London dockers

This guide was last updated in 2009

Incomplete and damaged records make tracing London's docker population difficult, but the challenge can prove rewarding, says Jenny Thomas.

It is always a bit of a thrill to come across a dockworker during the course of our genealogical research. It is one of the characteristic employments of London past: at once we imagine our ancestor surrounded by the busy mayhem of the London docks – a part of the lively, noisy, grimy, hard-working life of the major trading port.

We imagine them handling exotic and everyday goods as they arrived from all over the world; surrounded by sights, sounds and smells both delightful and horrific as they witnessed and created the many episodes that the docks and their workers played in the history of the capital.

Barbara Windsor was lucky enough to trace her grandfather, Charles Ellis, who worked in the wine vaults, and to uncover a sense of what his life might have been like.

It is not always easy to trace your dock-worker ancestors, but it’s well worth while having a go: you never know what gems you might find.

Photo © Getty images

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