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.

SDFHS Family History Centre

Our Family History Centre in Yeovil reopened to visitors on Thursday 12 August. Initially we will only be open in the mornings (10.00am-1.00pm) Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Please click on the button to find out more information about the Centre.

Online Talks

Online talks are being hosted by some of our local Groups, giving us the opportunity to engage with our members and the family history community worldwide.

Visit Our Shop

Are you looking for family history publications? Why not try looking in our on-line shop. We have a wide range of books and CDs relating to both Somerset and Dorset, as well as more general family-history and local-history publications.

Unusual Sources for Local History

The British Association for Local History (BALH) is thrilled to be holding our first Regional Conference in Taunton on Saturday 22nd October on ‘Unusual Sources for Local History’. This will be our first in-person-only event since the pandemic and we are hoping that lots of people will come and enjoy the talks. Perhaps more importantly we intend for this to be a chance to talk with other people interested in history and to compare notes on local history in the south-west. The conference programme and booking information can be found here: https://www.balh.org.uk/taunton2022

The British Association for Local History (BALH) is thrilled to be holding our first Regional Conference in Taunton on Saturday 22nd October on ‘Unusual Sources for Local History’.

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October 8 - Saturday next at 2pm. Come along to Loders Village Hall, to hear Andy Violet on the Torquay Potteries 1869 - 1969. Andy is a local resident and a stalwart of the Torquay Pottery Collectors Society, producing the magazine “Scandy”. Find out more about this local pottery and the beautiful designs. Tea and biscuits, visitors £3, society members £1. ... See MoreSee Less
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September 28th, 10:35 am

Somerset & Dorset Family History Society
I will be at Somerset Libraries Bridgwater on the 18th October talking about those that met the hangman in our Somerset history. If you would like to come along please contact the library via the details on the poster. ... See MoreSee Less
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September 25th, 10:22 am

Somerset & Dorset Family History Society
It is now as it was then.Whilst doing my weekly newspaper research i came across this piece printed in the Shepton Mallet Journal ( the original source was noted as the Sunday Magazine- a London periodical). This was written 150 years ago. And yet we find ourselves in this position once again...'The Coming WinterWith the shortening days and the approach of winter, we feel ourselves forced to contemplate some elements of discomfort of another kind. Food is dear, fuel is dearer, the potato crop is diseased; the struggles of labour and capital become more intense; the English labourer, the lowest and most unmovable of men begin to agitate, the whole understratum of society appears to be heaving. What is to be the result? Or to look only at what is immediate, how is this Winter to pass over? If the Upper and Middle classes feel a difference and the working class find that all they have gained in higher wages is taken back in higher prices then what will become of this class whose incomes are fixed and inelastic and can undergo no improvement? What will become of the clergyman and the teacher, the clerk and the annuitant, the widow and the invalid, who find it so hard to make ends meet when things are favourable and who cannot but be checkmated when these prices suddenly rise. It is a strange experience for this to come upon us in the heart of a spell of prosperity for some. It will at least serve to give scope to the thoughtful benevolence of those not satisfied with appeasing the outcry of the noisy and hungry but would fain contribute to the adjustment of more honourable claims. We do not hesitate to say and say decidedly that it is the duty of all who have anything in their power to consider the case of classes and if possible not to suffer them to sustain the pinch of change which has brought about an increase of comfort to some and hunger and want in others. What is to be done is not for us to say; the proverb will settle that point - “where there's a will there is a way”. It is singular that God should have given this nation a new lesson of dependence amidst its prosperity, the lesson will not be lost if it tends to chasten our vaunting spirit and spread the conviction that nothing but the favour of God can ever make our mountain stand strong.'For obvious reasons I don't talk about my private life in this wonderful hobby which I love so much but I do work in a sector which over the coming months will see first hand the hardship our communities are set to face this winter, where people will have to decide whether to put the heating on or to eat, financial pressures will take their toll on peoples mental health and relationships and the strength of some will be tested to the limit. It shouldn't be like this in 21st Century Britain and though I love learning about and writing about Dickensian England we should not be living in it! So I guess my point is how obnoxious and disgraceful I find it that people in our communities will be living with the hunger and poverty of 150 years ago this winter but also that there is help. If you know someone who is struggling this winter tell them to come to their local authority, there are lots of charities, grants and educational tools to help people get through and secondly if you have the time then please do reach out in your community and see how you can help others. Sometimes just having a cup of tea and a chat with someone who is having a tough time can help them thorough. Ask about in your area - there will be coffee mornings and charities that will really appreciate an extra set of hands or a donation of a home made cake or a warm coat you no longer need. At a time when our government chooses profit and bonuses over its people, lets look after each other this winter. ... See MoreSee Less
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To celebrate Heritage Open Days this week. Entry to Dorset Museum is going to be completely FREE for one day only on Sunday 18th September 2022, giving visitors the chance to talk to staff, and see our newly reimagined galleries and interactive displays.This year’s theme is ‘Astounding Inventions’. This provides a great opportunity to explore the many innovations inspired by local people.Visitors will have the opportunity to join our Collections Team to explore behind the scenes of the new state-of-the-art Collections Discovery Centre, where they will be able to find out more about the work going on to move our collections back to the Museum site.To find out more 👉 dorsetmuseum.org/event/heritageopenday #HODs #HOD2022 #AstoundingInventions #Invention #HeritageOpenDays #Archaeology #Dorchester #Museum #History #Heritage #Dorset. ... See MoreSee Less
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September 17th, 10:05 am

Somerset & Dorset Family History Society
For today's #AstoundingInventions we look back to 1860 when the Revd. Henry Moule of St John’s College Cambridge and the vicar of Fordington in Dorset worked for better sanitation in the squalid slums of his parish.His invention was this simple but effective mechanical composting toilet which used dried earth or ashes to cover the contents of the bucket. In 1873 he took out an improved patent of which this is an example. Moule’s closets were still being sold by the Army and Navy Stores in 1908, then costing about 30 shillings (£1.50). This is currently on display in the People's Dorset Gallery 👉dorsetmuseum.org/galleries/people-dorset #ExploreYourArchive #HODs #HOD2022 #HeritageOpenDays #Invention #Toilet #Science #Technology #History #Heritage #Dorset. ... See MoreSee Less
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During this period of National Mourning FindMyPast are making their newspaper archive available free of charge.www.findmypast.co.uk/page/free-access ... See MoreSee Less
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An exhibition to celebrate the life and work of Watchet's pioneer photographer James Date will open on the 16th of October at the Lynda Cotton Gallery. The response to this exhibition has been truly incredible, with a host of new materials becoming available, including unseen photographs, original glass plates and some remarkable family memorabilia. The enthusiasm and engagement of so many individuals in this project has been incredible, as has recently meeting direct descendants of the Date family.James Date lived through the most exciting period of Watchet's history and was established as a professional photographer from at least 1860 at a time when photography was in its infancy. He was on hand to record the exciting developments of the 1860s and 1870s, recording the many maritime, industrial and civic innovations that took place at this time. He was commissioned to record the building of the East Quay in 1861 and the coming of the Bristol & Exeter Railway a year later. As his reputation grew, he was patronised by the local gentry visiting Dunster, St Audries, Williton, Nettlecombe and Weacombe, recording the earliest known photographs of these country estates.His legacy is unique and is a historically important visual document that is unequalled in recording not just Watchet but West Somerset in a Victorian period of momentous change.The featured, carefully-composed image, typical of Date, has two Victorian ladies looking over the rooftops to the harbour. It is interesting to note the construction of the harbour walls and also the inner wharf constructed by the Mineral Railway to load ore from the Brendons to the waiting ships for transportation to Wales. We can date this photograph to post 1862 as the lighthouse is in position at this date, coinciding with the coming of the mainline railway from Taunton. Looking above the harbour, the curious building on the newly-acquired Pleasure Ground is the Beehive Tearooms, run by the nieces of the photographer. The Pleasure Ground in recent times has been referred to as Splash Point (1950s) which is a different location and is the area at the extreme end of the harbour wall. It is accessed by the well-worn path clearly visible in the photograph and, although not in quite the same location, a pathway exists today.The exhibition is in conjunction with the Market House Museum. ... See MoreSee Less
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Come along and listen to local author Caroline Newark talking about the fascinating inspiration behind her latest historical novel 'Fire and Fleet and Candlelight'. Performing Arts Section of Yeovil LibraryThursday 22nd September at 10.30am 😍 ... See MoreSee Less
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Today we remember Salisbury reporter Dorothy Lawrence (1896-1964). Posed as a male soldier to report from the trenches of WWI. Serving in the Royal Engrs 51st Div Tunnelling Co affected her health so she revealed her sex, was arrested on susp of spying or prostitution, sent home.