Researching Local and Family History in Thurrock

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There are currently two areas within the Department of Libraries and Cultural Services where local history researchers can consult reference material and seek advice; these are the local studies section of Grays Library, and Thurrock Museum .There are historical reasons for this arrangement, and in future the two collections may be brought together under a ‘Heritage’ umbrella.

The Museum Service is responsible for the Borough Archive which consists mainly of the official records of Thurrock Borough Council and the earlier Thurrock Urban District Council, and the separate councils that came together to form the Urban District in 1936. They include, for example, Rate Books and the minutes of Council meetings.

The Museum is also responsible for the original bound volumes of the Grays and Tilbury Gazette, but to avoid handling their fragile pages, researchers will normally be expected to consult the microfilm copies in the Grays Library.

Thurrock Museum has a number of Ordnance Survey maps of various scales and editions, but researchers will probably find it easier to consult these in the library where there is better coverage. Similarly with published local histories, the library offers the best opportunity to consult these, although the museum has collected cuttings, photocopies and research notes on a wide range of local history topics which may not be in the library; these may be consulted by arrangement.

Family historians and others may find it useful to consult the Thurrock Names Index which is a manual card index compiled over many years by museum volunteers; it contains many references to local names in published histories, parish documents, directories, etc. and has often proved a useful aid to research.

Paintings, prints, and photographs of local landscape, buildings and personalities can be found in both the Thurrock Museum collection and in Grays Library’s ‘local illustrations’ collection. A number of the museum’s paintings and prints are on display together with many copy photographs.

The large museum photographic collection consists of original prints and negatives, copy prints and negatives, and also many colour transparencies which have mainly been taken by museum staff since about 1974. It is sometimes possible to arrange for photographic copies to be made of pictures in the museum collection but this cannot always be done easily or quickly, and there is a charge for this service; please enquire if a photographic copy is required.

Black and white photocopies can be produced cheaply if the material is suitable for photocopying. Researchers are reminded that several books of old photographs have been published in recent years, of which one, Thurrock in Old Picture Postcards, is based on the museum collection. It may be advisable to start a search by looking at these books to see the kind of material that is available.

Finally, please remember that the museum staff, particularly those who have worked in this area for some time, may be able to answer questions from their own knowledge, or be able to guide researchers to sources. Enquiries may be made in person, and by letter, email or phone.

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