Family history sources for King's Lynn
These notes describe some of the main sources for family history research specifically relating to King’s Lynn.
They should be used with our guide Tracing Your Family Tree.
The town’s Borough Archives are kept at King’s Lynn Town Hall.
Other records are kept at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) and the Norfolk Heritage Cenre (NHC).
Parish registers for King’s Lynn are available on microfilm and fiche at the NRO and NHC, plus through websites mentioned in our guide Tracing your Family Tree.
Historically, the town of King’s Lynn was made up of the parishes of:
- St Margaret
- Its daughter chapel, St Nicholas
- South Lynn All Saints
Registers for these parishes date from the mid-16th century. Registers are also available for:
- St John (from 1846)
- St Edmund (from 1958)
- South Lynn St Michael (from 1905)
The parishes of West Lynn and North Lynn have their own registers and were once considered separate places.
The free churches
The National Archives (TNA) hold the following Nonconformist registers for King’s Lynn:
- Independent (Broad Street Chapel): births/baptisms 1745-1837
- Particular Baptist (Broad Street, Stepney Chapel and Blackfriars’ Road): births 1789–1837, marriages and burials 1842-57
- Wesleyan Methodist Circuit: births/baptisms 1797-1837
These records are available on microfilm at the NRO and at BMD Registers. This website has a free searchable index, but you need to pay a fee to view the full entry.
The NRO holds the following Nonconformist registers for King’s Lynn (also available at NHC on microfilm or fiche, unless stated). See list FC:
- Particular Baptist (Broad Street, Stepney Chapel and Blackfriars Road): births 1796–1837, marriages 1940-83 – not at NHC
- Congregational (New Conduit Street): baptisms 1838-96, marriages and burials 1850-96
- Primitive Methodist Circuit: baptisms 1823-1933 – not at NHC post-1911
- Primitive Methodist (St James): marriages 1908-56 – not at NHC
- Wesleyan Methodist Circuit: baptisms 1837-66
- Wesleyan Methodist (Tower Street): marriages 1844-1936
- Methodist (Tower Street): marriages 1936-43 – not at NHC
- Society of Friends (Quakers): births 1775-81, marriages 1781-91, burials 1784-94
- Society of Friends Monthly Meething – birth notes 1841-69 – not at NHC
Microfilm copies of the registers of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church are also available at the NRO. They cover:
- Baptisms, 1802-1939
- Marriages, 1820-1939
- Burials, 1848-1935
The borough council holds registers of burials at Hardwick Road Cemetery (beginning in 1855) and indexes to them.
Contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Manager at Mintlyn Crematorium.
Some 14th century Lynn wills were enrolled in the borough records, mainly in the Red Register (held in King’s Lynn Borough Archives).
Otherwise, they were dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts up to 1857 and by the civil probate courts from 1858.
Our guide to wills and other probate records gives further details on these sources.
Registers of electors
Registers of electors (1834-1915) are in King's Lynn Borough Archives; they are also on microfilm, to 1901, in the NRO. These are mainly for local, not parliamentary, elections.
King’s Lynn registers of electors are with the Norfolk County series at the NRO from 1918 (see list C/ERO).
King’s Lynn library has a series of parliamentary electoral registers from 1846 and poll books for parliamentary elections, 1768-1869.
Freemen, apprentices and mariners
The names of freemen (or burgesses) of Lynn from 1292-1868 are recorded in King's Lynn Borough Archives and are also available on microfiche in the NRO.
A published version (A Calendar of the Freemen of Lynn, 1292-1836) can be seen at the NRO, NHC, King's Lynn Borough Archives and King’s Lynn Library.
There are separate registers of apprenticeships (1648-1851), at King's Lynn Borough Archives and on fiche at the NRO.
Receipts from muster rolls naming each ship and the ship’s master, 1748-1827 (with gaps) and records of payments to injured sailors and the dependents of those who died, 1748-1800 (with gaps), are with the King's Lynn Borough Archives.
A small group of private mariners’ apprenticeships, 1740-61, was enrolled in a series of deeds in the King's Lynn Borough Archives.
An indexed calendar of them can be seen there and also at the NRO.
Records of the poor
The Guardians for the parish of St Margaret administered a workhouse which was located in the former St James’ Chapel.
Following the building’s partial collapse in 1854, a new workhouse opened north of Exton’s Road two years later.
The Poor Law Union records in the NRO include several series naming inmates of the workhouse from 1737, including some admission and discharge and other registers, 1780-1951, with some gaps. There are also:
- Outdoor poor books and lists, 1736-1843 and 1870
- Records of payments to families of sailors who had been impressed, 1755-81
- A list of the poor in the parish, 1770
- Case books containing copies of settlement examinations, 1847-66
South Lynn was included in King’s Lynn Union from 1834. It is not so well documented before that date, but the Union records do include South Lynn overseers’ accounts for 1753-90 and records of South Lynn paupers, 1826-40. See list C/GP 13.
Records of the borough sessions begin in 1620: they include minutes relating to poor law and apprenticeship matters as well as criminal cases.
They are in the King's Lynn Borough Archives but are also available on microfilm, up to 1865, at the NRO.
The NRO holds records of several King’s Lynn schools, mainly those run by the local authority which have closed. They include some records of pupils.
Among them is an unusually detailed admission register of the Jubilee School, 1808-49.
Deeds survive in many different archives. Deeds to the borough’s corporate estates from the 13th century and some private deeds from 1571 are in King's Lynn Borough Archives. There are also Lynn deeds in several collections in the NRO.
King's Lynn Borough Archives has some tax lists and rentals for various dates, from the late 13th to the early 19th centuries.
There are some especially full tax assessments for 1689-94 and 1702-5 which are also on fiche at the NRO. The NRO has good series of rate books from 1727.
Both King's Lynn Borough Archives and the NRO have indexed transcripts by Peter Sykes of:
- Detailed rentals for 1604-5, 1622-3, 1764 and 1849
- The poll tax lists for 1689 and 1702
- An annotated index to an unusually detailed quit rental, 1849
Our guide to tracing the history of houses in King’s Lynn gives more details on property records for the town and how to use them.
Directories have been published intermittently for Norfolk from the early 19th century. They name the main borough and other public officials and, more selectively, private residents and tradesmen.
King’s Lynn Library has a good series of these and many can also be seen in the NRO and NHC.
Mayors, recorders, town clerks and MPs up to 1890 are listed in Le Strange, Norfolk Official Lists (1890).
About 200 18th century Lynn aldermen, councillors, merchants and others are listed, with additional biographical information, in an unpublished compendium by J M Barney. This is available at King's Lynn Borough Archives.
An unpublished list and index by Peter Sykes of mayors, aldermen, common councillors, officials and some others, 1524-1835, can also be seen at the Borough Archives.
Local newspapers from 1869 and an index to obituaries from 1848 (with some gaps) are available in King’s Lynn Library. NHC also holds a large collection of local newspapers.