01935 429609
Somerset & Dorset
Family History Society

Welcome to the SDFHS

How can we help you? We will help you to find documented facts about the lives of your former family members which will unlock doors to your own personal family story. Although we do specialise in Somerset and Dorset and have extensive records from our two counties, our experienced Research Volunteers have skills which can help you trace your family roots, regardless of where they might have originated.

Our Family History Centre is at Broadway House, Peter St, Yeovil BA20 1PN. Find out more about how we can help with your research and the facilities we have to offer.

Update 26.3.2020: Our website is open. Take time to explore it. You will find much useful information. If you use Facebook, you might like to join our Group.

Please note however, our Family History Centre is closed until further notice, due to the current coronavirus situation.

Online shop: The shop is also open to membership purchases and renewals as well as electronically delivered items. But, while our Centre remains closed, we are unable to process and mail orders for publications, so please do not order any books or CDs until further notice. Thank you for your understanding.

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Recent Facebook

So, how can your community museum show solidarity in these difficult times? Over the next few days, we’ll be posting some info about objects and people from Sherborne’s past that illustrate what a spirited, inventive and unique town we have, then and now.

Did you know that Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine stayed in Sherborne, lodging at the Old Castle from February 1165 for an extended period with her younger children while her husband King Henry II was abroad in Normandy?
Records show that a charge of £18 for her maintenance was entered in the King’s Itinerary as being due to Hugh de Gundevill, the keeper of the castle. A further 40 shillings was charged for repairs to the King’s houses or “domus regis”, the lodgings set apart for the purpose outside the main body of the castle.

This “lioness” Eleanor (1122-1204) was queen consort of two nations (France and England) , Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, the mother of kings, leader of a Crusade and patron of the arts; one of the most wealthy, cultured and powerful women in Western Europe in the High Middle Ages. Inheriting a vast estate at the age of 15, she was the most sought-after bride of her generation. As a noblewoman she was educated in mathematics, philosophy, literature, astronomy, history, Latin and music and was also skilled in embroidery, dancing and hunting. She was credited with establishing “the Court of Love” which attracted many artists and poets and instigated the courtly rules of chivalric behaviour.

Eleanor had a fiery relationship with her second husband Henry II – they were Europe’s most red hot power couple – with whom she had 8 children. Their marriage broke down in 1167 due to Henry’s infidelities, so Eleanor promptly moved to her own lands in Poitiers. She later spent 11 years under house arrest in various castles, being accused of treason for plotting with her younger son Henry against her estranged husband. When Henry II eventually died, their elder son Richard (Lionheart) took the throne and arranged his mother’s release. Eleanor ruled this country as regent, while Richard was fighting the Third Crusade. She lived to see another of her sons, John, crowned after Richard’s death, and continued acting as an envoy to France. She retired as a nun at the Abbey at Fontevraud, where she died and was buried in 1202.

The figure of Eleanor of Aquitaine has generated much myth and speculation but my favourite story is that, coming from Southern France, she was so shocked at the frigid cold of northern Europe that she instigated the use of built-in fireplaces which rapidly caught on as a domestic fashion. Perhaps she dreamt up the idea at Sherborne Castle which was always rumoured to be a bit draughty!
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HistFest Lockdown - tomorrow afternoon on YouTube. Free, but they would appreciate a donation.Absolutely delighted to announce details of our digital history festival - HISTFEST: LOCKDOWN.

Events will begin at 1pm on our YouTube channel. Speakers include Sir Michael Palin, Hallie Rubenhold, Sunny Singh, Greg Jenner and many more. histfest.org/events/
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Timeline PhotosWe’re pleased to confirm that we will be giving everyone free access to our digitised collections very soon, but it’s taking our amazing digital team a bit of time to make it happen.

They’re facing similar challenges to the rest of the world with regard to connecting to our various technical systems while working from home, and many of them are also juggling childcare duties. Stay tuned for an update soon!

EDIT: To clarify, we’re referring to digitised collections that are available on our website (and usually chargeable) – at this stage, this doesn’t extend to our collections on other sites.
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Recent Twitter

Interested in the history of Somerset & Dorset? Then visit https://www.sdnq.org.uk/ to find out more about this unique society & search an index to over 130 years of research into the #localhistory, #dialect, #familyhistory, #customs & #folklore of these two counties.


Barbara Elsmore has written a post for our blog about our resigned and updated website and our new Website Manager, Christopher Hall: https://sdfhs.org/blog/all-change-for-our-website/

For a good guide to TNA's digitised records see Research Guides for Online Collections. TNA is working to make the records which normally cost £3.50 to download, free. No change to those available from 3rd party websites (Ancestry etc). https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/?letter=&search=&research-category=online #OnePlaceWednesday