The Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) is an educational charity. We support, inform and advise our membership, which consists of family history societies and similar bodies across the world.
To achieve our mission, we:
- co-ordinate and assist the work of organisations interested in family history, genealogy and heraldry
- foster co-operation and projects that help researchers
- represent the interests of family historians, especially in the preservation and availability of archives
You can read more about our activities on our "What We Do" page.
Somerset & Dorset Photographs Project
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially true with family photographs, which remind us of likenesses across the generations and add to the impact of the stories about our forebears.
The Somerset & Dorset Family History Society is setting up a searchable database of photographs of named people from those two counties. It aims to develop into a valuable resource giving people across the world opportunities to find images of their relatives. The collection focuses on pictures that meet these criteria:
- The photographs must be of people born in, or who have lived in Somerset or Dorset.
- Ideally no more than 3 images of one individual, for instance taken in youth, aged 20- 50, and 50 +.
- At least one of the subjects needs to be identified by name.
- A location and date, if only approximate, is desirable.
You can read more about the project on the Society's website. Further details, including a selection of the images collected so far, can be seen in an account by Barbara Elsmore that appears on the Society's blog.
This imaginative project demonstrates the value of a family history society, with its local knowledge and contacts, in helping us to discover more about those who have gone before.
If any of your family come from that part of England or if you live in the area, it is well worth exploring the Somerset & Dorset FHS website to find out more about the Society's activities and how to enrol as a member.
North Devon Record Office Saved
We are delighted to report that the Record Office and Local Studies Centre at Barnstaple, which had been under threat of closure, will now remain open. Devon is an enormous county, so there would have been major difficulties for people living in the northern part if they had to travel to Exeter for their research.
As the result of a vigorous campaign involving more than 30 organisations, it has been decided that the service at Barnstaple will continue for at least the next three years. The new arrangement includes strong local input in managing the facilities.
This very good news is an excellent example of how family and local historians, along with many others from the local community, can make a constructive difference when they work together.
Devon Family History Society is a much-valued member of FFHS, with groups meeting at Exeter, Plymouth, Bideford (near Barnstaple) and Kingskerswell (near Newton Abbot). Its website showcases a wide range of relevant information - so why not have a look at it now?
The Key to Quality
"Quality or Quantity?" is one of the big questions in family history. Some researchers and websites measure success largely by the number of records they harvest. Others are meticulous in checking and rechecking every detail, but as a result make progress very slowly. Is it possible to have both quality and quantity?
FamilySearch is the largest free family history website in the World, so clearly a leader in the numbers game. Interestingly, it also tackles the quality question. Its indexes rely on a process where, working independently, two volunteers index every record. The results are compared electronically and when a pair of entries gives the same result it is accepted. If the two entries do not agree, they are referred to an experienced arbitrator whose role is to determine which (if either) is correct.
This approach can slow down the indexing process to some extent, but it is an excellent way to ensure quality. Also, it means that it is not a major problem if initial indexers sometimes make a mistake - they do not have to be 100% accurate every time. Something worth bearing in mind for societies and individuals when organising their own indexing programmes.
You can read more about the arbitration process and associated issues at FamilySearch blog.
Many more Suffolk marriages
Over 71,000 additional marriage records extracted by the Suffolk Family History Society are now available on the FindMyPast site.
They join previously released entries to bring the total number of names in the online index to more than 340,000. It is easy to check which parishes are included so far in the index and the year ranges covered. However, bear in mind there may be gaps in some of the ranges given.
Marriages are key events in family history, not least because they introduce a fresh family name to explore. However, weddings were frequently held in a parish that was not otherwise known to be connected with either or both of the parties involved. So the latest improvement to the Suffolk Marriage Index will be of great help to numerous family historians.
Suffolk FHS offers a warm welcome and a helping hand to anyone researching their roots in Suffolk. If your family come from that part of East Anglia, why not visit its website to find out more?
Our Big Impact at WDYTYA
The thousands who attended "Who Do You Think You Are? Live" early in April were greeted by an enthusiastic team of volunteers at the FFHS stand. Our impressive new display emphasised the message that family history societies have much to offer people living in their area and also to those with families originating there.
We helped members of the public with a wide range of questions about how they could discover more about their heritage. In many cases, this included putting them in touch with a local society.
The event was also an opportunity to discuss matters of interest with individuals with responsibility for running specific societies.
An important aspect of our mission is to provide information about member societies that did not have their own stands at the event. This included a high-quality range of booklets that we gave to people interested in the areas where the society concerned operates.
As one visitor from East Anglia commented, "thank you very much for such helpful answers to my questions".
Fairs and Open Days
Fairs and Open Days offer family historians great opportunities to follow their interests and meet fellow enthusiasts. If you have a friend or relation who may be interested in setting off on the ancestor trail, these events are good occasions to introduce your local society and what it has to offer.
Some of our member societies are organising or will be present at events at the following venues to meet the needs of veteran researchers and newcomers alike:
- London - 14 May (Families in British India Society)
- Manchester - 15 May (Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain)
- Ripon - 19 May (Ripon Historical Society & Family History Group)
- Steyning - 21 May (Sussex Family History Group)
- Sheffield - 21 May (Sheffield & District FHS)
- Shrewsbury - 4 June (Shropshire FHS)
- Pudsey - 11 June (Annual Family History Fair)
- Swindon - 18 June (Wiltshire FHS)
- York - 2 July (Yorkshire FHS)
- Aylesbury - 23 July (Buckinghamshire FHS)
- Chesterfield - 27 August (Chesterfield & District FHS)
You can find out more about each event by following the relevant link.
Many of the events take place near to other places of interest. So, if you don't live in the vicinity, it may be worth making an event into part of a weekend away.