BRANCH Wansbeck
Stakeford and Bomarsund Social Welfare Centre,
Gordon Terrace West,
Northumberland, NE62 5UD
Contact: Phyllis McGraw (Secretary)

Meetings on 1st Wednesday in the month at 1.30 pm
(No meeting in August)

Non-members are always most welcome to attend the meetings and the coffee and chat afterwards


Date Subject of Talk Speaker
3rd July 2024 Using the 1939 Register: my family in 1939 Workshop Session
7th August 2024 Town trail of Amble Geoff Glass
4th September 2024 The Birtley Belgians Valerie Greaves
2nd October 2024 ‘Pails and nails at Smails’: a history of the Family Ironmongers in Morpeth Robert Young
6th November 2024 A century of The First Model Shop in Britain: a family and business history Pat Barnett-Lutman & Michael Murphy
4th December 2024 Using the 1911 Census: my Family in 1911. Workshop Session


Reports of meetings

June 2024

Minutes from NDFHS Wansbeck Branch meeting 5.6.2024
Attendance: 21
Apologies: 5

· Chairman reminded members of the NDFHS AGM to be held on Saturday July 13th in The Learning Room of South Shields Museum. (Further details will be available)
· Discussion took place about a possible topic to celebrate NDFHS’s 50th anniversary in 2025
· Information given about the 5 topics covered in the NDFHS videos
· August 7th meeting will now be a visit to Cresswell Pele Tower and Walled Garden starting at 1.30
· Group member Geoff Glass supported by his wife Marjorie gave a highly illustrated and interesting talk about his life as an underground miner and Deputy in the Northumberland coalfield
· We wish Geoff well for his upcoming operation

Next meeting is Wednesday
July 3rd
A workshop session’Using the 1939 Register’

May 2024

Attendance: 22
Apologies: 6
Business: No outstanding matters

Meeting: A talk with the title, ‘Locating Records in a a Family History Trail’ was given by Michael Murphy. This was a well prepared, fascinating and insightful account of the origins and location of records looking for reasons and patterns in a life’s passage. The links to the life of Michael Porter, with clear handouts brought the subject to life and will be most useful aids to many members.

The meeting closed at 3:30

April 2024

Attendance: 18 members braved the awful weather!
Apologies: 3

Business: Durham County Records Office will reopen on Friday June 14th at Mount Oswald, a short drive from Durham City. DLI Museum will be housed there too.

NDFHS Head Office will be relocating to New England House which is near the Haymarket.

Health & Safety was refreshed for new members


This members’ forum, My Family & the Military, produced much interesting, and often previously unknown, information throwing up several requests for support in investigating this area which will be addressed in future meetings. Members produced a range of artefacts, photographs, military documents and information which fleshed out the theme leading to animated talk during refreshments.

The meeting closed at 3:30

Next meeting:
Wednesday May 1st will be, ‘Locating Records in a Family History Trail’: using the life of Michael Porter’s life as a case study. This talk will be led by Michael Murphy

March 2024

Meeting 6th March 2024. Attendance: 28, Apologies: 2

A reminder was given about a talk to be given at Morpeth Literary Festival on March 24th by Dr Dan Jackson about the history of Northumberland. Tickets can be booked online.

Hilton Dawson gave a most interesting and informative talk about The Newbiggin Genealogy Project which he helped to initiative in 2010 and is now thought to have created ‘the world’s largest family tree’ involving a record of almost everyone who has lived in Newbiggin and is still growing with contributions from people around the U.K. and wider world.

The meeting closed at 3:30

February 2024

Meeting held on February 7th 2024
Attendance: 26
Apologies: 4

* The annual financial report was presented. Finances are in a healthy condition
* The death of Michael Porter at the age of 102 was reported. A history and celebration of his life, demonstrating how to find and use a variety of records, will be presented by Michael Murphy later in the year
* The proposed move of headquarters from MEA House to Sutherland House will not now take place. A permanent site is being sought and more details will follow

We were fortunate to have an excellent, erudite, informative and witty talk about Cresswell Pele Tower & Walled Garden given by Barry Mead. Barry and a group of volunteers began the hard work of raising funds to restore the Pele Tower, a listed building and scheduled monument, in 2014 which was brought to fruition in 2021. A fascinating afternoon.

January 2024

Meeting 3.1.2024 which was attended by 20 members and 3 apologies for absence.

Matters arising:
* Report given regarding some members’ health issues
* Nominations were taken for the roles of Trustee, Chair, Secretary and Treasurer
* The current Trustee, Chair, Secretary and Treasurer were reappointed
* It was reported that Wansbeck Branch finances are sound. A statement of accounts will be presented to members.

A Members’ Forum entitled, ‘Surprises, Secrets & Lies’ followed the AGM. Many members contributed interesting facts discovered during their family research.

December 2023

The attendance at the meeting on the 6th December was 19 with 6 apologies.

Business: The Chairman updated the group on the move of NDFHS headquarters which it is hoped will be in the Spring of 2024.

Phyllis McGraw gave a short talk about curious Xmas facts, followed by a Xmas related group activity and Xmas quiz.

November 2023

Wansbeck Branch Meeting held 1.11.2023
Attendance: 19
Apologies: 6


  • News from headquarters
  • Information about Morpeth Literary Festival 2024
  • Presentation to manager of Bomarsund & Stakeford Welfare on the occasion of her retirement

    Meeting: A most interesting, well organised talk and interactive session entitled, Children’s Street Games & Rhymes, was led by Michael Murphy.

    The next meeting will be a Christmas talk, ‘Did you know?’ and a quiz led by Phyllis McGraw

    October 2023

    Minutes from NDFHS Wansbeck Branch meeting 4.10.23 which was attended by 18 members plus 5 apologies.

    Business: Stuart Lawson offered DVD copies of several census records to members

    Meeting: This was a most successful members’ forum related to the theme, ‘How We Came to Be Here’. Several members brought interesting oral history, photos, documents and artefacts to illustrate their ancestors’ journey to South East Northumberland.

    The next meeting will be on Wednesday November 1st. This will be a talk given by Michael Murphy with the title, Children’s Street Games & Rhymes.

    September 2023

    Attendance: 18 members and apologies received from 7 members

    Meeting: A talk and workshop session entitled ‘Pitmatic Dialect’ was led by Phyllis McGraw. Branch Chairman kindly wrote these minutes.

    The session dealt with the links between coal mining and dialect in the Northumberland and Durham coalfield. An informative outline of the mining background was punctuated with ‘Pitmatic’ poetry delivered in an authentic ‘Eshington’ accent by Phyllis. There followed a structured, participatory workshop on Pitmatic dialect that members really engaged in as evidenced by the lively group discussion and in the feedback session. ‘It wez canny gud’.
    The meeting closed at 3:15.

    The next meeting will be Wednesday October 4th. This will be a Members’ Forum entitled ‘How We Got Here’, a look at how our ancestors arrived in the North East. This will be a follow on from the previous Forum when, due to time restrictions, only a small number of members were able to pass on their interesting family research. Bring along any photos, documents you feel able to share with the group. If you are stuck with your research other members may be able to suggest next steps to sort out problems.

    July 2023

    Attendance: 21 members and apologies received from 6 members

    Meeting : A most interesting talk was given by one of our own members, Veronica Lisle, about the life of her ancestor, Captain William Lisle, originally from Newbiggin who led an exciting life at sea becoming an Antarctic whaler. Veronica had researched the shipping and fishing trade of the period over many years.

    The meeting closed at 3pm.

    The next meeting will be a Newbiggin Town Trail, Part 2. This will examine the east end of Newbiggin (the old fisher village). This completes the Newbiggin Town Trails following on from last year’s Newbiggin walk that covered the ‘new town’ development westward. We will be able to see Captain Lisle’s house, The Crow’s Nest up on the Moor, which he used when living in the village. Joan Rose, Veronica Lisle and Michael Murphy (the latter 2 related to Captain Lisle), will share their knowledge of the area during the walk.

    Last year this was a most successful meeting and we can only hope for similar good weather.

    Members wishing to attend should meet outside Bertorelli’s ice cream shop by the bandstand in the town square for 1.30 on August 2nd

    June 2023

    Apologies: 6 received

    Attendance: 18 members

    Business: The Chair gave a brief and moving update about Wendy Stafford, our previous Chair, and her late husband, Jim, whose funeral was taking place that afternoon with 3 of our members attending.

    Jessica Turner gave a most interesting and lively talk about the Bamburgh Ossuary entitled Bamburgh Bones in which she had played a major role. Her talk was full of fascinating facts, deep knowledge and respect for the subject and humour. Those members who have not yet visited the ossuary at St Aidan’s church in Bamburgh will be making their way there soon.

    The meeting closed at 3:15.

    May 2023

    Attendance: 24 attendees with 2 apologies.
    Meeting :
    Professor Sir Alan Craft gave a most interesting and well received illustrated talk about the Red Spot Baby research programme undertaken by the paediatric team at the RVI in 1947. The study was set up by Dr JC Spence and Dr Fred Miller( both local men) to investigate the very high levels of infections and infant mortality in Newcastle. The research team kept in touch with the group involved during their childhood and at significant periods over the years.

    The next meeting will be Bamburgh Bones on June 7th.

    Last updated 18th June 2024