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August 2020 Newsletter
published by Pat Hase on Fri, 31/07/2020 - 22:52

Who can believe that it is already August and we should be enjoying Summer Holidays? We all hope that you are keeping well and enjoying life as much as possible. On the 1st of August some of our members will be venturing out for the first time after shielding and it will take some time to become accustomed to the changes which are taking place as we go about our lives.  We wish them well.  I hope that you have been recording your thoughts and feelings during 2020 as Coronavirus will be history one day and people will want to know how their ancestors coped.   

It’s been quiet on the web site and also the Facebook Group this month as people settle to a new way of life with different priorities.  I was told years ago not to worry if family history took a back seat for a while because it would always be there for you when you are ready to return.  I’m sure the same applies today. The only problem is trying to remember where you were when you stopped and this is why it is so important to note your sources – not only as proof for your tree but also to prevent the duplication of effort and rediscovering the wheel.


Huge congratulations to Graham Payne for his latest offering to our website with the Photographs and Memorials of St John the Baptist, the original parish church of Weston-super-Mare.  Coupled with a plan produced by the society in 1991 he has brought the history of many of the inhabitants to life (if you can say that about Memorials!) 

An on-going project -the inclusion of more modern inscriptions is a valuable asset to family historians.  Available for members only this more than repays the £9.00 annual membership fee and is not to be found elsewhere – except by a visit to the church.

  Buckets and Spades

The latest edition of Buckets and Spades is now available and full members can read it online.  Intended as a tribute to the 75th Anniversary of VE Day in May and VJ Day in August it contains several articles concerning people’s memories of the War and their experiences.  Thank you to those who contributed and to our editor, Sue Maguire for another memorable journal.

DNA Testing

Several of our members have been using their DNA results as a means of discovering more about their family.  In my experience DNA has been useful in confirming my paper based research but I’m still struggling to understand the basics and I sympathise with others in the same position.  I’m not particularly interested in the ethnicity results and one of my main frustrations has been the lack of, or inadequacy of the trees submitted by fellow researchers.  I found this article in familytreemagazine interesting. 

Gloucestershire Parish Registers - but it could be anywhere!

  • This isn’t about this locality but not all of our members have Somerset ancestors. Not everything in family history research is as straightforward as it seems! 
    • My grandfather, Ashton HILL, was born in 1880 in Cam near Dursley in Gloucestershire and in 1670 his direct ancestors and my 7xg grandparents were marred in the same parish.  
    • So with over 200 years in the same or adjacent parishes it should have been easy! Images of the parish records are available online for Cam and I set about trying to go back before 1670. 
    • George HILL, the groom would have been born about 1645 or thereabouts.  But that is in the middle of the Civil War and the parish clerk enters that there are problems with the records and there are large gaps around this time.

 I thought I would look for marriages before that date just in case I could find a marriage of possible parents but could find nothing by scrolling through the marriages.  However, Ancestry has indexed these records and there I found this which caused some concern!

I did not think that Cam was celebrating single sex marriages in 1641  – in 1642 Edward HILL married Henry TROTMAN and a George HILL marred Edward HILL in 1643 as well as in 1641

All was revealed when I looked at the images.  This had been taken from a page devoted the officers of the parish but how this became transcribed as marriages I haven’t a clue! – especially as there are no women involved.

There were several pages devoted to this covering the years 1599-1685


In 1641 Edward HILL was a Church Warden and George HILL was Supervisor of the Roads.

In 1642 Edward HILL was still church warden and his “bride” Henry TROTMAN was the Supervisor

These lists cover the parish officials from 1599-1685.  I haven’t gone through them all to discover how many marriages are indexed from them but they are a great source of parish history covering Church Wardens, Overseers of the Poor, Tithingmen, Constables and Supervisors of the Roads

Still don’t know if Edward HILL (gent) or George HILL were connected to me!

Moral – always view the original if possible.






  Resources online

  •   During the Lockdown there have been a number of ways in which
      information has been made available online. 
    • Jenni Phillips, a long standing member of this society and of our Facebook Group published a blog about marriages which took place in Bedminster, Bristol when the participants lived elsewhere. Part 1 is here but there are three parts and it makes for some interesting reading especially as so many of our members will have found that their ancestors married in Bristol. 
  • Although they have reopened The National Archives will continue to offer free download of some digital documents while it is restricting the access to the main collection. 
  • You have just one month until August 31st to continue the free use of Ancestry at home provided by  Libraries West as their libraries gradually reopen. 

Presentations online & Somerset Heritage Centre

  • Today I watched a presentation for Weston U3A members by Jane de Gruchie, an archivist with the Somerset Heritage Centre about “Tracing Your Somerset Ancestor”. 
    • She started by confirming that the Somerset Heritage Centre is reopening on Tuesday August 4th and that there are several changes to their arrangements.  Please visit their web site for information about days on which they are open and what you need to do to visit.   
  • Jane’s presentation covered a description of all the basic records available to assist in our research at the centre and pointed out some of the pitfalls which can occur when using them.
  • Look out for other Virtual Presentations which may be offered by commercial Research Sites
  • If you can recommend anything which you have found please add as a comment to this Newsletter.

Free Help Sessions

We have no plans yet about when we will resume the free help sessions at Weston Library but you can always post your queries on the Website under the Research Forum. 

Future Planning

  • Your committee held its first committee meeting via Zoom this week and once we got over the fact that you cannot catch each other’s eyes and learnt how to signal when you have something to say it all went well. 
    • Like other societies we were debating how best to support our membership whilst recognising that many will not be comfortable for some time about meeting in person. 
    • Our main means of communication is the website plus the printed journal Buckets and Spades for those who do not use the internet.
  • Although these monthly Newsletters or Updates rarely seem to attract any comments even when specific questions are posed perhaps this time will be different because we really do need your feedback. 
    • We were considering the AGM due in November and wondered how many members would join in if we held it on Zoom. 
    • Please will you let our secretary, Brian Airey, know if you would be happy to join in – at this time all we need is a rough idea about how well it would be supported – you are not committing yourselves but it would give us some idea if we could get a quorum using that format. 
    • You can use the “contact us” button on the website to do this and choose the Secretary under Category. 
    • It would be interesting to see how many people who live too far away to normally attend would do so this way.
  • Would you be interested in monthly meetings held this way if they can be arranged. 
    • If so, would you prefer day or evening meetings or a mixture?
    • Do we have any members who would be prepared to present their research findings as part of this format? 
    • Please let us have any ideas you have about the future activities of the society.

I will end with my usual plea that you use the Web site to assist your research.  The transcriptions of the local parishes are marvellous for those with local ancestors but we realise that many who live locally may want help with research elsewhere.  Please use the Research Forum to ask any questions you may have about your research and read some of the questions and answers which have been posted - they may give you ideas for your own research.  As Jenny Towey wrote in Buckets and Spades  “If, at first, you don’t succeed – search, search again, and then, search again.  That’s why they call it Research!”

News TopicMonthly Update
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Weston Super Mare St John's Monumental Inscriptions.
published by Graham Payne on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 14:50

The WsM St John's monumental inscriptions have been updated based on the 1991 survey publish by this society and with the addition of photographs covering the upper churchyard which no longer has direct public access.

Please report any transcript errors to the author of this article.

News TopicTranscripts
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Archives reopening
published by Brian Airey on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 14:44

Thanks to Somerset and Dorset FHS

Archives reopening

The National Archives at Kew

The National Archives reopened on Tuesday 21 July, offering a limited service to visitors who must book their visit and order their documents in advance. Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10:00am - 2.50pm. Only the first floor document reading room is open with other facilities still closed including the map and large document reading room, the reference library, exhibition spaces, shop, and cafés. Full details The National Archives will continue to provide free access to some digital records for the time being


The Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton will reopen to the public on Tuesday 4 August. Access will be by appointment only and further information about booking will be available on Tuesday 28 July. The Centre asks prospective visitors not to contact them before 28 July as they will not be able to process bookings until then. Full details.

The Dorset History Centre in Dorchester reopened to the public on a limited basis on Tuesday 7 July, with access to original documents only; there is no access to microfilms or computers. Opening hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10.00am-4.20pm. The Centre remains closed all other days of the week. Advance appointments are necessary, email. Further information.

Local Libraries

As local libraries start to reopen, the home access that they have been offering to Ancestry and/or FindMyPast will gradually end. Libraries West (which covers public libraries in Somerset, Dorset, Bath, Bristol and South Gloucestershire) has been giving Library members free access to Ancestry (worldwide records) during the lockdown and, at present, this is scheduled to end on 31 August, but do keep an eye on 
their website as the date may change.

News TopicEvents
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Brockley St Nicholas Monumental Inscriptions
published by Graham Payne on Sat, 18/07/2020 - 8:36

The Brockley St Nicholas monumental inscriptions are now available for Society members to view online.

Please report any transcript errors to the author of this news article.

News TopicTranscripts
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Backwell St Andrews Monumental Inscriptions.
published by Graham Payne on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 11:00

Transcripts of  Backwell St Andrews monumental inscriptions consisting of two files covering the original churchyard and the later extension to the north are now available for Society members to view online.

Please report any transcript errors to the author of this news article.

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July 2020 Newsletter
published by Pat Hase on Tue, 30/06/2020 - 19:21

As I write this, a plane has just appeared in the clear blue sky leaving a vapor trail as it makes its way towards Bristol Airport.  A very unusual occurrence during this pandemic but it seems to me to represent family history research – each family makes its mark as it travels through time but its effect soon fades – our research is to catch and preserve that trail. 

What do you write in a monthly Newsletter for a Society during lockdown?  No monthly meetings to report on or anticipate, no Family History Open Days to attend, no free Saturday Help Sessions – I could go on but let’s be more positive.  Your committee continues to watch over the society;  at our last virtual meeting it was decided to change  the name of the Monthly Update to Monthly Newsletter to more accurately reflect what it contains. I hope you continue to find it helpful but would appreciate comments of what you would like included.

As family history and local history are intertwined one way in which to enhance our study is to look more closely at the area in which our ancestors lived. Perhaps inspired by the BBC’s “A House Through Time” how about a history of your own house or that of an ancestor.  In my case very easy, as our house was built in 1935 and when we bought it in 1961 we were only the third owner and we haven’t moved since.  I’ve even found a photograph of a grandson of the original owner taken in our easily recognisable front garden which was included in a family tree on Ancestry.  Those trees do have their uses after all!

Somerset Heritage Centre

The Somerset Archives has a collection of Planning Applications for Weston-super-Mare which could be very useful if you decide to do some local research.  Just go to the catalogue and enter the address which interests you.  When restrictions are lifted you may be able to see the original plans or have them brought up to the Library when the North Somerset Archivist resumes visiting Weston.

The National Archives

By using the Discovery Catalogue of the National Archives  it is sometimes possible to discover documents which refer to your family which have been deposited in archives than the county you expect them to be.  If you happen to be researching an Amelia BEAUMONT widow of Benjamin BEAUMONT who died in Weston in 1897 and is buried in the Cemetery you can read all about her family here  in the Discovery catalogue listing  but the document is in the Manchester Archives. 

There is still time to download digital images of some documents from the National Archives free of charge.   


Newspapers, accessible from The British Newspaper Archive and FindmyPast can also provide information about who lived where.  Try searching with the address of an ancestor. This way you may find:

  • the usual family announcements of births, marriages and deaths which sometime name other relations.
  • reports of inquests – giving details of cause of death or life style
  • court cases affecting your family both as victims or as the accused
  • advertisements for work, for servants, for sale of houses or other property etc.

Street Directories

One resource which I am lacking during this lockdown has been Street Directories – I do miss being able to access these in Weston Library.  Very often, particularly in Weston, houses were given names but the directories of the early 20th century have appendices which list the number of the house which bears these house names.  Directories also include a great deal of information about  the administration of the town. The Weston Directory for 1941 even lists the Staff at the County School.

Weston Museum and History of Weston

  • Weston Museum has been posting a number of videos concerned with the history of the Weston and its surrounds The latest is by John Crockford Hawley about the architecture of Weston.
  • There is a fairly new Facebook Group called Memories of Weston-super-Mare which is producing some interesting views of Weston. 
  • Another Facebook Group worth a visit is Know Your Place, North Somerset  Not only does it give help on how to use Know Your Place, which I have recommended before, but there are also interesting contributions about the area.
  • Not so much family history but more a glance at the enjoyment of a children’s visit to Weston around 1960 – typical of fun at the sea-side   

The Secret History of My Family

I don’t know whether you have caught it but BBC2 is showing “The Secret History of My Family” again which is three programmes investigating the lives of differing families with common ancestors and comparing the lives and attitudes of their descendants.  You will be able to catch up on IPlayer.

Roman Catholic Records

  • Each Friday FindmyPast releases more records. Take a look to see what has been made available over the past few weeks.   Although Findmypast has just published some Roman Catholic Records there are none yet for Somerset.  -  
  • The Somerset & Dorset FHS has produced a CD of the records of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Burnham on Sea.  Looking through it – I noticed that a couple of the early marriages were in Weston Catholic Church and against some of the christenings were notes of their later marriage, even if it took place elsewhere in the country. Details can be seen in their online shop https://sdfhs.org/product-category/publications/data/  

Comparison of Genealogical Websites

Which should I use? - Ancestry, FindmyPast, The Genealogist, FamilySearch or MyHeritage.  Well, FamilySearch is free, Ancestry is free in the library (and at home during lockdown) and you have to pay for the others.  Having said that, each has its strong points and the Familytree magazine has published a comparison to them (omitting The Genealogist).  I found some interesting comments - you might not agree with them all but useful neverthless.

2020 Census

FindmyPast has announced the progress being made on the release of the 2021 census.  This of course will be the last census to become available to us as the 1931 one was destroyed and there wasn’t one taken during the war in 1941.   

Some of you may remember the excitement when we waited for the 1881 census to be released.   1881 was the first census to be totally indexed (it was done by volunteers from Family History Societies) and would revolutionise the way we researched census information.  In Weston, we had been more fortunate because of Brian Austin’s work of indexing all local censuses from 1841 which we could look at on film in Weston library. 

2020 Census and Buckets & Spades

To mark 100 years since the 1921 census, Buckets and Spades next March will be a special Census Edition and Sue Maguire would welcome any articles and items based on censuses. Any strange entries?  Any strange names?  Any different occupations etc.  Or any way in which a census has assisted you in your research.

Writing up your Research

I know that some of you have taken this lockdown time to document your own research.  It's not easy - but if you have anything you can share please consider adding information to your Surname Interests on our Web Site.  I know that some of you have done this and it does seem a useful way of passing on your findings.

I’ve been trying to write up the results of my research in a form which will be easily understood by anyone who cares to read it and in doing so have revisited some of my early findings before the advent of the internet.  I have identified places where more research is now possible – for example how can I not investigate more about this marriage - the bride is a 1st Cousin 3 times removed – close enough to be a valid DNA match.

Western Daily Press – Friday 18 October 1872


GORTZCOFF – BURROWS – Oct 14 at All Saints’. Knightsbridge,

Prince Zacharius Basilius Gortzcoff to Emily Ann, second

daughter of John Burrows, Esq., of York Street, Bristol


It turned out that there was a printer’s error in the announcement and the groom’ surname should have been GORTZACOFF but that was actually a pseudonym - his name should have been Basil ZAHAROFF and there are masses about him on the internet!


I am aware that today the speed at which some pieces of information can be located means that the beginner can get almost instant satisfaction from the results of their research.  The majority of records which we use were not compiled for family historians but to measure the number and age of the population and enable initially the Church and later the Government to manage finances.  We need other sources to put flesh on the structure given us by official documents. 

How can our society help you with your research? – why not start with the web site?  

In the top right-hand corner of our Home Page is a SEARCH Box which is really useful.   You can use it to open up the riches of our Website.

If you enter any word, name, place or occupation etc., which interests you it will show every time it occurs on the site

  • Other people who are researching the same name
  • When the word occurs in queries and answers on the Research Forum
  • When the word has been used in a Journal Article
  • When the word is in an item of Society News such as the Monthly Newsletter.

Why not try it?

Our membership is a little down on last year but when compared with other societies and in the current situation I think we are doing quite well. 

We do miss the opportunity to pass on by word of mouth the benefits of joining us. Our membership fee of just £9.00 per year is very little – less than buying a single birth, marriage or death certificate - and gives access to transcriptions of parish registers for North Somerset and beyond including an increasing number of photographs of tomb stones and inscriptions.  There is also information and photographs about the places themselves.  The Cemetery Records are invaluable to anyone who had relations who died in Weston from 1856 when all local churchyards were closed to new burials. Our records of Axbridge Union Workhouse also give details of inmates and an account of its position in the lives of many of our ancestors.  The next edition of our Journal “Buckets and Spades” will be available shortly for members but selected articles from past publications are freely available on our website.  

We look forward to meeting up again at sometime but while we are waiting why not share your research experiences with us by using the Research Forum – we’d love to hear from members about how you are getting on – and rejoice with you if you have made a break through.

As restrictions are reduced – still keep safe!

News TopicMonthly Update
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Society Meeting
Tuesday, 29th September, 2020 19:00 - 21:00
Society Meeting
Tuesday, 27th October, 2020 19:00 - 21:00
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Tuesday, 24th November, 2020 19:00 - 21:00
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