The Peeks

A family of fishermen from Carlton Colville and Pakefield

I did it for my Mum

I remember telling my Mum back in the mid-1980s that I was going to start to research my family tree.  She looked at me and her face changed, then she said that it would be a waste of time for her side as she was convinced that none of her family were left alive in Lowestoft and she was one of the surviving few in her line which was all female.  There’s nothing like being set a huge challenge!

I genuinely didn’t know what I was letting myself into.  I thought I would be spending hours in dusty record offices searching through piles of registers and indexes.  To some extent that was the way it began, but commercial companies started to get a hold and a lot of data was made available online but at a price.  I’m digressing, so let’s get back to the story.

A north Suffolk family

It would be fair to say that Mum didn’t like to talk about her life, particularly the early part.  I asked her once if I could record part of her story and she agreed reluctantly, but it was clear to me that she was uncomfortable about the experience and we stopped after a few minutes.   I felt bad for asking her to do it, but now I’m glad as it’s the only recording I have of her voice, together with a few pictures.

She did tell me enough for me to establish that the family had very firm roots around the north Suffolk coast, unlike my paternal family who had been stuck on the south Suffolk coast.  The vast majority of her male family had all been fishermen and most of her female family had married into other fishing families.  That explains where my love of the sea comes from.

Setting the scene

To give you an idea of the look of the land around Lowestoft I have added two maps below.  The one on the left, or on top if you are viewing on a tablet or mobile, is Sheet 67 of the Ordnance Survey First Series, dated 1856, showing Great Yarmouth in the north down to Pakefield in the south.  The other map is an enlargement showing Lowestoft and its surrounds in a bit more detail.  Things have changed over the years as bits of coast have fallen into the sea, including parts of inhabited Lowestoft, but this is how things looked to a lot of my ancestors.  Credit is give to the resource below, who allow the use of their collection of old maps for purposes such as this without charge.

Ordnance Survey First Series map dated 1856 for Lowestoft and surrounding area
Map showing an enlarged view of Lowestoft and surrounding areas in  1856

This work is based on data provided through and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth.

There are a lot of Peeks with all spelling variations….

My Mum’s belief that she was the last of the Peeks could not have been wider of the mark.  During the first few years of my research i was able to leap frog backwards using only online records such as BMD certificates and census records.  New family members were revealed at every stage of the process and the family grew bigger and bigger.  At one stage I was able to connect my tree with other members of the family I had discovered and I have reliably got back to the root of the tree, a Robert Peek born around 1633 in Covehithe.  I am sure you will understand that he is just a name to me and as much as I would like to reveal a story about him I cannot, I have no documents to use as a base.  I will be coming further forward in time, around 1837 for my Peek family stories as I will have some solid information I can use.

Some stories will be very short, some of considerable length, but I hope none will be boring.  There will be some sadness to share, but I have found throughout my years of research that I have had to harden my heart.  As far as my living family members go, we have to realise that there is nothing we can do now to change things.   Different rules and values applied back then, and we should not try to apply today’s lifestyle to how our ancestors lived.  We just have to accept things for what they were and live with it, as harsh as that might be.

My thanks

I have had a lot of help with my research into the Peek side of my family, and i would like to acknowledge that by thanking everyone who has given me a hand along the way. Please forgive me if you have sent me information and you are not mentioned here.  I would be happy to rectify that at any time, just contact me and I will add your name.

Thanks are most certainly due to Christine Moyes Smith, who I  now know to be my second cousin and Neil Peek, my third cousin once removed.  Both were found during my research and have been wonderful in sharing details about their Peek ancestors that would have taken me an eternity to find.  A good few years ago we had a reunion at Neil and his wife Christine’s lovely house, which pleased my Mum immensely.