Fans of Dorothy Sayers' fictional detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, know about England’s fens. Her book, The Nine Tailors, was set there, and Lord Peter’s brother had a home there. Long ago, the land was covered with water, and the high points, such as the Isle of Ely, were accessible only by boat.
The fens are a naturally marshy region in southeast England which is part of four counties - Lincoln, Cambridge, Norfolk and a small part of Suffolk. The whole occupies nearly 1,500 square miles.
Most of the fens were drained several centuries ago and continue to be protected from floods by drainage banks and pumps. The result of this engineering is a flat, damp, low-lying agricultural region which contains a large percentage of England’s best farmland. You can still see windmills a la The Netherlands dotting the landscape.
This pretty, rural part of the country is challenging to a genealogist because of the county borders and the need to consult all the County Records Offices. For example, some parishes in Western Norfolk were in the Diocese of Ely, and their records are in the Cambridge Records Office.
Two sources that cover the entire Fenlands are:
Wisbech and Fenlands Museum, Museum Square, Wisbech – www.wisbechmuseum.org.uk
"Wisbech & Fenland Museum is one of the oldest museums in the United Kingdom. Not only containing local artifacts from the surrounding Fens...The Museum also houses two historic libraries and a substantial archive, holding diocesan and borough items. The collections were initiated by the town's Literary and Museum Societies which were formed in 1781 and 1835 respectively. Since the Museum opened in 1847, the collections have continued to grow, but the essence of the Museum remains virtually unchanged." From www.wisbechmuseum.blogspot.com
Fenland Family History Society – www.fenlandfhs.org.uk
The Fenland Family History Society was founded in 2001 to promote and encourage the study of family, local and social history with particular reference to persons who lived in or were associated with the historical area now known as Fenland.