Tracing your family history has never been so popular.

THE hit TV series Who Do You Think You Are? has caused a surge in people wanting to trace their family trees, but in Doncaster a society promoting ancestral research first put its roots down as far back as 1980.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Doncaster and District Family History Society, started by president Derek Palgrave, who asked people to attend a meeting at the Doncaster Museum. To his astonishment 200 people turned up.

On the opening night a committee was formed, Derek being the first chairman and other people volunteering for jobs as secretary, treasurer and committee members.

From those humble beginnings the society has built up a worldwide membership of more than 3,000 and their monthly meetings are usually attended by up to 100 people.

"The aims of the society are the same as when we started, to help members with their own family history, to provide somewhere they can do their research, and create CDs, books and booklets about the Doncaster area and beyond," said publicity officer Alan Turner.

"Our research room at King Edward Road, Balby, is named after our founder Derek Palgrave and holds in its archives over 55,000 items ready to be searched.We are also right next door to the Doncaster Archives, so it gives researchers even more reasons to come along."

Alan, a retired events manager, first joined the society in 1982, and has derived great pleasure from researching his own family tree.

Like many people from this part of the world he has discovered how poor they were, having traced records showing the parish of Clayton and Frickley paid for their home to have glass in the windows, and they once borrowed 1 for a coffin to bury a family member. Another ancestor also ended up in Wakefield jail for stealing two cows in 1841.

"Membership certainly went up with the Who Do You Think You Are? programme because it enlightens and excites people. We then try to help people as much as we can with their own research.

"Since the television programme ordinary people have taken an interest in their roots. We are the cheapest society in the country and have no need to increase our fees at present.

"Our membership is very healthy and each year new people join us from all over the world.

"We are proud to say that we are here for the people of Doncaster and do our best to provide help and advice when asked." said Alan.

The Palgrave Centre is equipped with computers and volunteers to help visitors with whatever they are looking for and two programmes free to search, Ancestry & Find My Past.

Meetings take place on the last Wednesday of the month at Doncaster School for the Deaf on Leger Way with a speaker on all sorts of topics and these can be viewed on their website

The society also runs courses during the year for beginners and publishes a magazine, The Doncaster Ancestor, four times a year.

Their next major event will be the Family History day on October 30 at the Danum School, Armthorpe Road, with three speakers talking about:

Using Newspapers in your Research; A Long Way Home tells of widow Mary Webster's struggle in the 17th century; and the Stage and Mail Coach journeys from Bawtry to Teeside and what was in store for the traveller in those days.

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