Milborne Port and the local area in WWII

Our next Sherborne event is on Saturday 30 June – 2.30pm in the Raleigh Hall on Digby Rd – when Richard Duckworth will be presenting old film footage of the area around Milborne Port/Sherborne during World War II.

The film, which Richard has compiled, shows what was happening in our area during WWII, including footage of Home Guard training, events just before D Day in 1944 and the celebrations in Sherborne at the end of the War. We hope that the film will revive memories for those who lived through the War and inform those too young to remember it! The film lasts about an hour and there will be time for questions and discussion during refreshments.

With local family links to Milborne Port and Sherborne, Richard Duckworth has been collecting old photographs and films of the area for nearly 40 years. He is the author of Yesterday’s Milborne Port and collaborated with Richard Brewer and Sherborne Museum to produce the DVD Milborne Port now and then.

Only £3 for SDFHS members (£5 for non-members) including refreshments. Book in advance or pay at the door.

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The Railway History of Yeovil, South Somerset & West Dorset

On Saturday 9 June, Roger Marsh will be giving a talk for the Society on The Railway History of Yeovil, South Somerset & West Dorset in the Raleigh Hall, Digby Rd, Sherborne DT9 3NL at 2.30pm.

With the advent of Brunel’s broad gauge railway from London to Bristol and onwards to the west and the London & South Western Railway line from London to Southampton under the leadership of Joseph Locke, South Somerset and West Dorset found itself in an area eagerly wanting to join the new era in transport.

During the late 1830s and early 1840s several local businessmen felt that there was a fortune to be made from the railways being the future mode of transport and subsequently various schemes were put forward across our local area that would provide much needed prosperity.

Needless to say many schemes failed but eventually a railway network developed that not only revolutionised local transport and communications but also changed local industry for ever. However, in our lifetime we have seen the decline of the local railways into the rationalised network of today.

Roger, an authority on local history and especially railways in the West Country will guide us through the history and development of the local network.

You can book in advance, or pay at the door. SDFHS members: £3. Non-members: £5. Includes refreshments.

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The Greenwood Tree – June 2018

Paul Radford, Editor of the SDFHS Journal, The Greenwood Tree, previews the contents of the June issue which is now being printed and will be posted to all members in early June. SDFHS members can already download the electronic version from the Members’ Area of the Society’s website.

GT June 2018 cover

Migration from the West Country to the New World and the colonies is the main theme of the June edition of The Greenwood Tree, coinciding with the staging of what should be one of the most exciting family history events in our region – the Migration Study Day being held by the West Dorset Group of the SDFHS in Loders on 9 June. The front cover of the magazine shows a colour poster by emigration agents in Dorchester, advertising the Allan Line Royal Mail service to Canada. This and other shipping lines carried many millions of emigrants to the New World and the colonies, mainly in the 19thand early 20th centuries.

Inside, Jane Ferentzi-Sheppard, whose previous post here previewed the Study Day,  describes the purpose and programme of the day’s events at Loders, introduces the speakers and looks back 20 years at the inaugural ‘Dorset and the New World’ seminar at Lyme Regis, and how it promoted family history migration research. One of the main speakers, Janet Few, debunks some of the myths surrounding the reasons why West Country folk left their region for a new life in a new world.

GT June 2018 mad dog morgan

‘Mad Dog’ Morgan

Other members recount some of their more beguiling family stories of migration. Celia Martin’s Vincent ancestors of Dawlish set up a farm in the Australian outback but faced an alarming attack by the notorious bandit ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan and tragic early deaths for their menfolk.

GT June 2018 john white pearce

John White Pearce

Carolyn Sturdy and her Australian cousin, Sue Slaughter, used DNA to unlock the true identity of this highly respected ancestor (right) with an unsuspected shady past, involving a changed name and an elopement from his native Somerset.

John Porter tells the story of the Helme family of Gillingham in Dorset who made their fortunes in the sugar and slave trade in the Caribbean. Glenys and Derek Amey provide the diary of an 1882 emigration voyage to Australia by their ancestor Charles Amey. Some emigrants looked closer to home, as I recount in the story of my own ancestors’ decision to seek work in Guernsey in the booming Channel Islands.

GT June 2018 helmes - sugar mill and boiling

Helmes Sugar Mill

There is a migration element too in Sally Beadle’s story of her personal and generational involvement in Mapperton and connections with a Mormon convert who emigrated and whose grandson became governor of Utah. Sally is Online Parish Clerk and a volunteer guide at Mapperton House, well placed to tell us of the fascinating history of its owners.

Most families have black sheep and scandals. Garth and Christopher Denman discover the libertine lifestyle of their female Trott ancestors who routinely gave birth to children out of wedlock in Kingsbury Episcopi. One of those children compounded things by eloping with his own daughter-in-law.

Warts-and-all in the uninhibited diaries of teacher Charles Barrett give us a piercing insight into family life in Swyre, as told in two stories from Jennie McGowan and Janetta Condon.

The Somerset spotlight features Winscombe while Dorset’s is on Nether Compton. Buried in the Archives takes a look at The Greenwood Tree 20 years ago featuring the edition covering the Lyme Regis migration seminar.

Elsewhere, there are the usual features – Computer Corner, What the Papers Said, Book reviews, Group News and Programmes and a particularly lively People, Places and Problems section.

Paul Radford (Editor)

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Emigration from the West Country


Advertisement  – Sherborne Mercury 1831

It is now twenty years since the successful ‘Dorset and the New World’ event took place in Lyme Regis in June 1998 when more than 250 people attended, including a group of Americans from the Mary & John Clearing House who happened to be in the area at that time. The Mary and John was the ship that sailed to Dorchester, Mass. in 1630 carrying settlers from Dorset, Devon and Somerset. The voyage was arranged by the Rev. John White, the vicar of St. Peters, Dorchester.


The ‘Mary and John’ 1630

The speakers in 1998  included David Underdown, author of Fire from Heaven, who gave the background of what England was like in the 17th Century and explained the reasons why so many people went to the New World and became part of the ‘Great Migration’. Other topics covered in the conference included; Dorset links with Newfoundland, North American resources at the National Archives, the Society of Genealogists, local Record Offices and The Mary & John Clearing House.

Much has happened in the intervening years on this complex and very relevant subject. Jane Ferentzi-Sheppard, Celia Martin, Tony Pomeroy and Diana Trenchard began a project about Dorset Migration, realising that there was an untold story to tell. Ireland had been very good at telling its story of mass migration and poverty in the 1800s but the similar migration from England, and especially from the South West, had not been fully researched. While undertaking MA studies in Local and Regional History at Bath Spa University, Celia and Jane gained more insight into the subject of migration and social history in the 19th Century. Celia worked on migration to Australia and Jane studied a group of people who left West Dorset in the 1830s to go to Jefferson County in upstate New York.

Parallel to this the SDFHS’s West Dorset Group worked on a project about the Rope and Net, Flax and Hemp industries in West Dorset with exhibitions in Bridport Town Hall. The display boards have been in constant use since then. Last year Bridport Museum obtained a grant for 20 new boards to be revamped and professionally printed and they are now part of the yearly Rope Walk Fair which takes place in Bridport in May.


Exhibition in 2002

Having the two projects running together enabled the organisation of a symposium in October 2000: Social unrest in Dorset in the 1800s. William Van Vugt, from Calvin College in Michigan, was the keynote speaker. While at the LSE he had been a student of Prof. Charlotte Erickson who was, at the time, one of the world’s leading experts on migration. She visited the symposium on the Saturday afternoon and several of her former students joined us on the Sunday morning to discuss setting up a Dorset Migration project. It was something Celia and I will never forget – having so many migration experts exchanging ideas with family historians in Bridport and wanting to help and support us. With the offer of use of a building in Bridport, by Am Save, one of the biggest rope manufacturers in the town, the West Dorset Research Centre came into being. From 2000 until it folded in 2008 the Centre was actively researching Dorset Migration.

In 2001 the West Dorset Group joined forces with the Bridport History Society and Bridport Museum to run another seminar on the Rope and Net industry in Bridport and Migration. Pamela Horn, from Oxford Brooks, gave a detailed account of child labour in the industry; other topics included the Linen industry in Northern Ireland, Industrial Architecture in Bridport, West Country Migration and Irish seasonal workers coming to the West Country. The West Dorset Group were also founder members of the Bridport Heritage Forum, which was setup in 2002, together with Bridport Museum and Bridport History Society, and have played an active part in all their exhibitions and events


Workers in the Rope Industry

Why celebrate the 20th anniversary?

With more and more overseas records coming on line there has been a resurgence of interest in migration and the SDFHS West Dorset Group decided to hold a one day special event on the subject:  Historic Migration from the West Country – A Study revisited 20 Years on to be held on 9 June 2018 (9.30-5.00) at Loders Village Hall, near Bridport. Janet Few and Lucille Campey are the guest speakers. Janet Few is a specialist in migration, and Lucille Campey is the author of many books on the subject of migration (see www.scotstocanada and The event will be chaired by Jane and Celia and there will be plenty of time for discussion, exchange of ideas and research strategies.

Short presentations by local members include:

  • Cornwall – Three generations of one family going to different parts of the world
  • Cornish Coast Guard migration within the UK
  • Incomers coming to Cornwall, marrying a local girl and moving out again
  • Devon – moves to the Channel Islands in the 1840s
  • Incomers from Gloucestershire into Dorset
  • Somerset to the USA – taking their skills with them
  • Dorset Mormons in the US
  • Dorset settlers in Australia
  • Dorset settlers in Jefferson Co. New York
  • West Country migrants in the US Civil War
  • Assisted passages to Australia
  • Transportation
  • The Newfoundland connections
  • Migrants in WW1

The day will also consider the future of West Country migration research. Can societies join forces and work together to tell this untold story of West Country history in the 1800s? Can Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset get a project off the ground? We hope the short presentations will give everyone on idea of the resources that are out there and the stories that can be told.

West Country Family History Societies have been invited to promote their societies and there will be bookstalls and exhibitions, and a raffle with a first prize of a one year Diamond subscription to The Genealogist sponsored by S&N Genealogy Supplies, who also supported the first event.

Pre-registration is essential. SDFHS Members £5.00 and visitors £8.00. Tea and coffee will be provided but bring your own packed lunch, although it will be possible to order an Indian take away and, if interested, please state this on the booking form and you will be contacted with details. There is plenty of parking at the hall and easy access. The postcode is DT6 3SA.

If you want to help in any way or need more information please contact Jane on 01308 425710 or email:

Jane Ferentzi-Sheppard – 10 May 2018

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The Greenwood Tree – March 2018

Paul Radford, the new Editor of the SDFHS journal, The Greenwood Tree, previews the contents of the March issue which is now being printed.

The first issue of the year of The Greenwood Tree marks a new era for the Society with the transfer of our headquarters from the centre of Sherborne to Broadway House in Yeovil. By sheer coincidence, my first task as the new editor of The Greenwood Tree is to bring you the story of the move and what it means for members and for the Society. The change had to be marked in some special way so there is a departure on the front cover with colour photos replacing the normal black and white in the printed version of the March edition, which should arrive on members’ doormats early in the month. The PDF, in full colour as usual, is already available for  download in the Members’ Area of our website.

The photos on the front cover are of Sherborne Old Castle and the church of St John the Baptist in Yeovil; both iconic historic buildings of their respective towns. Though the two places are separated by just a few miles, the move of headquarters involved crossing the county boundary from Dorset to Somerset, appropriately enough for a Society which represents both of the counties. The coat of arms of each county is also on the cover.

Barbara Elsmore chronicles the hard work undertaken by volunteers to move the library, files and equipment to Yeovil and tells us what the new building has to offer. Below are views of the new Research Room and the Computer Room at our Broadway House Family History Centre.

Dorothy Bower recalls her fond memories of the Sherborne premises, where we left a lasting legacy in one of the 19th century stained glass windows, where a pane (broken before we moved in) was replaced with one showing our very own Greenwood Tree.


Local historian Bob Osborn provides a historical overview of our new address in Peter Street in Yeovil, previously best known for its blue plaque in memory of Thomas Hardy, as Bob described in an earlier post.

Peter St, Yeovil, during the ‘big snow’ of 1881.

Members’ stories have a strong international flavour. An unexpected letter from America led Tessa Betts to discover another branch of her family (shown in the photo right) on the other side of the Atlantic.

Philippa Kirkman made her own journey to France to uncover the story of three ancestors with the same name, Arthur Symonds, who served in World War I, while Garth and Christopher Denman continue their family story in which Josiah Denman voluntarily follows his transported father and brother to Tasmania and falls foul of the law himself.

Darlinghurst jail in New South Wales, where Josiah Denman served a three-year sentence.

Perhaps the most intriguing tale though is closer to home. John Glyde recalls how his discovery of unknown West Country roots began by chance on a car journey in 1937, more than 80 years ago, when he went on holiday with his family as a young child.

In other highlights, the Society’s president Sir Mervyn Medlycott gives us his choice of the best books on Somerset and Dorset, Sue Wilson lifts the lid on a lesser known resource for family historians, the Local History Centre in Bridport and Jennie McGowan finds some entertaining and illuminating entries in 19th century school log books.

The usual features and news of group meetings are also in the March edition as is a new feature ‘Buried in the Archives’. As new editor I’ve delved back into old journals in search of forgotten gems and have started out, (where else) with the first edition of The Greenwood Tree back in 1975.

Paul Radford


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Family Tree Maker and the Ancestry App

iPad screen

The view of a family tree on the App on an iPad

It was two years ago in February 2016 that I wrote my first blog while trying to understand what was going on between Ancestry and the software Family Tree Maker that I had been using successfully on my desktop computer for some years. I am one of those who uses a program on a computer without any idea about what is going on behind the scenes to keep that software up-to-date and working properly. Added to this I had discovered the joys of carrying around with me, on an iPad, my family tree so that when visiting other members of the family I could easily show them how they fitted into my tree. To recap – to carry the app around on my iPad meant a subscription to Ancestry so that via FTM I uploaded my tree to Ancestry, kept it private, and then viewed it via the iPad app. I could then synch additions made on FTM via Ancestry to the iPad and vice versa. After a while, and disappointingly, the app on the iPad no longer carried the notes that I had made for many individuals in my tree via FTM. I consider, like many, that the ability to attach notes is vital when it comes to turning the genealogy associated with the creation of a family tree into actual family history as this is where anything at all can be written down in as many words as it takes and added via ‘notes’. To cut a long story short having my tree secure once again on my desktop was the important outcome when The Software MacKeiv Company took over FTM and after a bit of a ‘stop start’ it was linked to Ancestry once more and the iPad app and the synching process resumed.

Then came the need to renew my subscription to Ancestry. What should I do? It was going to cost me around £240 a year to continue with it when Findmypast beckoned with its various offers and, after all, I had decided that having a securely held and backed-up tree, under my control, on my desktop was the most important thing to me now. So I cancelled my subscription to Ancestry. I had no idea what would happen to the app and in my ignorance I thought it would just ‘disappear’ over night. Imagine my surprise when it seemed to still all be intact but if I wanted to actually view a hint or make a search it would give me the message to join Ancestry in order to go further. To say I was puzzled is an understatement and so I turned once again to Alan Brown, with his vast experience of all things computerised, who explained the position to me.

Alan states: You are right in that the Tree on your pad is coming from Ancestry’s web site. I checked with them to see what happens when you cancel a subscription and they came up with the following:

“Unless you delete them, any trees you’ve created in your account will remain on the site whether or not you have a subscription. As a registered guest, you’ll be able to do the following with your tree:

  • Add and remove people and photos
  • Add, delete, and edit names, dates, and other facts
  • Manage your tree settings
  • Invite friends and family to view your tree
  • See if you have new hints

We don’t delete family trees, but you can delete trees you’ve created at any time. Before deleting a tree from your account, you may want to save a copy of it by downloading the tree to your computer in the form of a GEDCOM file.

You will not be able to do the following:

View records attached to your tree (unless you uploaded them yourself or they’re from free databases). However, any records or media that you’ve downloaded to your computer will still be available to you after your subscription ends.

View hints, or attach hints to your tree”

Alan again: So basically you can continue to access and update your tree, but not add anything to it that comes from Ancestry itself.

From this I concluded that I actually now have the best of both worlds as anything new has to be added to Family Tree Maker and to the app separately and I can search for new information from any source of my choosing rather than being tied to Ancestry via an expensive annual subscription. I am assuming that Ancestry will continue to hold my tree as there is a chance, of course, that I will want to renew my subscription with them at some time in the future.

Barbara Elsmore February 2018

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Britain’s Post War Homes


Did you enjoy the recent BBC2 programme ‘A House Through Time’?

In the last episode Deborah Sugg Ryan showed the Book of Britain’s Post-War Homes and this sent me scurrying upstairs as I have a copy of this book tucked away. I found it in my grandfather’s house when it had to be cleared in 1974 and I think my father, who was associated with the building trade, probably gave it to my grandfather when he was involved with the building of Nether Compton’s first council houses in the late 1940s.

This book makes very interesting reading. The Ideal Home Exhibition, which was started in 1907, was not taking place during the Second World War and in the midst of the loss of many homes, due to the bombing, and with overcrowding rife throughout the country, it was decided to set about finding out what women would like to see built when the war was over and things started to return to normal. Although the results of the survey were published in 1944 clearly women were being consulted over the previous two years or so. There were a few sweeping statements that would not be credible these days such as ‘Men have always considered that the designing and building of the domestic dwelling was a man’s job’ and ‘Women have not taken any interest in the construction of a house nor have they taken the trouble to find out how or if the drains work until faced with the difficulty of coping with them when something went wrong’ and ‘having had little to do with the building of a house however, it is not to say she will have been unconscious of its failings as many a husband can testify’. Through various organisations such as the WI, the Townswomen’s Guild and others it was estimated that some 4,500,000 women were invited to take part in the survey. The results revealed that indeed women were interested in their homes, how they were built and how they would be lived in, and they answered the questions posed in sufficient numbers to prove statistically  to the town planners and to the building industry what exactly their basic needs for new housing would be,after the war was over.  The request was really quite simple on paper ‘good houses equipped on up to date lines and in pleasant surroundings – as a basis for a happy healthy family life’.

First of all it was decided on what they did not want:

women don't want

Freezing pipes

Then they were offered lots of ideas for the future, many of which they did want:

Triplex grates



My parents married during the war in 1943 and I was one of the early baby boomers born after the war. I came into a house of five adults as my parents lodged with my grandparents – a not unusual situation. My father searched for accommodation of our own (I know this from correspondence I still hold) but nothing could be found in the area of greater London in which we lived. When I was three, and by some sort of miracle, my father’s company came up with a house for us and I have the happiest memories of this house as I guess the feeling of luck and of relief probably permeated my earliest memories of living there.

Our house

Me outside our house in Hollybush Lane, Tatling End

Our home was very like the two-bedroomed house shown on a plan found in the Book of Britain’s Post-War Homes except, having been built between the wars, it did not have a fuel store or a drying cupboard inside as coal was kept outside and there was a copper built into an outhouse for the washing. As soon as we moved in my dad set about building a pram store for the arrival of my younger brother and my mother had a brand new electric cooker followed, after a while, by a washing machine. We were fortunate indeed.

Plan of houses


Remember the Pre-fab? Built in their thousands all over the country


Nether Compton Houses

Two of the first council houses to be built in Nether Compton in the late 1940s

If you would like to find out more about the history of your house, or one that is of interest to you, if you can join us in Sherborne on the afternoon of Saturday 28 April – we would be very pleased to see you.

Barbara Elsmore


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