Researching the local and family history of Norwood: Norwood, as most areas, has an interesting and full history, but there is always much more to be discovered. Our archive is stored in the Upper Norwood Library with limited access, and over time has become depleted. This article is intended to help by pointing those seeking information to find the answers for themselves. It is by no means exhaustive and assumes some access to online resources which in reality is necessary, and inevitably saves time. An essential starting point for family history research is to talk to relatives and seek out family documents, and the same can also be true for local history by talking to local people. All of Norwood was in the old county of Surrey and therefore the principal family history society for the area is the East Surrey family History Society (http://eastsurreyfhs.org.uk/)
Norwood covers four boroughs and is near a fifth. Lambeth and Croydon cover the majority of the area; their archives can be found at http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/places/lambeth-archives and http://www.museumofcroydon.com/.
Bromley (http://www.bromley.gov.uk/info/1062/libraries_-_local_collections/377/local_studies_library_and_archives) and Southwark (http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200161/local_history_library) have also significant records that cover parts of Norwood.
Lewisham is nearby (https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/history/archives/Pages/default.aspx).
All the above archives are open to the public but at varying hours.
Two of the most useful sources of reference in these archives are Street Directories (often called 'Kelly's'), and electoral registers. The Bishopsgate Institute (http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/Library) has one of the most comprehensive street directory collections for London as well as much other material, as has the National Archives.
The London Metropolitan Archives has many records that cover Norwood (https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/Pages/default.aspx). On that website you will see mention of the Guildhall Library which is a treasure trove of information, albeit reference only. The National Archives at Kew is an invaluable repository.
The history of Norwood can be found on British History on-line at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol26/pp167-173. Books sold by the Norwood Society are listed elsewhere.
There is much that can be done from one's own P.C. Most importantly Family Search.org is a free site which covers the 1881 census, and also many parish records which cover births and marriages.
Paid websites such as Ancestry, the Genealogist or Find My Past (the latter includes some newspapers) are almost essential, covering censuses, births, marriages and deaths, and more. Burials can be the most difficult to find, but some cemeteries have on-line details of these, including Norwood Cemetery, All Saints Upper Norwood (both through Ancestry) and St Luke's West Norwood. 'Deceased on Line' (www.deceasedonline.com), a paid site, is amassing burial data. Most public libraries have one site available with free access.
Problems arise when looking for a road or building rather than a person. A website which still exists, although not being updated, that may help with this is 'The Historical Streets Project' (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100115151708/http:/yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Your_Archives:Historical_Streets_Project). If one goes to 'browse categories' on the site a list of censuses will be found.
Newspapers are a further valuable source. The British Library contains many in their collection; see http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/news/. Some of these are available on line, and many public libraries such as Lambeth and the City of London have electronic databases which allow library members to search from their own home. These include many 19th century newspapers e.g. The Times and the Illustrated London News. Since the closing of the Colindale Newspaper Library the British Library are increasingly putting digital and searchable newspapers on the subscription site 'The British Newspaper Archive' (http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/). Various archives have their own collections such as Norwood News and South London Press at Lambeth Archives, and Norwood News and Croydon Advertiser at Croydon Local Studies. These are on microfilm etc and are not searchable as are on-line resources. Many national papers cover local events, sometimes even Norwood.
Photographs can be a further useful source. Local Authority archives have their own collections but copies are usually charged for. Searching Google under images can find more, but sometimes the results are of poor resolution unless you are prepared to pay for copies. Facebook and Twitter yield a surprising number of images if you join the various local groups. The Norwood Society has a limited collection, many of which were taken in the 1960/70s.
There are many other resources that could be mentioned, but as Norwood had four establishments concerned with the care of poor children, 'The Workhouse' (http://www.workhouses.org.uk/ & http://www.childrenshomes.org.uk/) may be helpful. The arrival of The Crystal Palace in this area shaped the development of Norwood in the latter half of the 19th century. The Crystal Palace Foundation (http://www.crystalpalacefoundation.org.uk/) is the leading authority on the Palace and a visit to the Crystal Palace Museum on Anerley Hill may also be worthwhile. The various local authority archives also have collections of interest for research on the Crystal Palace. Joining the local history society for your area of interest is important, and one can learn even more by attending meetings.
There is no easy way to access local and family history information. It cannot be assumed that that this research is an activity without some cost, particularly with increasing Governmental budget cuts. This is true as much for the Norwood Society as individuals, and research undertaken by our Society relies on personally paid subscriptions to various databases. Thus we encourage enquirers to either join the Norwood Society or at least offer a donation.
In conclusion the Norwood Society encourages individual research. Please share your discoveries with us!
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