance may shift backwards and forwards.

I am a great advocate of going beyond census and BMD to build a family tree or write a house history. What is the use of a long list of names and dates? Is it really better to make the biggest tree possible, or to bring a smaller amount of characters ‘to life’ by utilising every source you can get your hands on, be it parchment, newsprint, photograph, paper or other object? The answer will depend on you own personal goals, but personally, I tend towards the latter.

Visiting your local has never been more important than it is today. All around the country posts are being cut, opening hours reduced, facilities closed and accessibility altered. If we as researchers - in whatever branch of history - don’t use our archives and libraries, who will? These treasure troves of records, sounds, pictures, stories and lives are no good to anyone if they remain locked away with no one to look at them and no staff to help visitors discover them.

I don't understand the notion of someone having "done" their family tree. As far as my own goes, the more I do, the more questions I have, and the more I want to find out/check/cross reference (don't believe everything you read on a website, nor everything you read in an old hand!). There will always be things I haven't found yet, new sources to try, and new leads to follow and these will be located both on and offline. 

If you don’t have a library card or a CARN card, get one. Ideally get both! Libraries these days are much more user friendly and offer far more to you than just plain old books. Locally to me for example, beyond the physical resources that I love so much, your library card allows access to at least one, if not two, major genealogy websites for free - saving you money on subscriptions. It also allows you to access vast digital newspaper archives as well as Who’s Who, recent newspapers and business information to mention a few. All this in surroundings which lend themselves to further research in large archive collections that exist only in the real world.

Look out for events, too. There are probably talks, workshops and community groups near you that you could go to, and often they’re even free! Many libraries and archives are on twitter now, have facebook pages and mailing lists - it's getting ever easier to find out what they're up to and when and where it's happening.

However useful computers and the internet are - and will continue to be - there is something very special about looking at an original manuscript or volume. The texture, the sound… even the smell! You might be the first person to look at it for decades. My laptop isn’t half so magical. Believe it or not, I often even find microfilm better than the internet - the speed can be so slow around here that browsing a microfilm reel is actually a lot more efficient! What's more, lots of libraries now have wifi, so you can have the best of both worlds and strike the perfect balance between on and offline.

My plea to you is to ask you to find something new in your local facility, be that a resource, an event or even a piece of knowledge acquired from the staff there. If you went many years ago and found it stuffy, give it another try. If you rely on transcriptions, go and find the real thing - a lot of the time you'll get more (and better) information. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Look for posters about upcoming activities. Most of us staff love to help you, and some of us might even be able to help you with a thing or too….!

Go on, I dare you.

Mind your Erpinghams...!

First, let me apologise for my recent lack of blog updating. I hope to rectify this now my MSc work has finished for the summer - at some point I will also do a blog about the first year of the Strathclyde course I’ve been busy completing, in the hope that some readers will find it interesting. 

For today however I’m going to write about administration units.

Dull? Well, maybe.

But I tell you what, if you don’t know which ‘Erpingham’ you’re talking about then you could find you’re wasting an awful lot of time during your research, either because you’re not looking in the right places, or because you're not including the entire area you should be reviewing. 

While my example here will be Norfolk based, the principle applies wherever you are across the Country, and the Erpingham Example is by no means the only one even in Norfolk (as you'll see at the bottom of this post).

So, Erpingham.

Erpingham, Erpingham, Erpingham. 

For some reason it’s the one name that seems to trip up and confuse more people I speak to than any other. In fact, if I had a pound for every person that thought all births, marriages and deaths on the GRO and listed in Erpingham were registered in the parish, then I might have retired by now (I'm 27).  

Most locals will know that Erpingham is a small and very pretty village in North Norfolk. It had just over 540 residents in 2001 (according to the census of that year) and has a very well known pub. The church of St Mary is the religious centre of the ecclesiastical parish of the same name (in the benefice of Erpingham with Calthorpe etc), and the current area of the civil parish of Erpingham is a smidge over 10km squared. There is no registry office there. 

Erpingham is also the name of several other administrative units which are much, much, larger - in both area and population - than the parish itself. Here are the most common ones:

North Erpingham hundred: A historical administrative area you’ll come across frequently, mostly before 1834, when looking at things like land tax, or finding parishes in Blomefield or trade directories. North Erpingham hundred includes Aldborough, Antingham, Aylmerton, Barningham-Norwood, Barningham Town, Beeston Regis, Bessingham, Cromer, East Beckham…in fact over 30 parishes in the north of the County up to the coast. Not one of them is Erpingham parish!

South Erpingham hundred: As above, but including nearly 40 parishes immediately to the south of the other Erpingham hundred. This time, Erpingham is one of those parishes included in the unit. For Norfolk hundred maps, visit www.archives.norfolk.gov.uk and look for “e-Resources” on the left before choosing a map to view.

Erpingham Poor Law Union: The 49 parishes which came together in April 1836, with an elected Board of Guardians, to look after the needy of the area. This area is not the same as either of the hundreds described previously. Unfortunately, it didn’t even stay the same throughout its history – North Walsham parish moved from Erpingham Union to Smallburgh Union in 1884! 

Erpingham Registration district: As already mentioned, this seems to be the one that really throws people, and not surprisingly. When civil registration began in 1837, each birth, marriage and death was indexed with a ‘Registration District’. This is not a single parish where the event was registered, but a group of parishes. The event could have been registered in any one of the parishes included in the district. Erpingham parish is within Erpingham RD, but so are 52 other parishes for most of its existance (use a site such as www.ukbmd.org.uk to find out which parishes were in which district, when). So, when you see a birth, marriage or death index entry in ‘Erpingham’, it’s not telling you that everything happened in Erpingham village and you won’t find all the associated baptisms, banns and burials in the St Mary’s registers. The parishes covered are again not the same as any of the other units mentioned above.

These are the main offenders for beginners with Erpingham connections, but watch out, because Erpingham isn’t always included in a larger unit bearing it’s name either – from 1806 to 1836, Erpingham parish belonged to the Oulton Gilbert Union and sent it’s paupers to a workhouse at Oulton!

It's important to make sure you know which Erpingham you are dealing with, but unfortunately web sources - and other sources - won't always make it clear. But then it's all part of the challenge and detective work of family history, and part of the reason that patience, referencing and attention to detail are such important qualities in a genealogist... 

Other Norfolk parishes which give their names to various units are as follows (not an exhaustive list; GU = Gilbert Union, PLU = Poor Law Union, RD = Registration District): 

Acle is a GU

Aldborough is a GU

Aylsham is a PLU and an RD

Bawdeswell is a GU

Blofield is a PLU, a hundred and an RD

Booton is a GU

Brinton is a GU (with Melton Constable)

Diss is a hundred

Docking is a PLU and an RD

Earsham is a hundred

East Dereham is an RD

Fakenham is an RD

Gimingham is a GU

Great Yarmouth is a PLU and an RD

Hackford is a GU NB there are two Hackford parishes, the GU is the one near Reepham

Holt is a hundred

Hoxne is an RD

King’s Lynn is a PLU, a coroners’ district and an RD

Loddon is a PLU and RD (with Clavering), by itself it’s a hundred

Melton Constable is a GU (with Brinton)

Mitford is a PLU and an RD (with Launditch), by itself it’s a hundred

Mutford is a hundred and an RD NB the parish is in Suffolk but some parishes in the hundred and RD were once in Norfolk

North Walsham is an RD

Norwich is a PLU, a hundred, a coroners’ district, an RD

Shropham is a hundred

Smallburgh is an RD

Swaffham is a PLU and an RD

Taverham is a hundred

Thetford is a PLU and an RD

Tunstead (with Happing) is a PLU and RD, by itself it’s a hundred

Walsingham is a PLU and an RD

Wisbech is an RD


And to finish, a few that people often think are parishes… but aren't (just for starters):


Forehoe is a PLU and an RD but not a parish

Depwade is PLU and an RD but not a parish

Clavering (with Loddon) is a PLU and an RD, by itself it’s a hundred, but it’s not a parish

Happing (with Tunstead) is a PLY and an RD, by itself it’s a hundred, but it’s not a parish


If you're looking for a more national resource, try www.visionofbritain.org.uk and www.genuki.org.uk - both are mines of information.

So there you have it. Don’t be fooled, have confidence in your units (not just the alcoholic kind), and mind your Erpinghams!

Our local, historical, genealogical, sci fi wedding!

With the wedding being a family occasion for us and me working in archives and generally enjoying everything to do with genealogy, it was always inevitable that elements of this would creep into our recent nuptials. We might have stopped at the ‘Victorian Amethyst’ of my lovely ladies’ bridesmaid dresses - but we didn't! While we didn't have an overall theme as such, we melded lots of our joint interests into something that very much represented 'us'. The colours were purple, silver, ivory and black, we had genealogical bits - more later - but we also had sci fi bits (everyone sat at a table named after a fictional star ship…!) 

First, the venue. Thanks to John and Nicole at beautiful Bateman’s Barn, St Cross South Elmham in Suffolk for providing us with the perfect venue, complete with a Grade 1 listed, moated manor house, romantic ruin, walks to South Elmham Minster, medieval wall paintings and of course the barn, dating from 1270, where we actually tied the knot. We had a wonderful time and our thanks go to both Nicole and John for working so hard to give us a brilliant day with loads of fantastic food – we would recommend them to anyone. See http://www.weddings.batemansbarn.co.uk/ and www.batemansbarn.co.uk for more information. 

Perhaps my favourite aspect was the “wedding line”, a chronological series of wedding photographs of family weddings all the way back to the 1870s. It was a great ice breaker between the families and organising the photos in this way was really interesting too, because all over the Country, the same standard poses are evident. To show which family was which, my family had purple labels, and his silver. Weddings ranged from Badingham in the 1870s and Blackburn in the early 1900s all the way across the pond to a GI wedding in Ohio and a Vegas shot featuring a recent wedding on hubby’s side. Obvious too were the WWI and WWII weddings, on both sides of the family. 

The most entertaining conversations were perhaps the “that’s where your nose comes from!” types. Children were poking fun at their parents and of course aunties, uncles and even the bride and mother of the groom appeared as bridesmaids and best men in other peoples’ photos. 

Next, the place settings. Each person at the ‘main event’ (we had an evening session too) had a mini family tree, all drawn by me, showing their recent ancestry, where I knew it. (Note I didn’t investigate anyone’s history I didn’t already know very well – new boyfriends and girlfriends would have found that more than creepy!) It was very helpful here that I also got my now-Mother-in-Law into Ancestry, to the point where, being able to devote more time to it, her trees are now even bigger than mine! Here are a couple of examples: 



Standing around outside the bar? Perfect opportunity to check out the family tree of our cat, Moo. Why was our feline friend involved? Simply because it’s much easier to make a large bowtie ancestor chart with a common denominator linking my family with my husband’s. Not having any kids, the cat had to step in! Not everyone would have been interested, but it was a fun way to showcase our research, and most people there for the whole shebang shared at least part of our tree. 


On a personal note, I also wore a brooch that belonged to my Great Grandmother as my something old – it could even be seen on her 1930s wedding photograph in the wedding line. My something blue may also have historical connetations of some sort…!?


There are loads of other people I’d like to thank, and I include their details and websites here in no particular order....

Christopher Warner, our pianist, who converted my favourite Pantera track to a song I could walk down the aisle to, who played the Game of Thrones theme for us to sign the register, and even a Star Trek medley for us to exit to (yes, really, people were trying to work out why they recognised it, but couldn’t quite believe it might be Star Trek). www.thecambridgepianist.co.uk 

Bray’s Cottage pork pies for creating an incredible three tier pork pie for the reception. Three flavours – chilli, onion marmalade and chorizo. Can you say ‘yum’? www.perfectpie.co.uk 

Callendar’s in Framlingham for gorgeous flowers to match the theme including beautiful pedestals and table arrangements, not to mention the button holes and my lovely bouquet. www.framlinghamflorist.co.uk

The Black Swan pub at Homersfield, for keeping the boys entertained until it was time for them to come across. www.homersfieldblackswan.co.uk

For my, and my bridesmaids', hair, the fab Emily Glasspoole at Example in Norwich. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Example-Hair-Salon/309123999122921 

DK Wedding Photography, the fabulous Tim and James, who have given us the best photos we could have asked for, including all those on this blog. www.dkweddingphotography.co.uk

The registrars from Waveney, who did a great job of the ceremony, put us both at our ease and of course shared a knowledge of BMD certs with me! Also the bus company, Simonds, who ferried my evening guests from and back to Norwich: http://www.simonds.co.uk/

Elma, our incredible fire dancer, who entertained the crowds and wowed everyone who watched. http://fleuriefire.weebly.com/ 

There are others - Ngaire who did my make up, Sarah and Karen who made my cake - but they don't have websites. Nevertheless - THANK YOU! Last but no means least, our families and friends, without whom there would be no wedding, and no genealogy.