Sheffield family history: Discover your family’s dark secrets as popular fair returns

Sheffield’s popular Family History Fair returns later this month month and the appetite for discovering our family secrets is as ‘popular as ever’, accorind to organisers Jacquie Stubbs and Joanne Harper.

By Andy Kershaw
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 12:51 pm

“We usually get around between 500 and 1,000 visitors to the fair which has been held at the centre in Norfolk Park and at Sheffield Wednesday Football Club in the past,” said Joanne.

“But this year we’re at the wonderful Crowne Plaza Hotel and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone there, including our 440 or so members,” added Jacquie.

“Obviously, there was an upsurge in people’s interest in family history during the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are and now people are using more online resources to research it, but I think they don’t they don’t get the full picture online alone,” she said.

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a previous family history fair

“Our family history society offers a range of resources, we visit local studies libraries, archives and county court records offices and we can give people an insight into how our how our ancestors lived and what was happening at the time.”

Sheffield wheelchair basketball star and fair co-organiser Joanne Harper’s own interest in her family’s history began 23 years ago in 1999, when her grandma received a letter from a woman looking for a long-lost family member.

“It really set me off and I’ve always been interested in history through my mum and always wanted to look at old photos in my grandma’s tin box,” she smiled.

“From that, I did a WEA (Workers Educational Association) family history course which led to me joining the Sheffield and District Family History Society.

family history fair

“I had a break from family history as my wheelchair basketball became quite serious between 2004 and 2009 and then I took it up again after the Beijing Paralympics in 2022.

“I volunteered to help Jacquie out at the 2016 History Fair which led to me joining the committee and becoming one of the programme co-ordinators and fair co-organisers.

“I suppose the rest is history and now I just love it,” she added.

Jacquie has been involved with Sheffield & District Family History Society for about nine years.

Joanne Harper (L) and Jacquie Stubbs Co-organisers of the 2022 Sheffield Family History Society Fair

“I first attended meetings which always have a fascinating topic relating to family or local history,” she said.

“Then in 2016, I volunteered to assist at the fair and in 2018 joined the committee when we both became talks programme coordinators and fair organisers.

“Family history is something I felt I’d like to do for a long time and when I finished work in 2012, I had the time to do it,” she explained.

“When I was little, my grandma used to tell me about playing the piano in her parents’ pub, the Britannia Arms on Matilda Street, which fascinated me, as well as some fascinating stories of fthe wealth in her family.

“As I got older, I wanted to know more about my ancestors, where they came from, what jobs they did and more about the social history at the time,” she said.

“There’s something for everybody interested in family history, whether they’re beginning their journey or are experienced researchers, as well as people who are interested in local history generally.”

Exhibitors at the fair range from national family history organisations to local history groups and commercial exhibitors selling a range of merchandise.

There will be a talk by Robin Fielder about Harry Brearley and also one looking at some of the resources available to family historians, and a film made by the Hillsborough and Owlerton Local History Group.

Jacquie said: “It will give visitors the opportunity to find out about local groups in Sheffield and the surrounding area, as well as having experienced researchers on hand to help them discover more about their ancestors and trace relatives in their family trees.

“The fair promises to be a good day out in a beautiful historical grade II listed building, with free admission and parking, as well as refreshments being available throughout the day,” said Jacquie.

“Personally, I like to feel that I am helping to give back a little of what I have gained in the years of being a member of the society,” added Joanne.

“It takes time and effort to run any group and if it wasn’t for the volunteers doing their bit these groups wouldn’t exist so if I can help to keep them going then that makes me happy.”

Jacquie explains: “I’m a born and bred ‘Sheffielder’ – as were most of my ancestors since 1800 – and I have always had a keen interest in the city’s past. I enjoy going to events like this myself, so being involved in organising the fair gives me the chance to connect my family history with local history.

“For example, one of my ancestors owned Swallows Wheel in Rivelin Valley around 1700, but I had no idea what it was like, then I met the Rivelin Valley Conservation Group who have a picture of it.

“This gave me quite a thrill and made me realise just how much family and local history are intertwined,” she added.

“Overall, researching my family history is a pastime which I very much enjoy, but has given me plenty of headaches too, and it’s given me a glimpse into the lives of my ancestors, the people who make up my DNA.”

The Sheffield & District Family History Society Fair will be held at the Crowne Plaza Royal Victoria Hotel on Saturday, May 14 from 10am to 4pm and admission is free.