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News & Information (Monthly Update)

June 2020 Update
published by Pat Hase on Sun, 31/05/2020 - 22:09

Each month I try to bring you up to date with news of developments in Family History which might benefit our members – I hope that at least some of you have time to read this and find it useful.

This month we are promised a slackening of lock-down regulations, but libraries, archives and museums remain closed to visitors. 

I wonder how many of you, like me, back in March, thought you would spend this time in lock down revising and progressing with your research.  With extra time and many resources made available online for the duration of this crisis I intended to make big strides in finding more people on the fringes of my tree who might share DNA   But……..    

In my case – I’m shielding - it wasn’t the lure of long walks for exercise, extra gardening or decorating which prevented this – it was sheer inertia and I’ve been easily sidetracked.  Lots of delightful phone calls and emails – some with family history queries which have set me off along other paths.  I didn’t intend to research the name of the horse which pulled the cart delivering greengrocery during WW2 (didn’t find it!) or the background of the Headmistress of the Infants’ School I attended in Bristol but I did – and coincidentally our families were linked by marriage!

I have however come across these resources which I recommend:

The Genealogical Index

As its name suggests The Online Genealogical Index is very helpful in locating resources online.   Committee note - We need to get our Society’s vast offering of transcriptions included on this site.  This site claims to provide links to sites online where you can find information and transcriptions.  You can search any county and place and some of the sites are local history ones which you might not otherwise discover easily.    In the past I have recommended Dusty Docs but this site seems to cover a wider area and includes many different sites


In researching a 3rd cousin twice removed I came across this on Ancestry – as Ancestry is still available free of charge via your local library it may be useful to know especially as Arnos Vale Burials are difficult to find elsewhere.   If you use the card catalogue and search for Bristol you will find Bristol, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1994.  You can browse this collection and by choosing Wycliffe Church, Totterdown under the County of Gloucestershire you will see the following registers.

  •        Indexed under the heading of Wycliffe Church Totterdown 1845-1868 are the early burials in Arnos Vale Cemetery from 1840-1868.  It was then called the Bristol General Cemetery.  I note that there are several burials of patients from Dr Fox’s at Brislington and as they could have come from a wide area it might answer some questions.
  •       Burials indexed Wycliffe Church Totterdown 1871-1897 has burials for Greenbank Cemetery, Bristol. 1871-1883.  These are predominantly Bristol residents.

My Heritage

MyHeritage has been offering  free online webinars and Facebook Live sessions in the past couple months. The goal of these sessions is to provide users with the opportunity to learn from experts and make progress with  research while at home. My Heritage is also attracting customers by offering free access to a different collection each day.  You will need to look at their blog to discover what is available on which day but if you have ancestors in any of these areas this will be an asset.

Family History Federation

As a Society we are affiliated to the Family History Federation and if you look under Federation Resources and Education there is interesting advice for beginners and a reminder to those of us who have been “at it” for years.  Under the title   “Everyone has roots irrespective of their background and origin”   There are 6  Guides

  • It starts with you
  • Ready to begin your research
  • Birth, marriage and death certificates
  • Growing your tree with census remains
  • Baptism, marriage and burial registers
  • Records created after death

        Each one gives helpful background information  - They may take time to read but perhaps              may offer suggestions in how to breakdown your brickwalls.


I have to confess that I find familysearch sometimes confusing and I’m not sure about the accuracy of the family trees but the Federation also has this advice on using FamilySearch Family Tree to assist you to develop, maintain and use this family history website

  • Navigating the Home Page
  • The Tree - Pedigree to Person page
  • Relationships - connecting families
  • Locating and attaching sources

 A House through Time

As a Bristolian I am really enjoying this BBC programme about a house near St Mary Redcliffe.  This project - to consider the history of an area by researching the people who lived in just one house over the centuries is fascinating. It's at times like this that I wish my own home was older than 1936!   We can all learn from the resources used in this series.  This podcast about the programme is worth listening to as a background to research.

My g g grandfather brought up his family in an Elizabethan house in the centre of Bristol which was eventually destroyed during the blitz and I'm longing to get to the Bristol Archives to see who lived there before and after him.  

In the last session of this series of A House through Time, the bombing of Bristol will be discussed and John Penny, who has frequently spoken in Weston about the Weston Blitz will be interviewed.  In the next couple of days, I hope to upload an account of the Weston and Clevedon Blitz compiled by John which he has kindly allowed us to use.

Know Your Place

I have mentioned this before but Know your Place North Somerset is a marvellous site for tracing the history and development of an area.  By choosing suitable maps you can see what has happened in a place over the years and photographs are now being added to give even more information.  

The Genealogist

For those of you with relations who served in the RAF during WW2 the Genealogist has released Record Books which show details of fighter and bomber squadrons during WW2 which are really interesting

National Archives

As I mentioned in the last update and Paul recently reinforced the free down loading of digital images including Wills and some Military records from the National Archives is proving a boon but not sure how long this will last so make the most of it.

Facebook Group

We now have 216 members of this lively group - many of whom are already full members of the Society. We hope to welcome others to join us to benefit from what we have to offer at a very reasonable cost

I wish I could tell you when we will all meet up again whether for Monthly meetings or for Free Help Sessions at the Library but just watch this space. Please continue to use our Research Forum to share your research with others and also to answer queries posted on it.  No question is too silly - we all have blank moments! Keep Alert and safe and enjoy this glorious weather if at all possible.

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May 2020 Update
published by Pat Hase on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 1:25

I’m writing this while a remarkable man is celebrating his 100th Birthday Capt (Or should I now say Col ?) Tom Moore has captured the imagination of a nation with his epic fundraising and inspiring attitude to life.  Coronavirus is bringing out the best in most people and although it is not easy and not a little scary at times  many of us have so much to be grateful for not least the way in which the NHS and all other essential workers, family and friends who are supporting us at this time. 

Because of the average age range of people who are interested in Family History it is likely to be some time before we can all meet up again whether at Society meetings or at the Free Help Sessions at the Library.  Like many of you I have been confined to barracks for about 6 weeks already and I had thought I would be able to get on with my own Family History Research but I keep getting distracted!  There are many additional resources being made available at this time.

Free Resources

  • The National Archives have released free of charge their digital collection – you can download many documents from Wills, Military records, etc.    You need to sign in but there is no charge and no wait – the documents are sent immediately.  Try searching for individual names or the places where they lived.  Some of these documents are available on other subscription sites.
  • If you are a beginner the Genealogist is offering access to  some censuses and parish records free of charge.  Called First Steps it is a useful introduction or recap to or of your research.  Try it!
  • Ancestry – The Library Edition of Ancestry is available free for you to use at home using your Library Card.  For members in this area go to this site  and follow the instructions. 


  • Graham Payne remains busily transcribing and uploading records from the local Cemetery and these are so valuable.  Thank you Graham.
  • There has been much mention lately about death rates and as the Cemetery was the only place available for burial in Weston from 1856 these records are fascinating.  Have you looked at the burials for 1918/1919?  The burials in November 1918 at the height of the Spanish Flu epidemic numbered 82 whereas only 30 were buried in November 1917 and the ages were considerably lower in 1918 than in 1917.   
  • Interestingly, I am currently transcribing the deaths in Axbridge Workhouse for the same period where the cause of death is entered and in only 3 cases is influenza mentioned.  These records will eventually go on our web site.

Surname Interests and Connecting other Researchers

  • Have you checked recently to see if any other member shares your SURNAME Interests?  Just click on Members’ Surname Interests under the Main Menu on our Home Page and then click on the surname which interests you and you will find more details about where and when that SURNAME is being researched, by whom and in some cases even a family tree – Members can add a comment or can contact them through the web site.  Non members can also make contact through the web site.
  • Use this time to make contact with people who share your interests and possibly your DNA whether it is through our site, Ancestry, My Heritage, Lost Cousins, Gedmatch, Facebook etc.   You might not always get a reply, but it just might breakdown a brickwall.  The other advantage of contacting others is that they may tackle the problem from a different perspective. This has been highlighted on the Facebook Group today when one of the members in reply to a posting wrote "Well, that's something I hadn't thought of either, that's why these family history groups are so beneficial"

Family History during Lockdown

During the lockdown I had expected there to be an upsurge in an interest in Family History resulting in more use of our Research Forum but there has been little evidence of it on our site from our members.

  • Bolton Family History Society has issued these tips for people interested in family history about how to get your family motivated! 
  • How about writing your own diary of Lockdown to add to your family History research?  When writing up your family history it is helpful to have some idea of the thoughts and feelings of our ancestors.  Spear-headed by Raye Green of the Worle History Society a book entitled One Day in Our Lives has been produced by some residents of this area recounting their thoughts and activities in the face of the coronavirus on 27th March 2020.  Profits will go to Weston Hospital and it will become a valuable resource for future family historians and will answer that question “What did you do in 2020 during the lockdown?”  It is loosely based on the “The mass observation Project” which ran during WW2 when many individuals kept diaries and accounts of their lives.  
  •  The Somerset Heritage Centre is asking for contributions because as they say  We are living through extraordinary events that are affecting all our lives in ways we could not previously have imagined.  The South West Heritage Trust wants to ensure that the stories of Somerset and Devon’s people and places are recorded during these difficult times, so that future generations can find out about the challenges we faced and how our communities pulled together”.
  • If any of you are trying to encourage youngsters into family history Weston Museum has devised this learning pack (amongst others) which you may find helpful 
  • The BBC produces what they call Bitesize lessons and for a bit of light relief I suggest you try the one on Black Death! You might decide to try some of the others in this section – after all our ancestors must have lived through these times.

In my last Update I invited you all to give suggestions about the society post Covid but not one member replied! If you have any comments about what you want from this society add them to this Update.  In the meantime, Keep Safe, wash your hands and remember to post your queries on our research Forum, answer other queries and to share your experiences of new resources and breakthroughs in your family history research. 


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April 2020 Update
published by Pat Hase on Tue, 31/03/2020 - 23:25

Thank You 

I’m sure members will join with me in thanking the NHS and all Key Workers who by continuing to work are helping us to keep safe, whether medically, with essential services or by voluntarily keeping us supplied with our needs.     

While we face the uncertainty of this pandemic the Family History Society, like all groups elsewhere, has suspended activities where we meet face to face.  This should not and must not stop us communicating with each other.  We have a common interest in the lives of our families in the past and present and an opportunity to make sure that future generations have more information handed down to them. 

Buckets and Spades

Thank you to Sue Maguire who edited the 100th edition of Buckets and Spades published in March which as usual is full of interesting articles.  I was particularly interested in the one about Charlotte MORGAN, the nurse who served in WW1 and died in November 1918.  I wonder whether she died from the Spanish ‘Flu which was prevalent at that time?  Looking through the Cemetery records which are available on this site the increase in the number of burials at that time is obvious and although not all would have been from that pandemic, I suspect that many were.

Whilst on the subject of Buckets and Spades – The next issue of ‘Buckets & Spades’ is due for publication at the end of July, so the deadline for articles and photos is 15 June 2020.  Sue would be grateful for articles so that she can plan the contents.

Lost Cousins

I’ve just noticed that this must be my 101st Monthly Update and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve praised the Lost Cousins Web site during that time but for those of you who have still not yet registered for its excellent newsletters  the one published mid-March  comes with the news that Lost Cousins will be completely free over the Easter Weekend.  It’s a great way of finding others researching the same people – your “lost cousins”- and making contact with them. You will have plenty of time to fill in the census details which make the matches.

 And their newsletter published today has amongst so many other gems included an incentive to fill in your census details, and highlights a possible effect of coronavirus  in connection with postponed marriages which I hadn’t really considered but it might affect family historians of the future.


One of my “cousins” found on the Lost Cousins site has also tested her DNA.   We share a common ancestor in my 3 x great grandparents confirming our relationship. Jenny TOWEY is offering advice on DNA testing and understanding the results – Contact her through our website using the “Contact us” button at the top of the home page and choosing “Chairperson” under category.

Research Forum

A couple of new queries have been posted today - take a look at them and I hope that you will consider offering suggestions in answer to these or post new queries as you consider your own research.  The Research Forum should come into its own at this time when you have more time to question your own family trees.  It always surprises me that it is not used more or have you all finished and are busy writing up your family history research?  In which case there should be many more articles for Buckets and Spades in the near future!

Transported Ancestors

How many of you have people in your tree who were transported to Australia?  The web site Digital Panoptican has a tremendous amount of information.  Not only does it give background information about transportation, but it also allows you to search for individual convicts and in many cases see the original documents which concern them.

Death in the Workhouse

If any of you have found people who have died in Axbridge Workhouse – or Ilex Lodge as it was later called, I’d be pleased to hear from you as I’m trying to update the records on our web site.  I recently added a transcription of the 1939 Register when the building was still being used as a Public Assistance Institution and as a local Infirmary.   The purpose-built Infirmary became St John’s Hospital when the NHS was founded in 1948 and the old Workhouse became the headquarters of the Axbridge Rural District Council.

After the Virus

Let’s start planning for the future – what should the Society be doing when we can all meet up together again?  We were planning Workshops and attending more local shows to spread the word about the joys of researching your family – Let us know what you would like the society to do for you? What can you do for the Society?

Is there an area you would like to see more fully researched? 

  • We get a lot of questions about schools in the locality - is that a topic which you would be prepared to assist in researching?  Weston was a flourishing centre for private education in the 19th century.  How many young people were sent to Weston to be educated?  What about the other schools? 
  • It doesn’t look as if we shall be able to commemorate  VE Day as we had hoped – perhaps there’s some research to be done about WW2 and its effect on this area and how our families were involved.

We can’t say for certain yet when we will be able to meet again but, in the meantime, keep researching, naming your photographs, writing up your findings, asking questions of your relations. If you can’t find the answer use the Research Forum or the Facebook Group, and above all keep safe so that our families and friends stay safe.

If you have anything you would like to add to this Update – please use the comment facility.

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March 2020 Update
published by Pat Hase on Sat, 29/02/2020 - 13:07

It's a Leap Year and I wonder how many of you have relations who are celebrating their birthdays on Feb 29th? According to the 1939 Register there were 323 people living in Somerset with that birth date and of them just 26 lived in Weston and Worle at that time.  Probably a bit of useless information and of course it doesn't take into account people who are still alive and whose information is redacted. 

Locking Village Talk - Looking at Locking

At our last meeting in April we had an interesting talk about the history of Locking given by one our members and resident of Locking, Simon Begent.  He highlighted the fact that there is a local history exhibition about the village, the airfield and the former RAF Locking Camp. in St Augustine's Church which is open to the public from !0.00am - dusk on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  You are welcome to visit.   The Locking website also has a plan of the churchyard and a list of the burials there. 

New Archive Card

For those of you who are planning to visit an Archive in the near future there is a new Archive Card coming into use.

The County Archive Research Network (CARN) card ceased last November and will be replaced by this new card.  You can see more details about how to apply for a card and which Archives need one on this website

New Resources Online

It's often advisable to look again to see what new records have been added to the Internet.  You do not have to subscribe to a commercial site to find out what is new.

  • The Genealogist has released some new RAF Operations Book Records which make for fascinating reading. To find out more about these records, you can read Nick Thorne's article "RAF Operations books build a picture of WWII aircrew ancestors' action".
    • For a bit of local colour about the RAF during WW2 take a look at an interview with Arthur Spencer who was later the first Head master of Priory School about his experiences as a Navigator in the RAF  
  • Findmypast update their site each Friday and you can read about their new records on their Blog.  This Friday, being near to March 1st and St David's Day their new records include Welsh Burials.  Findmypast also has new parish records from Surrey and  Hampshire, some with images of original entries.  Findmypast also has a collection of Devon Social & Institutional Records. This set of records includes information about paupers, vagrants, apprentices, peddlers and tradesmen.  
  • Ancestry has a few new collections and Jenny Towey has recommended this article about DNA for those of you who have tested with Ancestry
  • Familysearch has this article which interested me  especially as it features Mary Berry who attended the same college in Bath as I did (a couple of years earlier) but so many of her comments ring bells with me.
  • Somerset Heritage Centre has a half-day course in reading Common phrases in Latin and English  which are found in old documents.  This will be on April 28th
  • Bristol Archives has announced that the records for Arnos Vale Cemetery can be now be seen there.  This is very welcome news and I know of several Weston people who were buried there. The catalogue entry with more details about these records can be seen here 

Technology Problems

I've been struggling with technology this week.  Just over 20 years ago I backed up some research using the backup utility included with Windows 95 and 98. Safely stored on 3 1/2 inch floppy disks! I wanted to restore this but of course I no longer have a suitable disc drive so I purchased one - only to find that the backup files .QIC can not be restored as microsoft no longer supports their own backup files!  I tried a programme which is supposed to be able to open all files with no success. 

I wish I had just saved the data as a word file - those I can open - but at least I do have a printed copy - Paper it seems is best after all.  I mention this as a warning to be aware that the speed with which technology has changed over the years and how we can get caught out by it.  If any of our more technically minded members have way of restoring .QIC files I would love to hear from them.  

Activities in March

The North Somerset Archivist visit to Weston Library is on Thursday March 5th  This is so useful if you are researching a Somerset Family or building. Sessions are open from 11.00 am to 1.00 pm, and from 2.00 pm to 3.30 pm For more information and to ask for documents to be brought to Weston contact somersetarchives@swheritage.org.uk

The Dorset Family History Society is having a Family History Day on Sat March 21st at Poole.  Unfortunately we will not be represented but there are many interesting exhibitors and speakers who will be there.

Our Society Meeting in March on Tuesday the 24th March will see a return visit of Shirley Hodgson who has spoken to us before about the Home Children.  This time her topic is the TS Formidable which was a Training Ship anchored off Portishead and was used as an Industrial School where young boys who had fallen foul of the local magistrates were sent to learn skills which would suit them for a life at sea.  It was set up in 1869 and in 1870 a young Henry HASE, aged about 13, from Weston-super-Mare joined their ranks for 5 years having been caught stealing from a local shop so I have a particular interest in this talk and am looking forward to it.

The Saturday Free Help Sessions will continue as usual throughout March and we look forward to meeting up with some of you there. The Library is certainly not a quiet zone while we are in there and all the volunteers delight in suggesting ways of continuing your research.  Beginners are particularly welcome and so are those who wish to update their skills or who just to discover what the North Somerset Local Studies Library holds.

Other Society News

Facebook Group - This continues to grow and members have made some useful contacts through it.  As it is a closed group you have to join to see what it contains but for those of you who use Facebook it might be worth a look. There is a link on our home page.

Workshops - The Committee is hoping to offer some Workshops in various aspects of Family History Research and Peter de Dulin would like to hear from any member who has ideas about timing, topics and/or venues for these Workshops.  You can contact Peter here

This is your society - let us know if there is anything you would like to see the society doing to aid your research.   

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February 2020 Update
published by Pat Hase on Sun, 02/02/2020 - 23:39

A warm welcome to any new members who are reading this Update and we wish you all a successful time with us finding out more information about your family history.   Please add your surname interests to the list so that you can find out whether you share a surname with other members.  


A brief reminder to other members that, if you have not already done so, your annual subscription is now due and can be paid  directly to our membership secretary, Graham Payne, details here or online via Genfair when you can choose whether to have our journal supplied digitally or sent to you as  a printed booklet.


  • Due to circumstances out of our control the  Weston Library will be closed next Saturday - that's the 8th February - which means that our Free Help Session will not take place.  We will be there on Saturday February 15th as usual from 2.00 - 3.30
  • An unexpected benefit of this is that members will be free to visit the Family History Show on Saturday 8th Feb which is being held at UWE in Bristol  from 10 a.m. until 4.30 p.m.  This is the largest family history event in the South West and apart from the exhibitors there will be free talks throughout the day.

Sharing Research 

  • Over the years there have been many ways in which the advent of the internet has produced helpful ways of allowing people with similar interests to meet and compare research.  But changes are now happening and those of us who have benefited from belonging to Yahoo Groups and Rootsweb Mailing Lists are having to learn new ways to keep in touch as these are closing.  Much gratitude is due to those who administered and kept them going.  I attended several annual meetings (we called them "Bunfights"! ) of people from one of the Rootsweb Mailing lists covering our area.  These were friendly and enjoyable to be able to put faces to the names who were so helpful in answering queries. 
  • New methods will take their place and I do recommend taking advantage of these - it is always beneficial to share your problem and to gain help from people with a similar interest.
  • This leads me to the use of our own Research Forum for full members and our Face Book Group for non-members.  There is a wealth of experience to be tapped - why not use these avenues for research?  We have opened the Research Forum to members who are researching their ancestors from other parts of the country as our local membership does not necessarily have local ancestors.  

Newish Resources

  • Ancestry - which is available free of charge in the Library - has updated "Find a Grave" and it now includes burials at sea, burials in other parts of the world and more from the UK.   I have been able to find some recent burials of distant relations.
  • Find my Past has a useful guide for beginners with a 5-step guide to tracing a family back to 1911 which may be particularly useful when encouraging younger relatives to take an interest! 
  • Janet Few continues to provide thought provoking blogs about research and this one about the "Words and Voices of our Ancestors" may inspire you to record any living relatives and to consider the dialects which our ancestors used and how they were interpreted by enumerators!

Society News

  • The deadline for items for the next edition of Buckets and Spades is fast approaching - February 14th - This will be the 100th edition of our journal and our editor, Sue Mcguire, is looking forward to all your contributions.
  • At the last meeting a new catalogue of the Books in our own Library was made available to our full members who attend meetings.  Brian Airey brings a selection to each meeting relevant to the topic of the evening but with this catalogue you can see the all which are available.  It is available online on our webpage and printed copies are available at meetings

Speakers and Society Meetings

  • Thanks to Peter Lander, our member, and archivist of the Birnbeck Regeneration Project for his interesting talk at the January meeting. It coincided with yet another newspaper account speculating about the future of this historic landmark.  Many of our ancestors who lived in the area would have been familiar with the pier (or bridge) and island as Peter called it, through the attractive funfare installations, the Lifeboat, the popular boat trips along the Bristol Channel and towards the end of its active life the Victorian Musical Evenings and Banquets.  If you do have any photographs of Birnbeck do let Peter have them as they all add something to its history
  • Our next Meeting, on Feb 25th, will have another member Simon Begent, as the guest Speaker.  He will be talking about Locking , his home village.  Locking is also linked closely with RAF Locking  and at least one of our members was an apprentice there.  The history of Locking is fascinating linking it with Woodspring Priory and the Bristol Merchant Venturers amongst others.  What would it have been like to live there during the Monmouth uprising?

Monthly Updates

We would welcome comments from members, especially if they have discovered new helpful resources or have any ideas about what they want from this society.

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January 2020 Update
published by rockerjt9 on Fri, 27/12/2019 - 15:56

Welcome to 2020

A new year, a fresh start - new resolutions?...before you consider what to write on your list of resolutions...please ensure that you have renewed your membership in order to benefit from attending meetings, receiving the journal and having access to all the birth, marriage and death transcripts of local records - as well as being able to pick the brains of your fellow members on the forum!


Methods of payment can be found in the membership section...you can opt whether to receive your Buckets & Spades journal electronically or in the traditional paper form.

Select the Click Here to Download Membership Form to join or renew.


DNA testing for genealogy has set the family history world alight!  Why do it? - because you can connect with cousins you never knew existed...and they may have photographs and family information that you don't.  You will expand your knowledge of your greater family tree: discovering, for example, that great uncle Fred emigrated to Australia (voluntarily or otherwise!), Canada or elsewhere in the world.  He may have lived an amazing life that you can tell your children and grandchildren about.

Brickwalls can be knocked down via DNA testing but - more importantly in my opinion - you can verify your research!  I have been researching my ancestors for over 45 years so I have a lot of information - and when I find a DNA match with someone whose mutual ancestors go back to the C20th, C19th or even the C18th I am cock-a-hoop!!

Do email me with any DNA queries and/or come along to one of my U3A DNA sessions (1st Monday, 2pm - 4pm, at 5A Madam Lane, Worle; 2nd Thursday, 2pm - 4pm, at 4, Channel Heights, Bleadon).

Free Help Sessions

Every Saturday afternoon volunteers from the Society attend Weston Library, in the Town Hall, 2pm - 3.30pm, to freely advise and assist anyone (member or not).  With our experience and expertise we can - usually! - discover information to add to your family tree: anywhere, not just in Somerset.  Bring us your brick walls!!

Next Meeting

The next Members' meeting - open to all - is on Tuesday 28th January at the Vintage Church, 25 Hughenden Road, BS23 2UR.  Our speaker is Peter Lander on the subject of the Birnbeck Pier and people connected with it.  This iconic, Grade II listed pier, designed by architect Eugenius Birch, deserves a future and, hopefully, Peter will be able to give us an update on what the future holds...

Refreshments are available.

Hope to see you there...

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