Thank you to all those who attended the research evening.

I think all researchers walked away with some additional information to add to their family trees.

Our team of experts assisted in answering a wide variety of questions and introduced, those in attendance, to the Wharfedale Family History Group Database. Together with online material from a variety of free and subscription websites.


The Wharfedale Family History Group held its bi-annual family history day at Addingham Memorial Hall on Saturday 7th May. Our morning speaker was Norman Simpson whose talk was on the subject of Lead Mining in the Dales. It is hard to imagine today the scenic Yorkshire Dales as a place of intense mining activity but lead mining was once a serious business here particularly in the areas known as the Craven and Stockdale faults. Miners worked irregular vertical seams of naturally occurring lead usually alongside other occupations such as farming and textiles. Lead was mined in the Dales as far back as Roman times and the monks of Fountains Abbey mined for lead on Greenhow Hill in the Middle Ages. Evidence of hushing (water scouring of the hillside) can still be seen today in places such as Arkengarthdale. Small railways were constructed to move the lead out of the mines and packhorses were used to bring it down from the hills. Bouse teams sorted the lead ore from the dead rock in circular basins which can still be seen around Grassington as can the circular indented remains of bell pits used to extract lead.

2017 03 Horsforth MuseumOur visiting speaker, Susan WATSON, took us on a whirlwind tour of the Horsforth Village Museum.

“The museum aims to reflect this heritage in its interesting exhibits which are drawn from all aspects of life in and around Horsforth and have a great nostalgia and educational value. The Museum, which opened to the public in July 1988, is situated at The Green in the heart of the old village.”

Susan crammed in a wealth and variety of information, commencing with a clipping from 1937 inviting people to live in Horsforth by the Urban District Council. Moving onto the Whitakers Brothers, quarry owners, crane developers and buildings. Information included photographs of George Clifford Whitaker who on the 1st May 1915, was part of the army recruiting party toured which Leeds. Photographed with the ‘Decorated Car’, outside Yeadon Town Hall Square on Wednesday 23rd June 1915. Sadly, he was one of the first over the trench wall at Flanders and was killed. The Whitaker Brothers developed equipment for earth moving and cranes, built at Rodley, were originally on rails. Whitaker was a very prominent in Horsforth, but they eventually sold one of the quarries to the Briggs Family. Arthur Reuben Briggs, ran the quarry and other members of the family were builders and stone merchants. An estate in Cookridge, built by the family, is locally known as the ‘Briggs Houses’.

Some of the items to be found in the museum’s collection includes: Yorkshire penny bank saving boxes, toasting forks, teaspoon measures, glass Victorian cake supports, Bero Baking Book (1970), the Mothers Union Banner (St. Margarets Church, Horsforth), Calor Gas iron, Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes ceremonial pipe, Salvation Army Home League Banner (Women’s movement), William Law’s ‘Crown Hill’ Jug to name but a few items!

Susan covered information ranging from the St James Church Low Lane to Calverley to the District Gas Company amalgamate in 1868 and on the way covered the Horsforth adopted, HMS Aubrietia, which Along with the HMS Bulldog, played a pivotal role during WW1 in capturing the German U-Boat that contained the Enigma Machine and codes.

The museum is located 5 The Green, Town Street, Horsforth. LS18 5JB. Admission is free and it is open from the last Saturday in March through till the end of September. (Saturday 10:00-16:00 and Sunday 14:00 -17:00 hours)

There is far too much information to cover in such a short article. My advice to you is go and visit the Museum yourself, you won’t be disappointed and did I mention it was free?

The Wharfedale Family History Group meeting took place Thursday 5th October and was opened by Chairman Lynda Balmforth who told us about the 10% discount on Findmypast subscriptions available through our website  Lynda introduced our speaker for the evening, Jackie Depelle who presented her talk ‘Bridging the Gap – Tracing Forwards from 1911’.

1911 is the most recent census return available to family historians who often begin their research with this resource, searching for known ancestors with their approximate or known age. This census is unique in that it provides details of how long a couple have been married and how many children they have had; providing clues to search for further information such as a marriage. Jackie describes this process as ‘working from the known to the unknown’. Parish Registers are continuing to become available online (keep checking websites for updates) and it is useful that from 1837 these contain the same information as a marriage certificate. The recently amended GRO index now incorporates mother’s maiden surnames from 1837 as well as age at death (previously only available from 1911 and 1866 respectively).

A major resource for bridging the gap between 1911 and the present day are electoral registers. Many of these are available on the main family history websites and can be useful to track a person forwards until a likely time of death. Online newspapers can provide valuable information about a person’s death and the British Newspaper Archives website enables an advanced search facility. It is also worth visiting the National Newspaper Archive at Boston Spa (as not all newspapers have been digitised). Wills are also very useful for bridging the gap and it is worthwhile searching the National Probate Index on the main family history websites or the government website Findawill. A successful search will give an accurate date of death. The 1939 Register is another important tool with its subsequent annotations of ladies’ married surnames. The National Archives website offers a very useful podcast on the 1939 Register.

Jackie went through a number of other very useful resources as follows: passenger lists, military service records, Army register of soldiers’ effects (Ancestry), Red Cross lists, burial records (recommended Deceased Online website), Yorkshire Indexers (for memorial inscriptions), library catalogues, Trade Union registers, hospital records (National Archives), school records, and Deeds Registries. It can be useful to look at online family trees (without assuming they are correct) and a Google search can be interesting too. This list is not exhaustive but Jackie gave us plenty of ideas to keep us busy. Her talk was illustrated throughout with the results of her search into the life of a UK citizen interned in Germany during WW1 which was most interesting.

President Stanley Merridew gave a warm vote of thanks. We have been delighted to welcome a number of new faces to our group recently, why not come and join us and see if we can help with your family history queries? The Group’s next meeting takes place Thursday 2 November at the Salem Church Hall, Burley in Wharfedale 7.30 pm when Phil Judkin presents his talk ‘More Deadly than the Male’. Everyone welcome, refreshments provided.

Meeting Report 3 May 2018 by Susanne Young

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 3rd May. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed guest speaker for the evening Sue McGeever who presented her illustrated talk ‘Letters from a Faraway Laddie – from the Nidd to the Nile’.

The subject of Sue’s talk concerned her grandfather Harry Gill born Summerbridge 1858. Harry came from a family of rope and twine makers and was a lay preacher. In early 1899 he embarked upon an educational cruise aboard the steam yacht Argonaut, organised by Henry Lunn, for the princely sum of £21. Whilst he was away he wrote a series of letters to his fiancée Maggie Morton who lived with her family on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. These letters are still in the possession of the family together with a collection of rare holiday snaps most probably taken by Harry on an early folding pocket Kodak camera. Harry addressed his letters to his Lassie and signed them from a Faraway Laddie and they provide a wonderful description of his travels, taking in many locations associated with the Bible.

After travelling to Marseilles he boarded the ship to Naples then on to Katakola in Greece from where the party visited Olympia then went overland by train to Piraeus, calling at Mycenae and Corinth along the way. The party spent time in Athens before reboarding the ship which took them to the island of Patmos and then to Jaffa (Tel Aviv). They stayed in Jerusalem visiting many Holy sites including the River Jordan where Harry experienced a full immersion baptism. He also brought home a phial of river water in anticipation of his own future children’s baptisms. The group then travelled to Alexandria, staying in Cairo and enjoying the Pyramids and the Nile. Harry was delighted by Egypt as he was by most of the places he visited with the exception of Jerusalem which he thought rather spoilt.

Departing Egypt for Malta Harry was by this time rather unwell which he blamed on sea-sickness but he was also missing home. He purchased some beautiful Maltese lace which he brought home for Maggie, who he married later that year. The couple settled in Summerbridge and had 6 children together. Harry’s letters express his delight in his journey including cold water sea baths and cricket on board ship but towards the end of his one month trip he was missing simple home cooked food.

Lynda Balmforth gave a vote of thanks and following refreshments a short AGM was held during which the existing team of committee members were re-elected for the coming year. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 7 June at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when well known historian Peter Higginbotham will present his talk, No Place like Home. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.