Back from the brink


11 December 2017
7-Chesterfield-and-District-FHS-picture-90904.png Chesterfield & District FHS
Dena Fanshawe from Chesterfield & District FHS talks to us about bringing their society back from the brink of closure.

In a town near you, there’s likely an enthusiastic band of family historians  - your local family history society members. These hardworking volunteers run family history societies to help teach people about family history and work to preserve the historic records of the area for the future. The range of historic projects they are involved in is vast. Read on for an inspiring example...

Q The Chesterfield & District FHS website has some interesting and unusual facilities – namely the new feature whereby members of your society can upload their family tree to the members only area of the website. How did this come about?

A (Dena Fanshawe) Five years ago our society was on the brink of closure. It was evident that if we were to continue we had to make changes, embrace technology and take our society into the 21st century. We analysed our strengths and weaknesses and created a new ‘Mission Statement’: to become one of the country’s most forward-thinking family history societies; and to enable our members to develop and grow as researchers.

We revised the approach to our monthly meeting, and 50 per cent of our speakers are now given freely by members with a focus on sharing research, demonstrating initiatives that others may use to break down their own brick walls, and all this rolled up into really interesting stories too.

Our vision for our website was that it needed to be interactive and resource rich for our members. To this end, members can add their trees to our ‘Family Tree Connect’ – trees can be shared and make use of the surname search, which is especially useful.

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We now hold an annual 60 table ‘Show Case Family History Local History with Heritage and Crafts’ event (on Saturday 19th May in 2018). Our current challenge is to reach new members and grow new people into our roles so that the society can continue to go from strength to strength.

To find out more, visit the website at 

To find out more about family history societies, buy the Christmas issue of Family Tree, in the shops now, priced £5.99 and bagged with the Family History Handbook. The Handbook is packed with behind-the-scenes interviews with key family history society members and a directory of family history societies worldwide. Now SOLD OUT from the Family Tree website but still available from your newsagents or download the digital version here!