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

Broadway House Family History Centre, our home in Yeovil, is an ideal location in the centre of the town.

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.

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Open again tomorrow, Wednesday 24 May From 11am until 4pm. Forecast is good, gravy bones available for dogs on leads.A beautiful place in Wells to spend an hour or two. You can get the 173 bus up from Wells, get off by the Britannia Inn, walk down the lane by the side of the pub, cross Hooper Avenue, through the five bar gate, down another lane and turn left. I bet you didn't know it was there!!Alternatively you can walk up from the Moat Path in Wells, cross Tor Lane, walk along the path at the bottom of Tor Woods, carry on for about 20 minutes on the flat path and then look left up at the cemetery and there is a laurel edged path going up, get to the top, look right and you will see our wonderful little mortuary chapel.Or park considerately in Hooper Avenue, cemetery notice is on a five bar gate on the left hand side.Have an adventure, come and discover Mendip Hospital Cemetery and support this site, the hidden gem of Wells history.Hope to see you tomorrow. Photograph. Visit the exhibition and find out whose grave marker this is.Donations, cash or card, gratefully received. ... See MoreSee Less
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Are you watching the #Coronation today? There are many historical elements to this ceremony which dates back over 1000 years. We hope that whether you’re watching or attending the coronation having a street party, or just enjoying the long weekend, that you have an enjoyable time 🇬🇧👑🇬🇧 ... See MoreSee Less
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Do you know what glatting is? Read on!GLATTING AT WATCHETThe Conservation Society gets many enquiries about all aspects of our history, traditions and many other subjects. Having recently written about West Street Beach, I had an enquiry from a one-time resident now living abroad regarding ‘Glatting’ (catching eels) and whether it was still practised. I had assumed that it was lost although a little unsure and after a little bit of research, I found that Bertie Adams of Somerset Live had conducted an interview with Clifford Beaver in August of last year. At the ripe old age of 91, he was still practising the art! The following is a direct extract from the interview:“They are then gutted and filleted on the beach. There are hundreds of bones in the tail, so many of them that we normally leave that," says Mr Beaver, "You gut it from just behind the head, to, well, the bum - let's put it that way.”"So we take the flesh from the midsection of the eel and leave the head and tail for the crabs and other creatures to come and eat. Eels will eat their own, too. Once, I cut open a conger to find another smaller one already in its stomach.”"There's an awful lot of meat on them, I grew up as one of nine and a decent-sized conger would feed us easily - two for the weekend. They can get up to eighteen to twenty pounds, but you don't want a blooming great big bit of eel like that so an ideal size would be seven to eight pounds.""The easiest method of preparing to cook a conger is to flour it first, season it and fry it in the pan until it’s golden. It's a beautifully sweet and juicy meat with very white flesh. Quite a strong taste though."I mentioned that Mr Beaver was the last practitioner of an ancient tradition, but this isn't strictly true. He takes his extended family and grandchildren - even great-grandchildren - out now, with the youngest being seven years old. "I haven't seen anyone on the beaches in a long time which is a real sad shame, but my grandchildren absolutely love it.”Having written about this ‘sport’ in the past, I was reminded of a wonderful YouTube clip entitled ‘Gladding at Watchet’, featuring the BBC roving reporter Clive Gunnel, which was first aired in 1969. (I’m not sure if Mr Beaver isn’t featured; it would be useful to have that confirmed). When I first came across it, I was intrigued by the title of ‘Gladding’ and am now convinced I know why this is the only reference with this attribution. It seems very likely that the posh BBC producer, when enquiring what the pursuit was called, received the reply “Well, tiz gladding, in’t it!” To put my theory to the test I asked a good friend with a genuine Somerset accent what hunting eels with dogs was called and he announced it was ‘Gladding’. I rest my case.Anyway, all that aside, what exactly is ‘glatting’? The term has no specific definition and may well date from Anglo-Saxon Britain and interestingly, ‘Glatt’ in German is defined as ‘smooth and slippery’.It is perhaps best to explain Glatting as the hunting of eels with dogs, with a strong tradition on our coastline and although often referred to as a ‘sport’, it was certainly in the past often a means of feeding a family, as Mr Beaver eloquently describes. I have fond memories of the practice being described to me by the late Watchet historian and brilliant storyteller Ben Norman who interspersed it with descriptions of ‘stake fishing’ and prawning involving bicycle wheels! I have in my collection an eel fork, a blacksmith-made fork-type affair that would have been mounted on a pole which may well have been used locally although it seems more likely a straightforward spear mounted on an ash pole was used, ash giving a flexibility suitable for getting under the stones where the congers lurked. Dogs of course played a vital role in sniffing out the eels and sometimes bravely dragged them from their lair to the waiting glatter. Was there a preference regarding the ‘fish dog’? It doesn’t seem so, although terriers and spaniels were apparently favoured.Glatting seems to have been popular all along the coast here in West Somerset and where the beaches favoured the correct conditions and at nearby Kilve, it seems that ‘Glatting Weekends’ were the order of the day. These seem to have been organised by the local gamekeeper, I’m assuming from the Luttrell Estate, and a good number of photographs (if a little posed) survive of groups of glatters, a sort of mixture of ‘Toffs’ and locals.Perhaps a bit more of Glatting another day. These final words from Bertie Adams and his very revealing interview:“Clifford Beaver is 91 years old, but just as sprightly as someone a fifth of his age. He could be the last person who still practices this ancient tradition found only on the wilder west fringes of our county.”"I haven't seen anybody on the beaches congering for near enough forty years," he says as I join him in the family home near Washford. "About 70 years ago you'd go out and see three or four people doing the same thing, so you had to be early - even before the tide - just to make sure you got there first."It all started when my older brother Ken was courting a girl called Edna Everley from Watchet. He used to go out congering with her father, a chap who went by the name of Dumper."I was always desperate to go out with them, so when I came out of the army [around 20-21], I started joining them." NB: I think the lady referred to is Edna Eveleigh. Photo: Kilve Beach ... See MoreSee Less
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