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Discover your family history as city records made available online

PUBLISHED: 10:00 07 September 2017

Dr Elizabeth Griffiths, project leader, at the launch of the new database with all the names listed of every Norwich freeman taken from the old registries, such as the one on the table, with Dave Lincoln, website developer; and Dan Talbot, right, one of the team of inputters. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Dr Elizabeth Griffiths, project leader, at the launch of the new database with all the names listed of every Norwich freeman taken from the old registries, such as the one on the table, with Dave Lincoln, website developer; and Dan Talbot, right, one of the team of inputters. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

Those wanting to trace their family history through Norwich can now do it for free online as a set of historical books are being made available on the web.

The Lord Mayor of Norwich, David Fuller, and Sheriff, David Walker, at the launch of the new database with all the names listed of every Norwich freeman taken from the old registries, such as the one on the table. From left, Gary Tuson, county archivist at the Norfolk Record Office; the Sheriff; Nigel Back, chairman of the freemen of Norwich; Lord Mayor; Dr Elizabeth Griffiths, project leader; and Ruth Carrod, Lord Mayor's consort. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The Lord Mayor of Norwich, David Fuller, and Sheriff, David Walker, at the launch of the new database with all the names listed of every Norwich freeman taken from the old registries, such as the one on the table. From left, Gary Tuson, county archivist at the Norfolk Record Office; the Sheriff; Nigel Back, chairman of the freemen of Norwich; Lord Mayor; Dr Elizabeth Griffiths, project leader; and Ruth Carrod, Lord Mayor's consort. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Those wanting to trace their family history IN Norwich can now do it for free online as a set of historical books are being made available on the web.

The books log the names of every freeman in the city since 1317.

Called the Freemen Registers, they are an important resource for historians and those tracing their family history who lived and worked in Norwich.

The online database, called Norwich Freemen Records Online, is designed to get more people interested in their family history.

Nigel Back, chairman of the Freemen of Norwich committee, said: “The online registers will be an invaluable resource for historians and family history researchers with links to Norwich. “This new online database can be far more easily accessed than the old books held in the Norwich Record Office.”

Previously, anyone wishing to view the registers had to visit the Norfolk Record Office at County Hall and make an appointment for the archivists to retrieve the books from the vaults.

A Freeman is someone who has been given the freedom of a city or borough. Centuries ago they were the governing body of the city and were granted special rights to trade freely and conduct business.

The registers list the names of every freeman in Norwich starting with Walter Fleighe, a butcher, in 1317.

A number of events throughout 2017 have celebrated 700 years since the first name was recorded.

The oldest register, the Old Free Book, dates from 1317 to 1548. It was followed by the second register from 1548 to 1713, the third from 1713 to 1752 and so on until the present day.

Dr Elizabeth Griffiths, who is leading the project, said it was a huge undertaking to convert the old books into a digital format. “This is will be a truly lasting legacy of the Freemen700 celebrations,” she said. “It has taken a dedicated team of inputters months to enter the initial 35,000 freemen admissions into a database,” she said.

The records will be available free uploaded in stages. Visit www.norwichFreemen.org.uk for more information.

What is a Freeman?

A freeman is a term that dates to back more than 700 years.

Men who were of a certain status and who had reached the required qualifications were admitted to be given the Freedom of the City.

This meant that the Freeman took an oath to support the Mayor and accepted extra responsibilities like standing for elections and paying taxes.

In return they were given trading rights and privileges.

Although these special rights have disappeared the title still remains, and Freeman continue to play a part in the city.

Despite the name women are able to become Freeman. In 2009 an act of parliament allowed daughters of Freeman to qualify for admission to the Freedom.

In 2010 women were admitted to the Freedom in two large ceremonies in St. Andrew’s Hall.

Now, of the 1,000 Freeman living in Norwich, more than one-third are women.

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