One-Name Society: Witheridge FHS

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18 December 2017
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Kim Cook, Hon President of Witheridge FHS talks to us about the One-Name Study

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…

When the Witheridge FHS was founded 30 years ago, the early members were very keen to meet up and share information. Now, with written and visual information so easily shared via electronic media, the need to meet up is less important, and one-name Societies lack the strength of a core local membership that regional societies enjoy. Our Witheridge FHS members are much more scattered, with over 50% overseas, and very few left in our ancestral county of Devon, so organising reunions has become much more difficult. We now have virtual committee meetings!

The Internet, used with skill, is a tremendous asset. Sadly, most researchers I’ve encountered via the Internet lack many of the basic research skills and don’t understand the need to check information from a variety of sources.  As a result, many of the family trees posted on FH websites, and copied by others, contain serious errors.  And a tree with errors isn’t your family or your history! Of those I’ve been in contact with over the years, only 3% had completely accurate family trees. Scary!

Anyone considering starting a one-name society should start with a family name that’s not overly common, but not extremely rare. Check first with the Guild of One-Name Studies, to ensure that there isn’t already a study of that name, and then register your own study with them. Amass as much information about that name, and any variants, relating to all branches of the family. Social media is a good way of contacting potential members. If you can find others who are passionate, not only about the family, but also about accuracy, that’s an excellent start.

To find out more about family history societies, the Family History Handbook is packed with behind-the-scenes interviews with key family history society members and a directory of family history societies worldwide!