Family History

The Family History Group normally meets on the 4th Monday of each month in The Sun Inn, Eastwood between 10.00 am – 12.00 pm. **   The contact for the group is Diana Pidgeon on 0115 9169343 or email:

We are a small, friendly group of people who share an interest in family history. Members include both those new to tracing their roots and others who are more experienced. The aim of the group is to help each other make progress with their research and to share successes and pitfalls.  Sessions are based around a general theme, to encourage group discussion and sharing and we hope everyone has something to contribute. We also prioritize helping those new to research with assistance to start to build their own trees.

New members are always welcome.

Current meetings are held via Zoom – usual meeting days commencing 10.30 am. New and old members welcome!

Next Zoom meeting – 27th December. Each participant is invited to talk for a few minutes about an interesting photograph either from their research or that they have come across. Alternatively they can share any research successes or ask for help from the group.

Here are a few suggestions for furthering your interest at home:

The National Archives  have more than 350 free research guides on line that can help you find, access and understand records relevant to your research.  There is also a searchable data base with free access to some records during the closure of the centre.

The free library version of Ancestry is available at home to library members during lockdown.

Time on your hands? Have you thought about offering to transcribe records to be shared on line?  See  for opportunities.

Previous Zoom meetings:

July saw the first meeting and six people took part. We each talked about one of our ancestors and why we found them particularly interesting.

In August we were reduced to four attendees. We each shared something we had inherited and items included medals and hat badges, photos and book, a very old jigsaw and an electric shock machine.

In September we were six in total and we looked at old photographs, some of which had really interesting stories behind them. Although not the same as face to face meetings we agreed to keep pressing on with Zoom.

In October seven members shared certificates, such as birth, marriage and death, and the stories behind them. These included old marriage licences, death certificates and where information contained in them may have been inaccurate.

In November we shared letters, postcards and inscribed books that gave insight into our past. These included a family bible, postcards used as greetings cards and a variety of personal and formal letters.

Past Meetings and Visits:

27th January 2020: At this meeting Bill gave us a presentation on Old Eastwood and district based around his wonderful collection of local photographs. These included pictures directly linked to his ancestry as well as images found on old postcards of the area. We saw many photographs taking us back to the early twentieth century (and before) as well as some from subsequent decades. We saw the condition of the roads in those days, the beginnings of the trams in Eastwood and subsequent trolley buses.  We learned a lot about the many collieries in the area, the train lines and stations associated with them and saw the homes of the wealthy pit owners. We identified buildings remaining and many which have been lost including churches, shops and places of entertainment.  Many thanks to Bill for this interesting session, which entertained and informed us all.  Please see the above regarding our next meeting.

23rd December 2019: Six members escaped from their Christmas preparations to enjoy a relaxed and sociable meeting. We were treated to an informative, and somewhat competitive, quiz which prompted much discussion and reminded us of how much changed for our ancestors in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Special thanks to Helen for organising this for us.

25th November 2019: At this months meeting fifteen members discussed the possible benefits of undertaking DNA testing to aid family history. Led by two members who had already taken tests they generously shared their results and demonstrated what information was available through tests on two different sites. Ancestry results included introductions to potential relations, usually second, third or fourth cousins and access to their trees. Living DNA offers less matches but a greater story relating to both maternal and paternal patterns of migration over thousands of years. It gave us all much to think about and discuss. Our group membership has grown over the last few months and it was good to see everyone making a contribution.

28th October 2019: The group welcomed two new members this month. The group discussed the pros and cons of various paid-for websites including Ancestry and Find My Past, and also looked at a number of free sites that members had used. It was a lively discussion and hopefully gave all of us some new ideas for our research. Our top tips were:   Is the information I want available for free – check out our list of free websites; try visiting your local library where a version of Ancestry and the newspaper archive are available for free; try before you buy – most sites offer a 14 day free trial; check each sites coverage of the areas you want to research and finally look for the special offers because sometimes subscriptions are offered at rock bottom prices as a special promotion. Happy hunting!

23rd September 2019: This month the group considered the value of newspapers within family history research. We looked at the wealth of publications now online, the cost of accessing these and what can be found in libraries. We looked at examples of old articles that would help to confirm relationships, such as reports of funerals, and members shared stories from their research.

22nd July 2019: We looked at lists of old occupations, many of which no longer exist, and talked about what some of ancestors did depending on both their social status and the areas in which they lived. We heard some inspiring ‘rags to riches’ stories and of some other less fortunate ancestors.

24th June 2019: Our theme this month was a wide one as we learned about the Workhouse and our ancestors dread of being placed in such institutions. Members shared their research into conditions in such places and in particular establishments in Nottingham and Derby. We also looked at housing conditions, their lack of sanitation and subsequent disease leading to children often losing their parents at an early age. We also shared some personal stories of our own research.

25th March 2019: Our discussion theme of military ancestors was enriched by members sharing a wealth of personal documents and artefacts from their own families. We looked at discharge papers, ration books, cap and badges from WW2; enlistment, service records and medals from WW1; Naval records, photographs and biographies as well as a bible given to a recruit in WW1 with a personal inscription. It was agreed that having such items made us feel closer to our ancestors. Thanks to all those who contributed. After coffee two members shared their experiences of having had their DNA analysed and the results they had received. This was an interesting meeting and provoked lots of discussion.

25th February 2019: Members shared their knowledge of local railways and interesting stories about their railway employee ancestors. We spoke of the navvies who built the tracks and the various jobs within each company. We looked at employment records online and records of accidents, some fatal.

28th January 2019: Available records pre 1837/ Kelly’s directories etc. Recording trees and useful websites.

Meeting November 26th: Members joined in with a Christmas themed quiz which helped us think about customs in the past. One member shared her collection of old Christmas cards and silver charms intended for the Christmas pudding.

Meeting October 22nd: This was an interesting meeting looking at ways to record research and gave us plenty to consider. Many thanks to the members who demonstrated their use of computer programs and Microsoft publisher to store and display work.

Meeting September 24th: Members shared their knowledge of using gravestones and memorials to help with family research. We looked at a variety of headstones and discussed the difficulties of locating old graves. This discussion also led us to look at soldiers wills and villages commemorating those lost in WW1, in particular Draycott, by placing plaques on their former homes.

Meeting July 23rd: At this meeting members shared their successes in research and some frustrations. We looked at DNA results and interpreting these, hand written family trees, old photographs and discussed research possibilities on the internet and within record offices.

Meeting June 25th: Members revisited using newspapers as an aid to research and looked at some articles one member had downloaded from the National Newspaper Archive which applied to her family. We also discussed the 1939 register which has become more widely available and one members positive experience following DNA testing.

Meeting April 23rd: Members attending this meeting took a further look at their ancestors in the military during both war and peacetimes. One member brought in a treasure trove of memorabilia associated with her family from both the first and second world wars including cap badges, buttons, badges, medals, postcards and documentation both British and German.

Meeting March 26th: At this meeting we looked at ‘Brick Walls’ and how to try to overcome these. One member offered a list of useful and lesser known websites for research, another explained the usefulness of searching old newspapers, while we also looked at how transcription errors and misspellings in records can cause some difficulties. We also shared our own ‘Brick Walls’ so that the detectives amongst us could see if they could offer any solutions.

Meeting February 26th: An interesting meeting led by one of our members helped us to consider how we can share our lives and experiences as part of compiling our family histories.

Meeting January 22nd 2018: We were pleased to welcome a new member to the group this month, which brings our regular membership up to 14. Ron led an interesting session on ‘Tithe Records’ and how he had used the records for Bonsall within his own research, illustrating how these may be useful to family historians. The level of detail for his family gave a real insight into their everyday lives in the village as both owners and renters of land. We also heard of emotional visits that had been undertaken to seek out ancestors final resting places and some successes in members own research.

Meeting November 27th: Our discussion focussed around the work undertaken by women from the 18th century to modern times with some references to our own research. We also considered how our families had moved over time, some not having moved far and others having moved for employment. As usual everyone made valuable contributions to enrich the discussion. We also compiled a long list of topics for future meetings!

Meeting October 23rd: This was a good meeting where everyone was actively involved in looking at how surnames had originated, the meanings of our names and sharing those peculiar to our own research. We considered how spelling had changed over time and how dialect may have influenced change. We also had some great suggestions for future group projects which we shall consider in more depth at the next meeting.

Meeting September 25th: Our topic was ‘Old documents’ and this encouraged members to dig out some old artefacts from their research. We looked at a variety of certificates, legal documents and personal letters which highlighted differences in handwriting and language used.

Visit – U3A Peak District Family History Network Conference: Four of our members attended this event at Buxton on Saturday 16th September 2017. It was a full day with four speakers and plenty of exhibitors ensuring that the two hundred attendees found plenty to interest them. The first speaker, Else Churchill, gave us lots of ideas for researching ancestors in England before 1700. Her presentation is being emailed to us and will be shared in a meeting at a later date. John Barker told us about his work as a probate researcher with some examples of cases he has worked on. After lunch we heard from Dr Gill Draper who explained how local history knowledge can help with ‘brick walls’ in our research and provided knowledge on a wealth of resources that could be tried, both on line and within record centres and universities. Our final speaker, John Titford rounded off the day with an informative yet humorous look at British accents and dialects. We came away with lots to think about and plenty of reading material in our ‘goody bags’.

Meeting July 24th: We were delighted to welcome a new member at this meeting, which took place in the upstairs room due to our increased numbers. Members had come prepared with some of their own research into early photography and fashions through the eras which enabled the entire group to learn from one another. There were many examples of old family photos being shared and efforts made to date them.

Meeting June 26th: This was a well-attended meeting and we managed to draw up a list of discussion topics that will take us through to the new year, with some to spare. We briefly revisited our learning on DNA and continued to discuss the advantages and limitations of trying this approach. Our free discussion covered areas such as local trade directories, use of local record centres, family tree charts and Bishops transcripts.

Meeting May 22nd: Members were treated to a slide show displaying Bill’s photographs of old Nottingham, concentrating mostly on the area around the Market Square and Trent Bridge. The photographs, many of which had been saved and restored by Bill, showed how and in what conditions our ancestors may have lived, worked and been entertained. For some it brought back memories of lost buildings and bygone times. A different and very enjoyable meeting. Thanks, Bill.

Meeting April 24th: Members shared their personal files and charts as part of a discussion in to how we record our findings. Many were anxious to find a way to succinctly record their family history whilst making it interesting for future generations. We looked at putting family stories together against the backdrop of social history as well as more classic charts. There is lots more to this topic and general agreement was that it would be revisited soon.

Meeting March 27th: We were pleased to welcome three new members for this months meeting, which was held upstairs due to breakfast running late in the dining room. After introductions we shared information about records from overseas and looked at the information stored in both Canadian and USA censuses and members shared their experiences of seeking information from overseas. We shared our recent successes and problems in research and learned about the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’  Roadshow at the NEC, Birmingham, on 6-8 April 2017. We hope to have further reviews of this next month.

Meeting January 23rd: This month’s topic on DNA had led to all of the members present having done some research prior to the meeting. We all agreed that we had learned something new even though none of us had any plans to pursue this within our own research. We were also pleased to welcome Jim and Lorna who dropped in to see us.

Meeting November 28th: Our topic of ‘Wills and Probate’ led us to learn how an index of wills from 1858 onwards is available on the Government website, as well as ‘Ancestry’, although to obtain a copy of a will does incur a cost. Wills can be useful to confirm family members. We also learned how to seek older wills, especially for property owners, and looked at some examples of wills. There was time to discuss our own research and plan future meetings.

Meeting October 24th: Members enjoyed an interesting discussion about the workhouse and relevant records and looked in particular at the local area.

Meeting September 26th: Our topic of ‘Religion’ produced a widespread discussion about the Roman Catholic Church,  Anglican Church and the rise of non-conformist churches. We shared our knowledge of both old local churches (of which we found out there are many) and how to access their records. We also enjoyed learning about a Quaker school and looking at different books and documents brought in by the members.  Aside from our discussion we reflected on the success of the open day at the previous monthly meeting and viewed the photographs on this website. It was an opportunity for some members to see and use the website for the first time.

Meeting August 22nd: Our discussion theme of ‘Criminals’ led to several members sharing some of the shadier stories of their ancestors, including proceedings in the 1300s, deportation to Australia and local imprisonment. There was time to review our own research and to discuss problems encountered and how these might be overcome. We also planned future topics through to Christmas.

Meeting July 25th: We looked at the value of school records within family history research. Although few of these are available on-line most schools have their records deposited locally. Some schools that are still open have a section of their website devoted to past times and may include old school photographs, magazines and prize giving programmes.

We also discussed the forthcoming open day and members offered ideas and items for the display table. Finally we shared our research problems and successes since the last meeting.

Meeting June 27th: Our discussion around ‘Bishop’s Transcripts’ was enhanced by one of our members who had found some valuable background information, which helped us to understand the context of these records. We welcomed one new member to the group and we spent time discussing our individual research and offering help to members in the early stages of their research.

Meeting May 23rd: At this meeting the discussion focussed on what jobs our ancestors did and the records that are available to help further our research, based upon their occupations. One member brought a list of ‘unusual occupations’ as found on 19th century censuses and we had great fun trying to work out what the jobs might have been.

Meeting April 25th: Seven members enjoyed an interesting group discussion, which centred around our ancestors military past. Thanks to members for sharing stories, memorabilia and photographs as we explored a range of conflicts and service. It was interesting to see original service records, medals and sad to read the letter sent when a soldier was killed in action.

Visit to Ilkeston Library Resource Centre – September 2015

Members met at the library and were shown the resources available. It was an interesting morning with time for some personal research.

Visit to the Nottinghamshire Archives -November 23rd

Thirteen members took part in this guided visit, which provided a behind the scenes tour including a visit to the strong room and conservation unit. As well as learning about the records that are available to researchers the group saw first hand some restoration work being undertaken on old documents and photographs. We also saw some very old original documents including parish and workhouse records, maps and personal diaries. We learned about the computer and microfiche facilities available and how to register for a CARN ticket to enable members to use the Archives to further their own research.