Ancestors from Great Yarmouth
This guide describes some specific sources relating to the borough of Great Yarmouth.
It should be used in conjunction with our guide Tracing your Family Tree which offers general advice on genealogical research.
Parish registers for Great Yarmouth are available on microfilm and fiche at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), the Norfolk Heritage Centre (NHC) and at Great Yarmouth Library.
They are also available to view through the websites mentioned in the Tracing your Family Tree guide.
Please note that the parish registers were badly damaged in the Second World War and some were too fragile to be filmed.
Most of the gaps can be filled using contemporary copies, the Weekly Register Bills and the archdeacons’ or bishop's transcripts (NRO and NHC).
However, no marriages are recorded on these transcripts after 1841.
There was only one parish church in Great Yarmouth, St Nicholas, until 1714. In that year St George's Chapel was founded, but it has no separate registers until the late 19th century.
Before that, all Anglican baptisms, marriages and burials in Great Yarmouth are to be found in the St Nicholas registers.
The National Archives (TNA) holds the following Nonconformist registers for Yarmouth:
- Presbyterian (Gaol Street – Old Meeting): births/baptisms (1706-1836), deaths/burials (1800-37)
- Wesleyan Methodist Circuit: birth/baptisms (1795-1837)
- Primitive Methodist Circuit (Tabernacle): births/baptisms (1825-37)
- Society of Friends (Quaker): births (1814-36)
These records are available on microfilm at the NRO and online at BMD Registers (it has a searchable index, but you have to pay to view a full entry).
The NRO holds the following Nonconformist registers for Yarmouth (also available at NHC on microfilm or fiche, unless stated):
- Congregational (Middlegate): baptisms (1643-1840, with gaps), burials (1823, 1829 only)
- Congregational (Market Meeting): baptisms (1789-1804)
- Primitive Methodist Circuit: baptisms (1843-93)
- Primitive Methodist (Priory Plain): marriages (1899-1963) – not at NHC
- Primitive Methodist (Queen’s Road): baptisms (1911-39) – not at NHC
- Primitive Methodist (Temple): baptisms (1888-1963)
- United Methodist (New Town): baptisms (1898-1940) – not at NHC
- United Methodist (Regent Road): baptisms (1851-1936) – not at NHC
- Wesleyan Methodist Circuit: baptisms (1795-1838)
- Wesleyan Methodist: baptisms (1795-1932), marriages (1847-63) – not at NHC
- Wesleyan Methodist (Deneside and Central Hall) – baptisms (1927-39) – not at NHC
- Unitarian (Old Meeting and Market Meeting) – baptisms (1789-1804) – not at NHC
Baptisms and deaths recorded in the Congregational Church book have been printed by the Norfolk Record Society (volume 22); this is available on the searchroom shelves at NRO.
The Yarmouth Meeting of the Society of Friends only existed between 1801 and 1840.
Before 1801 Yarmouth Quakers were part of the Lammas Meeting and after 1840 they became part of the Norwich Meeting.
Therefore, records of Yarmouth Quakers are likely to be found among their records; see SF series (NRO) and Quaker records at TNA.
Churchyards and cemeteries
Great Yarmouth Library holds a transcription of monumental inscriptions in St Nicholas’ churchyard: this includes many headstones that have since been cleared.
The Market Gates Cemetery was used mainly by Nonconformists. There is a copy of the burial register (1828-64) on microfilm NNAS 894754 (NRO).
Churchyards in large towns were not normally used for burials from 1856 and cemeteries were established instead.
Burial registers for the following cemeteries in the Yarmouth area are on fiche at NRO:
- Great Yarmouth Old Cemetery, 1856-1987
- Great Yarmouth New Cemetery, 1876-1986
- Gorleston Old Cemetery, 1879-1987
- Great Yarmouth Cemetery at Caister, 1907-87
- Magdalen Cemetery, 1958-87
The original registers are at Magdalen Cemetery in Gorleston.
Freemen and apprentices
Apprenticeship indentures enrolled in the Great Yarmouth borough archives, 1563-1663, have been published by the Norfolk and Norwich Genealogical Society, volume 11, available on the searchroom shelves. Those for 1666-1856 are available on microfiche.
For details of records on freemen of Yarmouth, see our separate guide.
The Merchant Navy
Many Great Yarmouth men were in the Merchant Navy, but few records are held locally.
In theory, there should be records of all merchant navy crew from 1747 at TNA, but few ports have records surviving from before 1800 and there are none for Great Yarmouth before this date.
TNA has only kept a sample of the crew lists made after 1860, as the 19th century crew lists are so enormous - see TNA’s Merchant Navy research guides.
The Maritime History Archive, at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, holds the remaining lists.
Records of the poor
No records relating to the poor survive among the Great Yarmouth parish records. The Great Yarmouth borough archives include the following, all available on film at NRO:
- Overseers’ accounts (1599-1652, 1727-1833) but please note these do not normally give the names of paupers
- Index of people ordered to be returned by the overseers (1720-25)
- Index of people issued with removal passes (1773-89)
- Register of illegitimate children (1793-97)
- Settlement and bastardy bonds (1640-99)
From the 17th century, there was a workhouse in Great Yarmouth Market Place. A new workhouse was built in 1839, now the Northgate Hospital.
No admission or discharge records are known to have survived for either, but there are:
- Workhouse Master's reports, 1869-71 and 1902-04, see Y/WE 298-299
- A list of people in the Workhouse, c1938-40, see Y/WE 300
Poor Law Guardians' minutes survive for 1837-42, 1859-61, 1889-91 and 1910-30. See list Y/WE.
Guardians' minutes up to c1850 do mention names of paupers, but after this date individuals are named much less frequently.
Great Yarmouth had responsibility for its schools, being a county borough.
Records survive from 1870 onwards: there is a list of the schools in the Guide to Great Yarmouth Borough Records (p44-45).
Records of the Bluecoat Charity School include admission registers (1713-1889) and are also among the borough archives.
Records of Great Yarmouth Grammar School include admission registers from 1863 onwards.
The NRO holds all these school records: see our guide to schools in Great Yarmouth.
Great Yarmouth rate books (of various kinds) survive from 1741 onwards. Those for 1741-1861 are on microfiche at the NRO and at Great Yarmouth Library.
Rate books between 1861 and 1957 are at the NRO; see series Y/TR. Later rate books are still with Great Yarmouth Borough Council.
Ratepayers' names are listed in alphabetical order before 1835 (of tenant rather than owner) and the location of the property within the ward is not given.
The location is provided after 1835 and from 1855 the arrangement is by street rather than by ratepayers' name.
Registers of electors and poll books
The NRO holds registers of electors for Great Yarmouth (1832-1948). They are available on microform for the years 1832-1915. For original registers (1918-39), see list Y/TC 20.
Great Yarmouth was no longer a county borough after 1948 and registers of electors are with the Norfolk County series, also in the NRO and on microfilm (1949-75). Registers from 1966 are at the NHC.
Voting was a public act before the Secret Ballot Act of 1870, and printed poll books were issued after each election showing how everyone had voted. Poll books for Great Yarmouth are held at Great Yarmouth Library and at the NHC.