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Somerset & Dorset
Family History Society

‘The Greenwood Tree’ – August 2016

Aug 16 GT cover lowThe August issue of The Greenwood Tree will be delivered soon and serves as a reminder to book your place at the Society’s Open Day, which also includes the AGM, if you haven’t done so already.

Details of the event on 24 September, hosted by the Blackmore Vale group, can be found on page 93.

During the Open Day, Sue Thornton-Grimes will talk on Assisted emigration from Dorset to Australia 1830-1860 and Trevor Bailey of Trilith, will provide a series of restored films, some of them more than a century old, which reveal the lives of Somerset & Dorset folk of yesterday. Full details, and a booking form, can  also be found on our website.

Nat Clark

Nat Clark (1831-1899)

Eileen Holloway’s account of her great-grandfather, Nat Clark, was originally presented to the West Dorset group. He was recruited into the Royal Marines and took part in the Crimean War. He kept a journal of his experiences which Eileen has transcribed. In 1857 he bought himself out and returned home to Cerne Abbas.

He later joined the Somerset Rifle Volunteers and rose to Colour Sergeant. He was a crack shot and won a prize for his regiment at Bisley. Eileen still has the pistol presented to Nat Clark, who later became a clockmaker in Cerne Abbas.

Nat Clark's pistol

The pistol presented to Nat Clark in 1866

Arnaud Aurejac-Davis, a Society member in France, tells the remarkable story of his 11x great-grandfather, Thomas Dirdoe, of Gillingham, Dorset. Thomas and his son, also Thomas, were captured by Barbary pirates in 1636. The account of their eventual release makes fascinating reading. See also Arnaud’s post on this blog.

Melcombe-Regis-ship01 Melcombe-Regis-ship02

Contemporary drawings of ships in the Weymouth and Melcombe Regis parish registers. Copyright: Dorset History Centre

Diane Brook has found some interesting original documents of relevance to family historians by searching on eBay. She has bought a number of nineteenth century leases for properties in and near Yeovil, Somerset. The documents are a rich source of names and addresses of the owners and tenants, including the family relationships of some of the parties.


1809 lease between John Goodford and Edward Pester


The marriage of Beryle Day and Anthony Sharp in Shipton at St. Martin’s Church in 1956.

There are several accounts of early memories, often triggered by previous articles in The Greenwood Tree. Beryle Sharp (née Day) remembers Shipton Gorge, near Bridport in Dorset. Beryle stayed there with her family during the War and has vivid memories of many of the villagers. Beryle married Anthony Sharp in Shipton in 1956.

Shipton WI

A group of Shipton WI ladies, c.1940s. Beryle Day is 5th from the left, back row

There are more stories of schooldays in Bridport Secondary/Grammar School by former pupils, in response to Peter Meech’s article on the first ‘Boss’ of the Grammar School, Walter Ferris Hill.


William Parsons and family, pioneer settlers on the North Shore of the Maroochy River, 1888: BRN 6898; ref M794454. Image by courtesy of Picture Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast Libraries

Eileen Holloway, author of the Nat Clark article, had also shown me an account of William Parsons, who took his young family to a new life in Queensland, Australia, in 1888. William came from a farming background; his father Charles farmed near Wincanton in Somerset. The typed account had been written about 30 years ago, and a small part of the story has been published in The Greenwood Tree before (v30.1, p28, 2005). The story has circulated among several of William’s descendants, but it took some detective work to find the original author, William’s granddaughter, Nais Pearl Childs (née Hooper). Thanks to Nais’s daughter, Gail Ellison, for permission to use the story. Part 1 this time, part 2 in November.

We stay ‘down under’ with Ann-Marie Wilkinson’s Computer Corner, which deals with searching for New Zealand records. All the usual regular features are here: we conclude Andrew Plaster’s Somerset Spotlight on West Harptree, and have a Dorset Spotlight on Bere Regis. What the Papers Said covers local newspaper reports of the Battle of Jutland, which took place 100 years ago, on 31 May 1916. Plenty of news, book reviews and readers’ family history queries should, I hope, make for an interesting read.

Bob Barber

Editor, The Greenwood Tree

Member and Guest Blogs Welcome

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