Ironbridge Reforged - History & Archaeology of the Museum of the Gorge - 04/02/20

Join Spencer Gavin Smith, the Museums' Archaeology and Monuments Officer, for a talk with a difference about the history and archaeology of one of the most distinctive buildings in the Ironbridge Gorge.

The Museum of The Gorge, with its Gothic detailing and riverside location has lived an extraordinary life. Constructed on Ludcroft Wharf in the early nineteenth century by the Coalbrookdale Company as a transhipment warehouse, it subsequently served a variety of uses before being bought by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust to serve as one of its first museum buildings.

The talk will take the form of a presentation about the exterior architecture of the building, followed by a guided tour of the interior features which demonstrate how the building structure has survived in its exposed location on the bank of - and indeed sometimes in - the River Severn.

The Museums’ Fundraising Manager, Adam Siviter, will also speak regarding the Trust’s current fundraising appeal to save the roof of the Museum of The Gorge through the Museums’ ongoing heritage conservation work.

6.00 pm - Doors Open

6.30 pm - Talk

7.45 pm - Q&A

To book your free place please go to Eventbrite - using the details below.

The talk will be in the Museum of the Gorge, Ironbridge. There is no charge for this talk but donations on the evening towards the roof appeal for the Museum of the GOrge will be extremely appreciated. 


Family History Drop In Session 01/02/2020

In the winter season Shropshire Family History Society are aware that many people do not wish to travel so far at night, so we have set up an experimental meeting at the Chapel Community Centre in Cross Houses on Saturday afternoon, 01st February 2020 from 13:30 to 16:00. Longstanding, new and prospective members are all welcome to attend. 

Several people have suggested that they would welcome this and would like some sort of a workshop type approach or open discussion rather than a more formal meeting with a speaker. 

We intend to have as many knowledgeable volunteers for you to speak to or raise questions with, as we can, and will have local interest books for sale. 

We will have access to several databases and look-ups.

Please note that this event probably isn't for experts with very technical questions but will be more appropriate to the beginners looking for help to get started or those with a bit more experience who just need a bit of help. 

If you intend to attend it would be very helpful if you could let us know at chairman @ (please remove spaces before use) so we can get an idea of numbers.   

AGM - committee nominations

The Annual General Meeting will take place on 21/01/2020. At that meeting the committee for the next year will be elected. 

If you would like to nominate someone for one of the positions please download and complete the attached form and then return it to the address shown on the form by 17/12/2019. 

Please note that you may nominate any member of the society provided that you have sought their approval and found someone to second your nomination.



2019 Nomination Form for Website.doc202 KB

Vacancies on the SFHS committee

Currently there are 4 vacancies on the committee and that number will rise to 5 in January 2020 when our long serving secretary steps down at the Annual General meeting.

Please contact the secretary at secretary @ (remove spaces before use) if you are a member and think you would like to join the committee.

You will not be expected to take on any specific task for the society unless you want to but it will be necessary to attend committee meetings which are held on the first Tuesday of each month, except July and August at 7 pm in our Cross Houses meeting venue.  

There are a variety of roles available so please do get in touch if you would like to help shape the future of your society. 

The families the left behind - Mayflower 400 celebrations

Devon FHS is hosting a Mayflower International Genealogical Conference on 29/08/2020. 

Are you descended from one of the Mayflower passengers' families left behind in 17th century England after the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth in September 1620. 

If you are and you would like to contribute details of your family connections to "The families they left behind" project please contact the secretary of the Devon FHS at secretary @ (remove spaces before use).

Quaker Family History Society (QFHS) research grants 2020

QFHS is inviting applications for a Margaret Bennett research award to support research into any aspect of Quaker family history in the British Isles. 

Grants, to a maximum of £1500, may relate to the costs of travel , reproduction of materials and / or publication. 

For further details and an application form, please contact the QFHS Secretary at secretary @ (remove spaces before use)

The closing date for applications is 31st December 2019.


Probate Service - price reduction

The Probate Service have announced an 85% reduction in the cost of post 1858 wills bringing the price down from £10 to £1.50. This offer runs for 12 months from July 22nd 2019.

Launch of Prison History Online Database in Nottingham 6th July

Rosalind Crone is a lecturer in history at The Open University.
Prison History ( is a database which contains information on nearly 850 penal institutions which existed in 19th century England, including around 420 local prisons and 380 lock ups. For each institution, there is information about its operational dates, jurisdiction, location, population statistics, the primary and secondary sources which mention it, and a list of all the relevant and surviving archival documents which we have been able to find in repositories based in England. On accessing Prison History, users can either search for specific prisons or various types of prisons, or browse the lists of archival materials that we recovered.

One of the core aims of Prison History is to emphasise the importance of the local prison (and lock ups) in nineteenth-century society. It is an institution that has been largely neglected in the major studies of nineteenth-century imprisonment and I think it is time to redress the imbalance. To do that, I need help from local historians. My hope is that Prison History will be a useful resource for local historians, and also that local historians will want to get involved with this project, to help make the database an even better tool for local history, and, through emphasising the importance of prisons within nineteenth-century communities, to demonstrate the importance of local history research.

We have just soft launched Prison History in advance of the formal launch date on 6 July. I would be very grateful if you could circulate details of the resource to your members. I have a promotional flyer which I could email to you for circulation, or I could send you some copies in the post. We have also put a survey for local historians on the website to collect feedback – thoughts about the design of the site, and opinions on how develop the resource in the near future – it would be wonderful if some of your members were keen to complete the survey. There is a ‘submit feedback’ button on the website, or the survey can be accessed via this link:

Finally, we are holding an event at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham on 6 July to launch Prison History. It is free to attend. All the details, including the programme, can be found here: but I would also be very happy to email you a copy of the event notice for distribution, if that would be easier. We would be so delighted if one or more of the members of your society were able to attend.

A Family Historian’s Gold Mine?

Poor Law records aren’t necessarily the most obvious place to start when researching family history and often end up under-used. However, they can provide a wealth of information on people’s pauper relatives. As parishes were forced to accept responsibility for their own poor, in-depth examinations

and disputes as to which parish a person belonged to regularly appear in the records. These documents can therefore provide a level of detail about a person or people you won’t be able to find in any other sources…

Shropshire Family History Society’s committee has pledged to half fund an intern at Shropshire Archives from March to November 2018.  Meriel Lees has been appointed and working part time since November last and has agreed to extend her hours to work on a project of our choosing, in collaboration with Shropshire Archives.  This is Meriel’s first posting to her blog covering the project.

Where I come in – Project Aims
As the new intern in the archives, over the next few months I’m going to be working on a project exploring the ways in which family historians can use Old Poor Law records. As part of this, I’ll be updating research guides and search aids and putting together a case study to show how a family can be traced through the different types of sources. By doing this, hopefully I’ll be able to encourage historians to take a second look at these remarkable sources of information!

The main sources for the Old Poor Law are:

  • Overseers’ records – overseers of the poor were appointed to oversee the distribution of poor relief in their parish, records include appointments, accounts and rate books
  • Settlement and removal orders – designed to establish the legal settlement of a pauper and remove said pauper back to his own parish to receive poor relief, useful for tracking movement from parish to parish
  • Bastardy examinations and bonds – where possible, authorities attempted to find out the paternity of illegitimate children and make the father pay maintenance money for his child rather than bear the burden of both mother and child as a parish
  • Quarter Session records – as the main judicial court for the county, if someone chose to dispute or appeal again a removal or bastardy order, their case was often heard by the Quarter Sessions
  • Apprenticeship indentures – these records give details of pauper children apprenticed to local traders, as it was hoped that by teaching them a specific trade, they would not need to claim poor relief in the future

Apprenticeship Indenture

Apprenticeship Indenture of John Bolas in husbandry, 1714 P20/L/3/1

The bad news – survival is inconsistent. Like so many historical sources, the survival of the Old Poor Law documents varies wildly from parish to parish and while you may be lucky in your search, it can be frustrating to discover gaps in the records.

Even if you don’t have proven pauper ancestors these sources can be surprisingly informative. For example…
As the poor were the parish’s responsibility, parishioners are sometimes called on to give evidence in settlement examinations.
If you have ancestors who lived beyond the age of sixty, they may have claimed poor relief in their old age.
For labourers and their families who lived from hand to mouth, travelling for work, a settlement certificate would have been one of the most important documents they owned, acting as a form of insurance if they fell ill or were injured in an accident.
It should also be remembered that those involved with the administration of the Poor Law were certainly not paupers and much information can be found out about these officials from the records.

If you can trace your family this far back, a lot of the Old Poor Law records are already listed with the names of those concerned on our online catalogue, so are definitely worth a look. If you find anything of interest, they can then be viewed in our search room.

Hopefully this has given you food for thought on the potential value and usefulness of the Poor Law sources out there. Check back in the next few weeks for more information on how I’m getting on with the project!

Written by Meriel

Meriel’s Blog can be found at:

Saturday 3rd March

Just to clarify that Shropshire Family History Society will NOT be attending any events today as both Wellington and Llanfyllin events have been called off.
Keep an eye out for lists of the varied list of our travels for 2018.