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July 2020 Newsletter
published by Pat Hase on Tue, 30/06/2020 - 19:21

As I write this, a plane has just appeared in the clear blue sky leaving a vapor trail as it makes its way towards Bristol Airport.  A very unusual occurrence during this pandemic but it seems to me to represent family history research – each family makes its mark as it travels through time but its effect soon fades – our research is to catch and preserve that trail. 

What do you write in a monthly Newsletter for a Society during lockdown?  No monthly meetings to report on or anticipate, no Family History Open Days to attend, no free Saturday Help Sessions – I could go on but let’s be more positive.  Your committee continues to watch over the society;  at our last virtual meeting it was decided to change  the name of the Monthly Update to Monthly Newsletter to more accurately reflect what it contains. I hope you continue to find it helpful but would appreciate comments of what you would like included.

As family history and local history are intertwined one way in which to enhance our study is to look more closely at the area in which our ancestors lived. Perhaps inspired by the BBC’s “A House Through Time” how about a history of your own house or that of an ancestor.  In my case very easy, as our house was built in 1935 and when we bought it in 1961 we were only the third owner and we haven’t moved since.  I’ve even found a photograph of a grandson of the original owner taken in our easily recognisable front garden which was included in a family tree on Ancestry.  Those trees do have their uses after all!

Somerset Heritage Centre

The Somerset Archives has a collection of Planning Applications for Weston-super-Mare which could be very useful if you decide to do some local research.  Just go to the catalogue and enter the address which interests you.  When restrictions are lifted you may be able to see the original plans or have them brought up to the Library when the North Somerset Archivist resumes visiting Weston.

The National Archives

By using the Discovery Catalogue of the National Archives  it is sometimes possible to discover documents which refer to your family which have been deposited in archives than the county you expect them to be.  If you happen to be researching an Amelia BEAUMONT widow of Benjamin BEAUMONT who died in Weston in 1897 and is buried in the Cemetery you can read all about her family here  in the Discovery catalogue listing  but the document is in the Manchester Archives. 

There is still time to download digital images of some documents from the National Archives free of charge.   


Newspapers, accessible from The British Newspaper Archive and FindmyPast can also provide information about who lived where.  Try searching with the address of an ancestor. This way you may find:

  • the usual family announcements of births, marriages and deaths which sometime name other relations.
  • reports of inquests – giving details of cause of death or life style
  • court cases affecting your family both as victims or as the accused
  • advertisements for work, for servants, for sale of houses or other property etc.

Street Directories

One resource which I am lacking during this lockdown has been Street Directories – I do miss being able to access these in Weston Library.  Very often, particularly in Weston, houses were given names but the directories of the early 20th century have appendices which list the number of the house which bears these house names.  Directories also include a great deal of information about  the administration of the town. The Weston Directory for 1941 even lists the Staff at the County School.

Weston Museum and History of Weston

  • Weston Museum has been posting a number of videos concerned with the history of the Weston and its surrounds The latest is by John Crockford Hawley about the architecture of Weston.
  • There is a fairly new Facebook Group called Memories of Weston-super-Mare which is producing some interesting views of Weston. 
  • Another Facebook Group worth a visit is Know Your Place, North Somerset  Not only does it give help on how to use Know Your Place, which I have recommended before, but there are also interesting contributions about the area.
  • Not so much family history but more a glance at the enjoyment of a children’s visit to Weston around 1960 – typical of fun at the sea-side   

The Secret History of My Family

I don’t know whether you have caught it but BBC2 is showing “The Secret History of My Family” again which is three programmes investigating the lives of differing families with common ancestors and comparing the lives and attitudes of their descendants.  You will be able to catch up on IPlayer.

Roman Catholic Records

  • Each Friday FindmyPast releases more records. Take a look to see what has been made available over the past few weeks.   Although Findmypast has just published some Roman Catholic Records there are none yet for Somerset.  -  
  • The Somerset & Dorset FHS has produced a CD of the records of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Burnham on Sea.  Looking through it – I noticed that a couple of the early marriages were in Weston Catholic Church and against some of the christenings were notes of their later marriage, even if it took place elsewhere in the country. Details can be seen in their online shop https://sdfhs.org/product-category/publications/data/  

Comparison of Genealogical Websites

Which should I use? - Ancestry, FindmyPast, The Genealogist, FamilySearch or MyHeritage.  Well, FamilySearch is free, Ancestry is free in the library (and at home during lockdown) and you have to pay for the others.  Having said that, each has its strong points and the Familytree magazine has published a comparison to them (omitting The Genealogist).  I found some interesting comments - you might not agree with them all but useful neverthless.

2020 Census

FindmyPast has announced the progress being made on the release of the 2021 census.  This of course will be the last census to become available to us as the 1931 one was destroyed and there wasn’t one taken during the war in 1941.   

Some of you may remember the excitement when we waited for the 1881 census to be released.   1881 was the first census to be totally indexed (it was done by volunteers from Family History Societies) and would revolutionise the way we researched census information.  In Weston, we had been more fortunate because of Brian Austin’s work of indexing all local censuses from 1841 which we could look at on film in Weston library. 

2020 Census and Buckets & Spades

To mark 100 years since the 1921 census, Buckets and Spades next March will be a special Census Edition and Sue Maguire would welcome any articles and items based on censuses. Any strange entries?  Any strange names?  Any different occupations etc.  Or any way in which a census has assisted you in your research.

Writing up your Research

I know that some of you have taken this lockdown time to document your own research.  It's not easy - but if you have anything you can share please consider adding information to your Surname Interests on our Web Site.  I know that some of you have done this and it does seem a useful way of passing on your findings.

I’ve been trying to write up the results of my research in a form which will be easily understood by anyone who cares to read it and in doing so have revisited some of my early findings before the advent of the internet.  I have identified places where more research is now possible – for example how can I not investigate more about this marriage - the bride is a 1st Cousin 3 times removed – close enough to be a valid DNA match.

Western Daily Press – Friday 18 October 1872


GORTZCOFF – BURROWS – Oct 14 at All Saints’. Knightsbridge,

Prince Zacharius Basilius Gortzcoff to Emily Ann, second

daughter of John Burrows, Esq., of York Street, Bristol


It turned out that there was a printer’s error in the announcement and the groom’ surname should have been GORTZACOFF but that was actually a pseudonym - his name should have been Basil ZAHAROFF and there are masses about him on the internet!


I am aware that today the speed at which some pieces of information can be located means that the beginner can get almost instant satisfaction from the results of their research.  The majority of records which we use were not compiled for family historians but to measure the number and age of the population and enable initially the Church and later the Government to manage finances.  We need other sources to put flesh on the structure given us by official documents. 

How can our society help you with your research? – why not start with the web site?  

In the top right-hand corner of our Home Page is a SEARCH Box which is really useful.   You can use it to open up the riches of our Website.

If you enter any word, name, place or occupation etc., which interests you it will show every time it occurs on the site

  • Other people who are researching the same name
  • When the word occurs in queries and answers on the Research Forum
  • When the word has been used in a Journal Article
  • When the word is in an item of Society News such as the Monthly Newsletter.

Why not try it?

Our membership is a little down on last year but when compared with other societies and in the current situation I think we are doing quite well. 

We do miss the opportunity to pass on by word of mouth the benefits of joining us. Our membership fee of just £9.00 per year is very little – less than buying a single birth, marriage or death certificate - and gives access to transcriptions of parish registers for North Somerset and beyond including an increasing number of photographs of tomb stones and inscriptions.  There is also information and photographs about the places themselves.  The Cemetery Records are invaluable to anyone who had relations who died in Weston from 1856 when all local churchyards were closed to new burials. Our records of Axbridge Union Workhouse also give details of inmates and an account of its position in the lives of many of our ancestors.  The next edition of our Journal “Buckets and Spades” will be available shortly for members but selected articles from past publications are freely available on our website.  

We look forward to meeting up again at sometime but while we are waiting why not share your research experiences with us by using the Research Forum – we’d love to hear from members about how you are getting on – and rejoice with you if you have made a break through.

As restrictions are reduced – still keep safe!

News TopicMonthly Update
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Brean and Brean Down
published by Pat Hase on Mon, 08/06/2020 - 10:42

Information about the parish of Brean and the Coastal Battery installed at the end of Brean Down during WW2 can now be found on our site on this page.  The document about the Battery has been given to us by John Penny and can be found at the bottom of the page.  


News TopicPlaces
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Weston and Clevedon Blitz
published by Pat Hase on Wed, 03/06/2020 - 12:12

As promised in the Update I have uploaded a document from John Penny giving a detailed account of the blitz on Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon.  It's a combined document so  it is the same in both places. John thinks that the list of casualties in Weston may be incomplete so if anyone can comment on that it would be very useful.  

News TopicTranscripts
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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.

News TopicMonthly Update
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Free Copies of Historic Wills
published by Paul Tracey on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 18:28

The National Archives (TNA) at Kew is currently closed to the public. While this
continues, it is allowing people to download up to 50 digitised items per 30-day period
free of charge. Usually the price is £3.50 per will. Only 10 items can be downloaded at a
time, but when you have done so you can go back and collect some more (subject to the
above limit).

Scanned PDF images of the office copies of wills proved at the Prerogative Court of
Canterbury are available on this basis from the TNA site. There are over a million wills to
choose from – you can search for those of interest on this page:

In order to use the service, you have to sign up for a free TNA account (or use your
existing one). Setting up an account is easy. The link to do so is:

The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was the senior probate court for England and Wales
until 1858.

News TopicResources
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Congratulations to Brian Austin
published by Pat Hase on Mon, 18/05/2020 - 11:00

We are delighted to announce that Life Member, Brian Austin, has been awarded a BALH Award for Personal Achievement in Local History.  This award is a means of publicly honouring local historians who have made a significant voluntary contribution to the subject in their own areas and beyond, to identify and publicise good practice.

This was to have been awarded at a meeting in London in June which of course has had to be postponed but we would like to publicly acknowledge Brian’s well-deserved achievement in this field. 

The British Association for Local History - BALH - has recognised the value in the enormous amount of work undertaken over the years by Brian as he researched and recorded the people and history of his home town, Weston-super-Mare.  He has generously shared the results by depositing it (including many family trees) in the North Somerset Library, in the Somerset Archives and by being available to give advice by person, through talks or through the post.  The list of some of the documents which he still holds at his home can be seen on our website where his contact details are also given – he doesn’t use a computer.

Our society came into being in 1983 as a result of the enthusiasm for family history which he had engendered in the students in his Adult Education Family History Course for which we are very grateful.

News TopicPeople
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