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.

The new society will take in Wharfedale, Airedale, the Forest of Bowland and all 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 numbers close to 500 – valuable aids for anyone in search of their roots.

Among the publications contained within the group’s archives are a huge database of war memorials and rolls of honour, containing transcriptions from over 600 memorials in West and North Yorkshire, and a database of the surnames members are researching.

“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.

“So much is available on the internet and online 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 group has around 400 members, living not only locally and across the UK, but around the world.

Stanley said: “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 members’ own research stories.”

Many members have no ancestral roots locally, 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.

Old photographs form part of the group’s resources. The collection includes evocative images of schoolchildren, sports teams, church members and other groups.

The group meets three times a month and holds 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,” Stanley said.

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.

For more information visit Email: Membership starts at £10 per annum for e-journal members and £12 for those who prefer a printed journal.