On Saturday (19 March) we will be holding our first Photographic Project Open Day at our Family History Centre in Sherborne (for details see below). Barbara Elsmore describes her own rewarding search for family photographs which she will be adding to the SDFHS database.
Imagine my surprise last week when I was leafing through A Dorset Camera 1855-1914 in the library at the SDFHS Family History Centre, and a photograph of my great grandfather, George Collings, leapt off the page at me. He was standing outside the Forge in Nether Compton surrounded by carts and it was a thrilling moment for me. I knew the photo as a copy had been found in an elderly relative’s collection some years ago.
There is nothing quite like having a photograph of a relative to bring them back to life. I remember a time when I had no knowledge at all about my family beyond the grandparents that I knew as a child. The realisation that they had parents and grandparents, just like me, came as something of a revelation. Like many I began my research with my own family name and I knew and remembered my paternal grandfather and there were lots of family snaps of him as an older man but I had nothing of him as a boy and I thought I never would – but how wrong I was. I was very lucky as there was a photograph of his father and mother hanging still in the family home in Nether Compton.
The first thing that struck me was my great grandfather George was standing in the doorway of the post office, that the family used to run, with a top hat on, three generations on and my brother would have to duck his head to get through the same doorway.
So here was the first photograph of my very own great grandparents, would I ever find any more? My cousin who was a much better family detective than me in the early days visited, as all good family historians should, ageing members of our family collecting up copies of family photos as she went as, in our experience, relatives usually love to produce old photos and are pleased with the excited responses they elicit. It was not as easy to take copies of photos in the early days but now with the availability of digital cameras collecting photos for family history purposes has become much easier. This is how the photograph of George standing outside the forge first came to light as a copy was held by one of our elderly cousins. Over the years we have collected up many old family photographs from several different sources and they provide a very tangible link back to the past and I would very much like to share some of them via the planned new database that is being set up and which Patricia will tell you more about. At the end of this piece you will see a selection of the photos that have come to me and by checking known information, dates, etc. against my family tree I have been able to put a name to all of the people on them.
The Somerset and Dorset Family History Society is setting up a searchable database of photographs of named people from Somerset and Dorset and we hope that this will grow into a valuable resource which will give people a chance to find images of their relatives. However, to make this project a success we need your help. We would like to to scan your familyphotographs and then collect as much information as possible about each one, before adding the image and details to the database.
Although you would be welcome to bring your photographs in to the Family History Centre at any time (just give us a phone call, to let us know you are coming), we will be holding a series of Photograph Open Days, and the first one is this Saturday. For more details about the project click here.
The following photographs are just a few examples of those that Barbara has found of her own family, to inspire you to get involved in the Society’s exciting new project.