The Greenwood Tree – September 2018

The September edition of The Greenwood Tree is a Special Edition focusing on World War One to mark the upcoming centenary of the Armistice.  It contains eight extra pages and will be mailed to members early in September. The Editor, Paul Radford, previews this Special Edition, which SDFHS members can already download from the Members’ Area of the Society’s website.


To mark the centenary of the Armistice, we invited members to tell their stories of the ancestors who went to war, the families left behind and the memorials to those who should never be forgotten. The response was truly gratifying and these stories dominate the magazine.

One of the saddest tales was Kerrie Alexander’s story of the four ORCHARD brothers who all failed to return home, falling at different times in various phases of the conflict. Tragically the fourth died in a Greek hospital just weeks before the Armistice.

Jack SWEET’s father, Reginald, was severely injured by a shell from his own side just days before the end of the conflict and would almost certainly have died if his close friend Bert HARPER had not broken regulations and risked his own life to take him back to safety.

Boys of Hut 24

Reginald SWEET (third from left in back row with ‘x’ over his head) with his hut comrades during training on Salisbury Plain in early 1918

The Men who Fell Albert Barrett

Albert BARRETT, one of hundreds of Dorset soldiers killed in the Battle of Scimitar Hill

George TATHAM tells the story of the Battle of Scimitar Hill and the terrible price paid by men of the 5th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment.

Michael SULLY describes the discovery of an ancestor who fought in the war under two different identities and his search to find out why he needed to falsify his name.

John MABEY unearths a poignant link between the epic poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ and two second cousins, both named Walter MABEY, brought up on opposite sides of the Atlantic and probably unaware of each other.

Cousins united

Walter Amos MABEY (seated, centre) with his army buddies

The devastating effect the war had on those left behind is well illustrated by John DAMON’s story of his grandmother Ethel’s sailor fiancé who returned suffering from shell shock and who ended his days in an asylum. Their planned wedding never happened.

Even more tragic is June SMALE’s poem ‘The Cawing of the Crows’ about the distress and eventual suicide of her grandmother in an asylum after losing her husband and then the custody of her children because of her fragile mental state.

Dorset Spotlight Pimperne

The war memorial at Pimperne

There are many more compelling stories of war and its terrible effects on people’s lives. Even our regular feature ‘Buried in the Archives’ is given over to the May 2016 story on the Society’s blog from Barbara ELSMORE about the famous Dorset Yeomanry charge at Agagia in Egypt 100 years earlier. ‘What the Papers Said’ also offers a wartime theme.

‘Dorset Spotlight’ is on the village of Pimperne but the ‘Somerset Spotlight’ has been held over until December for space reasons, as has ‘Computer Corner’.

There are more regular non-war stories in the second part of the magazine, notably Paul DOUCH’s piecing together of the life of his Taunton innkeeper ancestor, Edwin DOUCH, through cuttings from the 19th century local press and John PORTER’s latest tale of the Gillingham folk who made their money from the sugar plantations of Nevis. Interestingly, this time they are all women.

Paul Radford 

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Historic Migration from the West Country

I must preface this article by stating that I am no expert on migration – this post is merely a transcript of my notes on the recent seminar, held to mark the 20th anniversary of a similar event held in Lyme Regis in June 1998. I hope I have done the talks justice. The seminar was a full-day seminar and gave an excellent over-view of migration from the West Country. Examples from all West Country counties were mentioned, as were all the main destinations – America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Liz Craig.

Historic Migration from the West Country: a study revisited 20 years on

Saturday 9 June at Loders Village Hall

An emigrant’s last sight of home” by Richard Redgrave in 1858. It was often a last farewell as it was prohibitively expensive for migrants to contemplate returning home.

Farm, Fish, Faith or Family? Motivations for emigration from North Devon 1830 –1875 – Janet Few

As soon as I saw Janet’s name on the programme I knew we were in for a treat; for those of you who have never heard Janet speak, she is an expert on a wide range of genealogical subjects and her talks are always full of well-researched, interesting information with a dose of humour woven in. Janet emphasised that the reasons for migration are multi-faceted – potential clues as to the reason for migration may be found in the date, new location, previous location, travelling companions (i.e. part of a chain of family migrations?), occupation and religion.

Reasons for migration are usually economic, but other explanations include education – a more modern explanation – historically this may have been for apprenticeship, familial (parents’ occupations), personal choice, religious (e.g. persecution), political regimes, avoiding natural disasters, forcible removal and escaping justice. These still explain many reasons for migration today.

Between 1840-1900, 434,806 people left Britain through a Devon port. Nationally, 75% of Victorian migrants went to America, but in Devon only 1.1% went to America, most were destined for Australasia. Janet discovered several preconceptions about Devon migration:

  • That they were ag labs (agricultural labourers) looking for land in the new world
  • That emigrants were usually single
  • That the connection with Newfoundland was due to the cod trade

Patterns of religion in North Devon were much more akin to Cornwall than they were to South Devon. Many Methodists experienced low levels of antagonism at home, even being subjected to “personal violence for conscience sake”; others went overseas to evangelise. Religious migrants tended to settle where others who shared their religion had already settled.

We often assume that migrants tend to go to big cities, as part of the industrial revolution, but Janet found that this was not the case in North Devon – they tended to move to other rural locations within a 15-mile radius, or travel abroad.

Janet then presented case studies of five families – including one in which a whole generation moved. She re-visited some of the preconceptions she outlined at the beginning of her talk. She concluded that

  • Many of the migrants were already farmers, rather than ag labs
  • Migrants were not usually single
  • The fish trade was in decline during the period 1840-1900, so was not a factor

There then followed six 10-minute presentations from Jane’s students, giving examples of migrations from their own research:

Case Study: Cornish Coast Guard Migration within the UK – Sue Wilson

Sue’s talk on her ancestor William Mynheer, from St Mawes in Cornwall, was to illustrate occupation as a motivation for migration. She emphasised the importance of looking at the local and national context surrounding a person’s life. William’s mother died when he was a child. Britain was at war with France, there were constant fears of a French invasion. Bad winters caused poor harvests and bread was scarce. William first went to sea as a boy aged 13 in 1802.

William moved away from Cornwall, and Sue wondered how typical this was. She established that no boatman was to work within 20 miles of his home, not lodge with smugglers, and should live near to his place of work. Sue was able to track his movements using the Database of British Coastguards on Genuki. She looked at 159 of William’s contemporaries, born between 1764 and 1799. 47% had moved out of the county and never returned. 20% left the county and went back. 18% moved elsewhere in Cornwall, many to the opposite coast. 11% broke the rules of employment and stayed in their home town.

Case Study: Incomers into Cornwall, marrying local girls and moving out – Jackie Hewitt

Jackie told us about her ancestor Thomas Chammings, who was born in St George in the East, London, in 1800. The previous year, the East India Company was formed. There was congestion in the River Thames, with ships queuing up to land their cargo in the 20 legal quays – it was said that you could cross from one side of The Thames to the other without getting your feet wet!

Britain had been at war with France since 1793. Britain needed ships and seamen – including pressed men. Thomas first went to sea in 1810. By 1823, the Admiralty had taken over the Post Office Packet Service, bringing post, bullion and news from the plantations back from overseas. Falmouth was the port of choice because of its deep-water anchorage, close proximity to the open sea, and because it enabled ships to dock without having to run the gauntlet of the English Channel. The main drawback was Falmouth’s distance from London.

Thomas moved to Falmouth, married, settled, and had 4 children. He served on packet ships in the 1830s. By the late 1830s, the packet service was in decline. In 1850, the contract was awarded to Liverpool. Thomas and one of his sons returned to London, knowing they could get employment in the docks.

Case Study: Three generations of one Cornish family going all the world – Wendy Hilton

Wendy told us about the Bray/Morcom family, three generations of which migrated – one to Wales and the other two to Australia. Richard Morcom went to Gwennap in Wales. He was a manganese miner but used his transferrable skills to branch out into copper mining. He then moved to Cornwall to mine, then Exmoor, and then Anglesey where he worked as a mining agent in the 1850s.

Grace Bray married William Truscott, and emigrated using the assisted passage scheme, which cost £2 per couple and £1 per child. Her husband Walter described himself as an ag lab – the passage was cheaper for unskilled workers. Their ship docked in Adelaide. Migrants could stay on the ship for two weeks while they looked for work; however, some passengers disappeared straight away and headed for the gold fields in Victoria – there were no assisted passages to Victoria, so they had taken advantage of a cheap passage and then gone to pan for gold! Grace and William then moved to Clare, a farming settlement established 10 years previously.

Grace’s nephew William Henry Bray joined the Navy in 1883 as a carpenter. He jumped ship in Sydney. Perhaps he had heard from his aunt that there were opportunities to be had in Australia. He used his carpentry skills to make furniture and settled in Goulburn, Australia’s first inland town.

Case Study: From Gloucestershire to Dorset – Ken Isaac

Ken told us of his Isaac family’s journey around England over the course of 110 years. Ken’s Isaac family worked on the Badminton Estate near Tormarton (near Bristol), then to London, then on to Windley in Derbyshire. His great grandfather was working as a dairyman and later a coalman. They later moved to Christchurch (then in Hampshire), Pokesdown (near Malvern) and then to Portland. Ken drew parallels with his own working life; he and his wife moved around the country due to Ken’s work.

Case Study: Somerset to the US: taking their skills with them – Jane for Margaret Young

Margaret was not able to attend, so Jane delivered her presentation on the Gayner family, an excellent example of an ancestor taking a trade with him.  Margaret’s ancestor John Gayner was a glass worker in Nailsea. You can read more about the Nailsea glassmaking industry here and here. His wife and several of their children died. For economic reasons, he decided to emigrate to the USA. In 1866 he landed in Maine. He moved from one glass factory to another, living in New Jersey in 1880. The 1900 census enabled Margaret to calculate his emigration date of 1866. Eventually he settled in Salem and founded the Gayner Glass Factory in 1898. The 1900 census is useful to establish an emigration date if you have been unable to find your ancestors on passenger lists.

Case Study: Dorset Meatyards in America – Jane for Caroline Meatyard

Robert and Betty Meatyard emigrated to New York from Bradstock in 1835; Robert described himself as a farmer.  He bought land in Illinois and by 1850 had three children. The 1851 census shows them back in Bradstock; perhaps our emigrant ancestors visited home more often than we thought? However, by 1860 Robert had returned to Illinois with two of their sons, while the 1861 census shows Betty and son James living in Chardstock. In 1869, Robert bigamously married again. Betsy accused him off bigamy in an English court and was granted a divorce. Betsy had returned to Bradstock by 1871, and the census entry is interesting because it appears that her marital status was originally given as divorced – which was then crossed out and replaced with the word ‘unmarried’.

Caroline is doing a one-name study of the Meatyard name. If you have any Meatyards in your family tree, I am sure she would love to hear from you!

Emigration from England to Canada, examples from Dorset – Lucille Campey

3 tenth

Lucille is the author of several excellent books, three of them focussing on emigration from England to Canada – Ignored but Not Forgotten: Canada’s English Immigrants, Seeking a Better Future: The English Pioneers of Ontario and Quebec, and Planters, Paupers and Pioneers: English Settlers in Atlantic Canada. Her thirteenth book, on emigration from Scotland to Canada, will be published shortly.  She packed so many interesting facts into her talk that I struggled to keep up, but here goes!

The English came to Canada after the Scots and Irish, once they had seen it as the land of opportunity. The English merged quietly into Canadian life – none of the parades or flag-waving of the Scots and Irish. Coming from a great empire, they did not feel the need to explain or express themselves, and at times came across as being aloof.

Emigration from England only began in great numbers from the 1830s. Parish-funded schemes funded many assisted passages especially after the mechanisation of farming which reduced the need for agricultural labourers. In some cases, it was cheaper for the parish to pay for a pauper’s assisted passage than it was to continue paying poor relief.

Many English emigrants to Canada went to Ontario, one example being the Tolpuddle Martyrs who, having returned to England after their transportation to Australia, decided that they no longer wanted to remain in England and emigrated to London, Ontario.

In the 1870s, many Dorset farmers emigrated to Canada. Mounting patriotic feeling swung migration from the US to Canada. Canada was frequently promoted as a land of opportunity. One man (George Dennison?) gave talks around Dorset and Wiltshire, talking in the open air and on village greens, encouraging labourers to emigrate to Canada. Farmers were justifiably worried about losing labourers – many Dorset farm workers left for Ontario as a result of this tour. As many as 100,000 migrants per year came to Canada.

Canadian produce was prominently displayed in horse-drawn wagons which were brought to agricultural shows and weekly markets. Immigration experts were on hand to distribute pamphlets and report favourably on Canada’s prospects.

Inhabitants of the Canadian Prairies were mostly English, with very few Scots and Irish. The railway often didn’t take them all the way to their destination and frequently the journey ended with families walking a great distance carrying their possessions. The transition to prairie life was daunting to some – especially those who’d had servants in England. Some women worked as domestic servants and were embarrassed to admit it. They couldn’t afford servants in Canada as wages were high and their attitude to having to do these manual tasks themselves at times made them come across as snooty. By 1911, the English were the largest ethnic group in Manitoba, especially in the south. The English took a while to realise that the Canadians didn’t care about social standing or who your father was.

In Victorian England, large families became common, and one or two members of the family were encouraged to go to Canada to contribute financially to the family’s income.

In Alberta the younger sons of wealthy English families spotted Alberta’s potential for cattle ranching. The Canadian government’s 1890s campaign encouraged migration to British Columbia. Gold and coal deposits encouraged Cornish migrants, who were engaged in similar occupations at home. The fruit-growing conditions of the Okenagan valley were also an attraction.

In addition to migrants seeking a better life, Britain deposited their destitute and unemployable citizens, which was not what Canada needed. For example, 52 boys were sent from Manchester and Salford refuges, orphanages and workhouses. These migrants were used as cheap labour and often abused, although Lucille found that they often made good lives for themselves as adults. You can read more about British Home Children in Canada here.

An assisted emigrant – means that someone at the other end had organised land for them. Often land was taken by squatters. Land speculators caused great problems.

Lucille’s recommended sources include the Library and Archives of Canada, the Saskatchewan Archives, and the Glenbow Archive, and the Remittance Books in the Ottawa Archive – remittance being when someone settled in Canada and sent money back home to enable relatives to join them.

9 ninth

Finding sources for researching migrants to the USA – Jane Ferentzi-Sheppard

Jane gave a short talk on sources for finding migrant ancestors, including baptisms, vestry minutes, wills, shipping lists, newspapers, Castle Garden, Ellis Island, naturalisation papers, and censuses. Some US land maps give the names of the people who lived there.

We were then treated to four more 10-minute presentations from Jane’s students, giving examples of migrations from their own research:

Case Study: Dorset Mormons in the US – Sally Beadle

Sally told us the story of her ancestor Thomas Mabey’s arduous journey from Mapperton in Dorset to Utah. Thomas married Esther Chalker; they and their children became Mormons and emigrated to Utah in 1862. The Mormon Church was founded in the 1820s in New York by Joseph Smith. Smith moved to Kirkland, Ohio, then to Jackson, Missouri, from where he fled in 1833 following violence and threats from locals. Smith died in 1844 and his successor Brigham Young led the members of the Mormon Church (renamed The Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints) to Utah.

Thomas and Esther’s daughter married and converted to Mormonisn, and the rest of the family converted soon after. I was surprised to learn from Sally, that there were quite a few Mormons in Dorset at this time. It was considered a Mormon’s duty to emigrate to Utah. It took Thomas Mabey two years of hard work to raise the funds to emigrate. The family sailed in 1862 with 376 ‘saints’ (as the Mormons referred to themselves) and after a 5-week journey, they arrived in New York.

5000 settlers arrived in Salt Lake in 1862. There were two classes of converts – those who could pay their own way and those who could not. It was an arduous journey, by wagon train, and involved walking 15 miles a day. Only the elderly, infirm and children could ride. At night, they would park the wagons in a circle to form a camp.

It took 5 months to get to Utah from Liverpool. They were taken in by families, who housed and fed them until they were able to set up their own homes. Roads, bridges, homes, and meeting rooms were built. Land was cultivated and the soil was fertile. They grew mulberry shoots and bought silkworms. A range of crops were grown, and animals were kept.

Sadly, Thomas died 5 months later. He and his family worked hard and paid back their debt to the church. His surviving family were part of a strong church and social life. Esther and her family moved several times, improving their situation each time.

Sally is fortunate that her ancestor’s son Charles Randall Mabey wrote a memoir, and if his book (republished in 2016) is anything as good as Sally’s talk, then it will be a very good read indeed!

Case Study: Devon, Dorset Channel Island links in the 1840s – Paul Radford

If Paul’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the editor of our esteemed journal, The Greenwood Tree. Paul told us how he discovered that three of his ancestors who lived within 30 miles of each other all migrated to Guernsey within a decade of each other. He was intrigued by why they had chosen Guernsey and decided to investigate further.

He discovered that Guernsey had a thriving economy, offering potential employment in granite quarrying and ship-building. Road-builder John McAdam preferred Aberdeen and Guernsey granite for road-building. In 1847 there was a restriction in 1847 which said that no granite which had been cracked within 20 miles of London could be used in road-building.

Also, Guernsey was easily accessible – you could get there in a day. St Peter Port became prosperous in the 18th century mainly due to privateering and smuggling. The population doubled between 1821-1911. The highest number of migrants was in the 1840s. 22% were from Devon, 14.6% from Cornwall, 14.5% from Dorset, and 14.2% from Somerset. Some returned to their home county, but others stayed – Paul recommended that if there’s a gap in our ancestors’ lives, it is definitely worth checking to see if they spent time in the Channel Islands.

Paul reminded us of a previously published excellent resource – a special supplement in The Greenwood Tree. If you missed it, why not view it on the ’40 Years of the Greenwood Tree’ available on either CD or memory stick, available from our online shop.

Case Study: Assisted Passages to Australia – Sue Thornton-Grimes

Sue’s husband Laurence did an MSc with the University of Strathclyde and became interested in emigration. He needed a manageable-sized project to research, and decided to investigate the period 1830-1860; why did agricultural labourers leave during this period? How did they leave?

Agricultural Swing riots and mechanisation had an adverse impact on the lives of ag labs during this period. Australia was being opened up. Government schemes offering assisted passages were available in 1831. One such scheme was the McArthur bounty scheme. The McArthur brothers of Camden, New South Wales, wrote to John West, the rector of Chettle, wanting people to work on his estate. John West vouched for several families, enabling 236 people to emigrate. McArthur organised school and church. You can read more here. A similar scheme was facilitated by the Reverend Lord Sydney Godolphin Osborne, who sent a large group of emigrants to Australia.

Laurence decided to collect as many names of migrants as possible, collecting information about what type of people were leaving Dorset, their occupations, etc. He used lots of sources, such as emigration lists, certificates of departure and passenger diaries. He made good use of online sources such as the Australian Immigrants 1828 – 1896 database on Ancestry, which is a combination of four databases. He used ‘Dorset’ as a keyword in the origin box.

Laurence created a database with 16 fields, including age, gender, status, whether they could read/write, and whether they had a sponsor or not. This data extraction provided 1170 records for analysis. Just over half were make. 477 were aged 0-13. Only 14 people were aged 50-66. 46 were sponsored by the McArthur brothers. Between 1849-58, 157 more people emigrated, having been sponsored by people who were already there. Ag labs were the most frequent occupation – 259 of them sought a new life in Australia, as did 123 (farm & indoor) servants; 1 schoolmaster; 29 dressmakers, button makers and glovers; and 20 shepherds.

Sue and Laurence hope that the database will enable those who haven’t been able to find their emigrant ancestors to locate them. Their work also enables us to see a richer picture of those leaving Dorset for Australia in that timeframe, and their motivations for doing so.

Case Study: Sartin Family: Corscombe to New Zealand – Bonny Sartin

Bonny Sartin talked to us about his ancestors Lucy and Edmund Sarten of Corscombe, Dorset, who in 1840 set sail on the ship William Bryan from Plymouth, arriving in New Zealand four months later. Bonny has been able to supplement his knowledge of their journey thanks to the diary of the ship’s doctor, Dr Henry Weekes, which describes uncomfortable levels of dysentery and malnutrition.   The journey wasn’t all bad though; there were parties on a Saturday night, which included a ‘sing-a-round’ – a new song had to be sung every week. There were occasional dances, accompanied by the fiddle, flute and copper kettle!

The ship sailed to what is now known as ‘New Plymouth’. The Maoris had planted extra crops to feed the new settlers. The Maoris later realised that they had been conned out of their land and this lead to the 1st Maori War, in which two of the Sarten boys were killed. Another son went to the gold mines in the South Island. Another son, Levi ‘Hole in the Wall’ Sarten, was a successful farmer with an interest in local politics. He became a councillor and oversaw the building of two bridges. He earned his ‘Hole in the Wall’ nickname due to a scheme he devised to deal with the problem sand drifting into the harbour – he suggested that a hole in the breakwater would remedy the problem, but the scheme was never carried out.

Bonny ended his talk with a rendition of one of the traditional songs that his ancestor sang. It was the perfect way to end a fascinating and informative day!

1 first

2 second


3 third

4 fourth

5 fifth

6 sixth

The day ended with a plenary discussion with speakers and guests. Jane is hopeful that a special interest group focusing on migration studies might be formed to build further upon what has already been achieved.

Liz Jones – July 2018

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Somerset Photographers 1839-1939

On 31 August 1844, an advertisement in the Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser announced that, during the following week at the Bowling Green, Warwick “Master Augustus Gyngell, only eight years of age, the child with the iron nerve, will make his daring and astonishing flight across the Green, from an immense altitude, surrounded with fireworks, as the Spirit Ariel, travelling at the rate of 200 miles an hour”. We’ve not found a report which might have verified the height or the speed of the flight, but this brave young man survived the ordeal devised for him by his father “Professor” Gyngell, the pyrotechnist, because just four months later he was at the Northampton Theatre, flying from the back of the gallery to the stage “through a chromatic fire cloud and shower of fire”.

So, what relevance does this have to our local area? While Augustus’ father, uncle and other relatives continued as firework display organisers, tightrope walkers, etc., Augustus (better known as George) had become a photographer by the mid-1860s. Our interest is that, for a time, he worked in Somerset, and he is one of the photographers whose lives have been documented in a new book just published by the Society Secure the shadow: Somerset photographers, 1839-1939. This is a celebration of Somerset’s photographic history, as seen through the lives of its photographers. The main part of the book includes a listing of nearly 800 photographers, who worked in Somerset over that period. The dates and locations of local studios, included in the directory, will, we think, be useful information for dating photographs. A disk accompanies the book, and this includes biographies of each of the photographers, based on census information, about 3,000 newspaper articles, books, archive material, and many other sources, as well as selections of the photographs they took (more than 1,500) – ambrotypes, stereo views, cartes de visite, cabinet cards, tintypes, postcards etc.

The aim of the life stories of the photographers is to describe whole lives, and so their careers outside Somerset are covered in addition to time spent in the county. As a result, the book has relevance for Dorset as well as Somerset: Gyngell worked in Dorchester, as well as in Castle Cary; the flamboyant and tragic Theodore Brunell worked briefly in Bath, but for a longer period in Dorchester and Weymouth, Henry and Jonas Walter worked in Yeovil and then Lyme Regis. The well-known Adam Gosney of Sherborne had studios in Yeovil, Wells, and Crewkerne, and visited many Somerset and Dorset villages with a mobile studio.

A studio photograph of Ben and Marie Crossman taken about 1897.

Many of the images are portraits and, in some cases, the sitter is named. This led to the authors realising that one author (Allan) had, several years ago, collected a photograph of a relative of another author (Phil). The image is a carte de visite taken in about 1897 by Edwin Hazell at his studio in Clevedon and the names “Ben & Marie Crossman” were handwritten on the reverse. Generally, our research was focused on the photographer rather than the sitter, but in this case, Phil decided to check on the sitters. To his surprise, he realised that the girl in the photograph went on to marry his mother’s cousin – and as a boy Phil had stayed in their farmhouse.

The book has been more than eight years in the making, building on a more extended period of research on Somerset photographers by one of the authors. Copies are now available for purchase for £12.00 via our online shop (where prices include postage) and also direct (in person or by post) from the SDFHS bookshop at our Family History Centre in Yeovil. We welcome contact from local groups of the Society with requests for talks on Somerset’s photographic history – the talks will be locally themed, and well-illustrated.

Robin Ansell, Allan Collier and Phil Nichols

June 2018

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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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