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Somerset & Dorset
Family History Society

Open Day on 12 October

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The entrance to our Sherborne Research Centre, ready for the first visitors.

Patricia Spencer reports on the recent SDFHS Open Day

After a very wet start to the day, the sun came out in Sherborne in the late morning on Saturday, encouraging shoppers to drop into our Sherborne Research Centre for our Open Day.  Many commented on our lovely premises, which we lease from the Sherborne Almshouse, founded in the fifteenth century. Our building isn’t quite as old – part of it was built in 1893 when the previous buildings on the site were demolished to widen Cheap Street; the remainder (which possibly dates back to the seventeenth century) was the rear of ‘Ye Central Coffee Palace’ on Half Moon Street, and before that the Sherborne Stamp Office (in effect, Sherborne’s first Post Office).

During the day we had a steady stream of people with most choosing to have their complimentary coffees/teas and home-made cakes (baked by Volunteers) before exploring our Research Centre and Library.  Some of our visitors were already Members of the SDFHS and it was a good opportunity to put faces to names and talk to them about their experiences as members of the Society, but most were non-Members (though we encouraged them to join!) who had called in to find out about our facilities and what we do.

Tracey and Steve Arnold had found our website during a ‘google’ search and came from Honiton in Devon for the day to see if our Research Centre would be of value to them in researching Steve’s Dorset ancestors:

Tracey and Steve Arnold enjoying coffee and cakes at the start of their visit.

Tracey and Steve Arnold enjoying coffee and cakes at the start of their visit.

Tracey and I were made to feel so welcome by everyone at your very impressive (and well equipped) centre – so full of character. Please thank everyone for us. Especially as two of your volunteers helped me get a lead on tracing an ancestor I’d hit a brick wall with.”

Several visitors mentioned how impressed they were with our Library which contains much more than parish records – it also has an excellent and wide-range of material which is of value to those working on aspects of local history as well as those interested in their own families. The Library has a particularly strong section on military history and John Marshall, who is co-ordinating the Society’s World War I programme to start in 2014, was on hand on Saturday to answer questions about ancestors who had fought in that war.

John Marshall and Barbara Elsmore discussing resources.

John Marshall and Barbara Elsmore discussing resources.

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Some of the many new books about Somerset and Dorset that can be purchased from the SDFHS bookshop: http://www.sdfhs.org/sales/society-bookshop/

Many of our Volunteers were also present and they dealt with other enquiries and helped guide visitors as to how to start or continue their family history research. We also had both new and second-hand books for sale and I picked up a real bargain picture book about the reign of George V for only a few pounds!

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One of our visitors reading the display about Bruton. Although her surname is Sherborne, her husband’s family are not from ‘our’ Sherborne but from the hamlet of Sherborne in the Somerset village of Litton.

In our Meeting Room we had a special display on the historic Somerset town of Bruton, which had been prepared and displayed by Elsie Smith and Graham Bendell, and provided a wealth of information, excellently illustrated, about the town, its buildings, its history and the people who lived there.

Many thanks are due to all the Society’s Volunteers who helped to make the Open Day such a success and we look forward to meeting our visitors again at future SDFHS events.

Patricia Spencer

[email protected]

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We welcome guest and member blog posts on any topic with a family history connection and invite you to send your contributions, which should include photo/photos, to the editor Barbara Elsmore