A new online database lists the names of every freeman in Norwich, a city on the River Wensum in East Anglia, England, that is approximately 100 miles (161 km) north-east of London.
Called the Freemen Registers, these records are an important resource for historians and those tracing their family history of those who lived and worked in Norwich. starting with Walter Fleighe, a butcher, in 1317. The oldest register, the Old Free Book, dates from 1317 to 1548. It was followed by the second register from 1548 to 1713, the third from 1713 to 1752 and so on until the present day.
What is a Freeman?
Men with the required qualifications were admitted to what was known as the ‘freedom of the city’. This meant the freemen took an oath to support the Mayor and accepted all sorts of responsibilities, like standing for elections, taking office, paying their taxes and abiding by the rules. In return, they were granted special trading rights and privileges, one of them being that their sons inherited the ‘freedom’. These rights and responsibilities have mostly disappeared but the title survives, and the freemen of Norwich continue to play an important part in life of the city.