TWO Yorkshire family history organisations, each providing a wealth of information on people living in the area in in times gone by, have merged.

Wharfedale Family History Group and Keighley Family History Society, both of which have been in existence since the early 1980s, are now known as the Airedale and Wharfedale Family History Society.

With three branches, Burley in Wharfedale, Keighley and Threshfield, the society is open to anyone interested in tracing their ancestry.

Anyone with roots in the Airedale and Wharfedale area, or further afield, can find help and encouragement in this fascinating hobby by joining.

The two organisations have had overlapping areas of interest and the new society will take in Wharfedale, Airedale, the Forest of Bowland and towns and villages to the borders of Lancashire and Cumbria.

Over the years the two groups have transcribed and published a large number of parish registers, memorial inscriptions of graveyards and cemeteries plus many non-conformist records. Their list of publications which will number close to five hundred - valuable aids for anyone in search of their roots.

Among the fascinating publications contained within the group’s archives are:

*The 1803 Craven Muster Roll, a register of the officers and men in a military unit or ship's company. It is a useful tool for finding relatives prior to the national census.

*A huge database of war memorials and rolls of honour, containing transcriptions from over 600 memorials in West and North Yorkshire.

*A database of the surnames our members are researching and are willing to share with other researchers.

“The merger has brought together two adjoining societies. We always had overlapping areas and rather than have two societies we now have one,” says president Stanley Merridew. “in this way we can merge resources and talents and ensure our future.”

Researching family history is, says Stanley. “So much is available on the internet and inline sources are fantastic, but many people believe that you can do everything you need to do on the internet. Family history can be quite complex and unless you really know what you are doing you can end up going down the wrong path and researching someone else’s, or come to a standstill.”

The raised profile of genealogy due to TV programmes such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ has boosted interest, but can lead people to think that tracing relatives is a simple procedure, Stanley points out. "Our members use their knowledge to help.”

The group has around 400 members, living not only locally and across the UK, but around the world. Says Stanley: “We have members as far away as the USA, New Zealand, South Africa, and from across Europe. We keep in touch by email and have a quarterly journal.”

“Our journal contains articles to assist those new to the hobby and member’s own research stories,” says Stanley.

Many members have no ancestral roots in the area but find being allied to a group of like-minded individuals and with access to a variety of speakers on related topics helps with their research.

Local knowledge of available sources can supply invaluable aids to the researcher at a much lower cost and with more accurate results.

The group’s resources includes photographs. “Old pictures are invaluable,” says Stanley. The collection includes evocative images of schoolchildren, sports teams, church members and other groups. There’s a marvellous picture of Otley Air raid wardens taken during the Second World War, a photograph of the smarty suited members of Skipton Amateur Swimming Club, dated around 1905, and a 1915 picture of Sunday School teachers at Horsforth Cragg Baptist Church.

The society’s aims are to provide lively, informative monthly meetings, offer assistance for those new to the hobby and to provide new research aids, particularly those less obvious and less likely to be available on major websites.

“We are also always looking for new members, who are very welcome,” says Stanley.

The group meet three times a month and hold an annual open day at Addingham Memorial Hall. This year it takes place on May 11.

“We also exhibit at family and local history events - in June we will be at The Genealogy Show at the NEC in Birmingham and later that month at The Family History Show at York Racecourse.”

Visitors and new members are always welcome at meetings which are held on the first Thursday in the month at Burley in Wharfedale Salem Hall at 7.30pm, at Keighley Local Studies Library on the first Monday in the month at 7.30pm and at Threshfield Village Hall at 2.30pm on the third Saturday in the month.

Future talks include murder in the Victorian family and the history of Ilkley’s Jewish community. There will also be a research afternoon offering the opportunity for visitors to get expert assistance.

*For more information on Airedale and Wharfedale Family History Society visit Email:

*Membership starts at £10 per annum for e-journal members and £12 for those who prefer a printed journal.