Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) History Month

What does family mean to you?

This year's theme is 'What does family mean to you?'. Family is the bond which ties together the diverse cultures of nomadic and travelling communities. The community also has an amazing oral history tradition of sharing stories of ancestors and cultural traditions that garner a sense of pride in Romani heritage.

You can find out more about this year's campaign and download a fantastic GRT history timeline on the Friends, Families and Travellers website.

Surrey's unique GRT history

Did you know that Romany Gypsies have been present in Britain since at least 1515? Romany Gypsies first migrated from India, via Europe, during the Roma migration. The first mention of the GRT community in Surrey dates to 1596. The county's rural commons and heaths have been home to encampments for centuries.

Many areas of Surrey have well-established links to the GRT community. One such area is Hurtwood near Shere, which was the site of Surrey's first school for Gypsies in the 1920s. Another historic area is Epsom Downs. Census records from the 1800s show that the GRT community would camp on Epsom Downs around the time of the Epsom Derby in June. This event has become an increasingly important family occasion for GRT people over the decades.

Tracing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ancestors at Surrey History Centre

Despite being one of Surrey's largest and oldest ethnic minorities, references to the GRT community are often hidden within historical records. This makes tracing GRT ancestry a challenge. But, with a bit of detective work, sources can be unearthed.

Surrey History Centre in Woking holds an array of archives, photographs, and published works which can help you do just this. You can visit the Surrey History Centre at 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6N.

You can find out if you have GRT ancestors by using the comprehensive guide on the Surrey History Centre tracing GRT ancestors web page.

For more resources on Surrey's GRT communities, visit the Surrey Heritage GRT sources web page.

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