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A wealth of historic information for family researchers

8:28 am, Tuesday, 13th June 2023 - 9 months ago


The origins of Grimsby as a community probably date back to the late 9th century when the Vikings first settled in eastern England. The original settlement was no more than a village, and the Scandinavian settlers were probably drawn to the locality by its haven, a sheltered tidal creek off the River Humber fed by freshwater springs.

The settlement is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Grimesbei”, when it had 32.5 households. This meant that it was ranked among the top 40% of settlements in William the Conqueror’s newly acquired kingdom. Grimsby had an annual value of £30 to its lord, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (the Conqueror’s half-brother). By way of comparison, the settlement of Hull, which was then named Sutton on Hull, had only 20.4 households, with an annual tax value of just £10.

For family historians, accessing North East Lincolnshire’s past could not be easier, with a team of helpful, knowledgeable archives and library staff poised and ready to partake in a spot of historical sleuthing. Many members of staff have deep Lincolnshire roots of their own and they enjoy the challenge of helping researchers to find their local ancestors.

Of course, Grimsby was once the largest fishing port in the world and the town has a rich maritime history.  Researchers can access a catalogue containing more than 70,000 entries, including 38,000 fishing vessel crew agreements. North East Lincolnshire Archives also holds registers of local trawlers, registers of fishing apprentices, records relating to the Grimsby Ice Factory, photographs of the docks, and many other documents concerning the fishing industry.

Adrian Wilkinson, manager of North East Lincolnshire Archives, said: “We have a very large collection of documents, which includes items dating as far back as the 13th century. The oldest document in our custody is a Royal Charter relating to Grimsby, which was issued by King Henry III in 1227. We receive enquiries about our collections from all over the world, and during the last few months we have answered e-mails from Australia, the United States and Spain. Last week I undertook some family history research for an octogenarian who now lives in rural France but was born in Grimsby’s West Marsh.”

“Our archives and library are stacked with information for the avid historian.  Whether you are just starting out with family research, are an old hand at hunting for ancestral clues, or need some important information about the area, our librarians and archivists are always keen to help.

Cllr Hayden Dawkins, Cabinet member for Culture, Heritage and the Visitor Economy, said: “We are proud of our region’s past and want to make sure that the evidence of these moments in time are preserved and passed on to future generations.”

North East Lincolnshire Archives can be found to the rear of Grimsby Town Hall. Researchers are welcome to visit the search room, but booking is recommended to ensure space is available. E-mail and postal enquiries are also welcome, though some searches may be chargeable, depending on the complexity of the research. Family researchers can access a wide variety of sources, including local directories, title deeds, photographs, school records, court records, copies of the registers for many local parishes, and architects’ plans for hundreds houses in the area.

The Local History Library, which is located in Grimsby Central Library in Town Hall Square, holds newspapers on microfilm, maps and plans, electoral rolls, street directories, and a large collection of books on all aspects of local history.  Parish registers are also available on microfiche.  Search fees are applicable for more complex enquiries, but you can conduct your own research at both the archives and Grimsby Local History Library.  Entry is free and is open to all.

Across the wider borough, staff at the Bereavement Service office can help with cremation or cemetery records.  Visitors can, by appointment, search for records at the office, or request a search by a staff member (fees are applicable).  There are maps of local cemeteries, with grid references to help locate individual grave plots.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced family historian, there is a wealth of information across North East Lincolnshire. Our staff are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic and will go the extra mile to help find the missing piece of an ancestral puzzle.

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