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Somerset & Dorset
Family History Society

The SDFHS Blog

The Greenwood Tree – December 2020

Migration Down Under is the theme of the December issue of The Greenwood Tree Members flooded us with stories of ancestors who undertook the long journey to Australia or New Zealand, whether transported against their will for mostly petty crime or as an escape from the grinding poverty afflicting West Country agricultural labourers in the 19th century  Editor Paul Radford previews the edition which will be mailed to members at the end of November and which SDFHS members can already view...

Discoveries from a Clevedon Photograph

A portrait of a couple in a farmyard, with the photographer’s name given as Sydney Shaw of Alexandra Road, Clevedon This was a ‘cabinet card’ photograph that my colleague Allan Collier had acquired several years ago, as part of our project on the photographers of Somerset, and published by the Society in 2018 as “Secure the shadow : Somerset photographers, 1839-1939” Based on the format of the photograph, and the style of dress being worn, we estimated this to be somewhere about...

Crime – or was it poverty? – and punishment

Imagine that you had lived in a Somerset or Dorset village or town your entire life You had perhaps never seen the sea or ventured further than the immediate environs of your home Then you commit what was deemed a crime and are transported to the other side of the world It must have seemed terrifying and almost beyond comprehension Transportation was not at all uncommon in England from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century Amazingly to us, the penalty was at first considered an act...

A Ghost in the Family

To discover that you may be descended from a lecherous murdering ghost is a startling experience and an indication that tracing your ancestry may not lead only to hidden fortunes and extinct peerages! The PITFIELDS are an old Dorset family - there is at least one reference to a ‘Pytfold’ in the Domesday book - which seems to have originated in the Allington area of the county and gradually spread out The first reference to my ancestor Sebastian Pitfield (1625 - 1685) occurs in the...

The 1642 Protestation Returns

One of the things I thought I could usefully do during lockdown was to transcribe some of the wills and other old documents that I’d collected over the past few years I’d never made much progress with this as I’d found most of them unreadable; partly because they were often in Latin but mainly because of the early English scripts in which they were written Despite having attended excellent workshops led by the SDFHS Secretary, Ted Udall, on ‘Reading Old Documents’, I hadn’t put...

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