This is the text of the Committee's Annual Report that appeared in the March 2008 journal:
The Committee would like to thank all who have put so much effort into the running of the Society. The Committee has met regularly to ensure the effective running of the Society. The Society is continuing with its planned programme of sponsoring, preservation and joint agreements for the publication of Parish and Cemetery records. The Society also continues to be represented at various fairs and at the meetings of the Federation of Family History Societies as well as at meetings with other FHS’s in Kent. The Society Library has been provided with extra facilities increasing the ability for more detailed and broader research. A Bookkeeper has been appointed to take over some of the duties of the Treasure post. It is anticipated that 2008/9 will be another busy year with further progress on various projects for publication. This year Barbara Phillips took on the job of reorganising the sale of books at all the branches. This has been highly successful with the result that some £1.300 was raised.
The position of Treasurer still remains vacant. A bookkeeper, Mr. Alyn Mason, has been appointed to carry out a part of the Treasurer’s duties up to trial balance. For this year Mr. David Williams, Sevenoaks Chair, has agreed to complete the final accounts. The Accounts are included in this Journal.
Although this year began with a fall in membership, numbers appear to have picked up during the later part of the year. During the year I have received quite a few enquiries regarding our coverage area of Kent followed by their membership names and numbers in our Journals. Attendances at meetings, overall, appear to be increasing, due in part to the friendliness of the task holders running the branches, information that is now available through purchases of DVDs/CDs via our Publication List and the informative talks given by Speakers chosen by the three Branch Programme Organisers. The area that I am very concerned about is that of members not coming forward to help on our Executive Committee. As a Society this area of membership is becoming a serious one and needs to be thought about by our members. Although we split the post of Treasurer and now have a paid Bookkeeper, still no one has offered to hold the main position on our Executive Committee. We are now also looking for an Editor at the end of 2008, and a Chair after the AGM 2009. Please think about what I am saying very carefully, as without the above mentioned, this Society will not be able to function. I feel sure no member would like to see this happen and if you feel you can help please contact me, I cannot run your Society on my own!
We continue to digitally scan and write to disc, the original Registers for the Parishes that lie in our area. During 2007 the work on selected holdings of the Medway Archives, the Bexley Archives and the Greenwich Heritage Centre were completed. In addition scans of the burial registers of the Municipal Cemeteries of Dartford - Watling St, West Hill, Swanscombe & Stone together with those for Bexleyheath, Erith & Sidcup were completed. Work is in hand for scanning the registers of Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich, Lewisham & Plumstead parishes and the Municipal Cemeteries of Gravesend and Northfleet. It is hoped that in 2008 we shall be able to commence processing some of the Parishes held by the Centre for Kentish Studies at Maidstone. Transcription work on various records continues. We have a large amount of record data available to be transcribed and indexed. It is difficult to get Volunteers to help with this work; consequently the progress is rather slow. However those volunteers who are transcribing records are doing a good job and moving forward. Work continues on a small number of other projects.
Visitors to the Library at Hextable Heritage Centre have increased this year, an average of around 8 per session. Two more laptops have been purchased and are in use most of the time, with the huge selection of CD’s, including censuses, parish registers etc. They should soon be connected to the Internet & lessons for beginners will be held. Microfiche readers are often used for scanning the I.G.I. and out of the county parish registers. David Turner has been an enormous help with his technical skills and help to visitors. Others, including Sheila Elisak & Margaret Fullarton give their time once a month helping members & entering data on to the computers from old documents relating to the sale of land and property in the Cobham area. The project group, meet on the 2nd and 4th Fridays from 10am to 2pm, and has grown during the year so that the inputting and checking of data from the Brent School registers and log books is nearly finished. The indexing of Stone, St. Mary’s parish registers, going back to 1716, is progressing well, due to some volunteers working at home as well as at Hextable. Many thanks are due to Maureen Wilkins who overseas the projects and advises volunteers. The latest acquisitions for the society are 10 ledgers from Bexley Hospital dated from 1905 to 1935, 8 of them are indexed for staff and events, but no patients names are mentioned, however lists of patients occur, and will be included in the database created by volunteers who participate in the various projects. If you have a few hours to spare each month why not come & join us?
2006 was another busy and successful year for the publications team with record sales, mainly from the CDs of parish registers produced single-handedly by Bob Woodward. Predictably, sales of microfiche are falling as an increasing number of users report not having a fiche reader and even having difficulty finding a local library that has one. In 2007, we are aiming to convert as much existing material as possible to CD/DVD format. As regards our existing fiche, we will continue to sell them until our stock has run out, but will not reorder new stock as it would not be cost-beneficial. I would like to thank everyone involved in projects, publications and sales at meetings and fairs. All these people give their time freely to help our society and other family history researchers.
Society Web Site
After a major re-launch of the website in 2006, last year was one of consolidation and minor improvements. In April Ron Anthony became the website liaison officer as part of his Computer Rep. role on the Society Committee. Amongst the site changes were an improved map of the area we cover, and a number of new or enhanced church photographs. In January 2008 we embarked on a new initiative by adding searchable data to the website – initially this includes some 12,000 names from the 1861 Census for Bromley Registration district, and a large database of MI’s for Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery. The Cemetery material (37,000 names) is largely unavailable elsewhere.
This year Bromley have again had a varied and interesting programme organised by Lynn Woodward. Numbers attending our meetings have remained steady despite increases in local car parking fees. Subjects have ranged from Heraldry and Kipling to Weather and Victorian London. Speakers have included David Taylor, Geoff Hutchinson, Ian Waller and Ian Bevan. We have a small but efficient Committee led by Rosemary Shiret as Chairman, our book stall under the excellent control of June Vaisey and Constance Kemp has been well attended and takings for the year are up on the previous year. In 2008, our committee has plans to improve communication with members living in our catchment area in an effort to improve attendance at meetings. Also, ever mindful of increasing costs, we will be looking for a more suitable venue for our meetings.
The Dartford meetings, held on the first Saturday of every month, have an average attendance of 95+. Most visitors have returned as members, making a total of about 25 joining during the year. A varied programme of speakers, arranged by Barbara Phillips, has kept members interested, which has been proved by the number of questions posed after the talks. The new signing-in system, devised by Sheila Elisak, works very well and has helped spot new members immediately. Several minibus trips to Kew & the Family Record Centre were arranged by Jean Carter, A couple of members have given talks in the local area promoting our society. 106 members attended plus 2 visitors who subsequently joined at the December meeting. After the talk by Monty Parkin on the subject of advertising in the 19th and 20th centuries, which was very enjoyable, the annual Christmas Buffet was attended by 40 members. The food, provided by “Fingers & Forks” caterers, was delicious and the atmosphere was very pleasant. The raffle, held at the end of the meeting raised £75 for Society Funds. 2008 diaries, produced by the Institute of Heraldic Studies, packed with useful information for Family Historians, were sold at the October, November and December meetings. My thanks to the many task holders - too many to mention, who turn up regularly to run the many stalls and “Help Desk” and make the Dartford meetings so enjoyable for everyone.
However special thanks go to Sheila Elisak, our branch secretary, who arrives early & organises the room, so that it is ready when stall holders arrive, as well as doing all her other jobs behind the scenes. Also thanks to Paul Wilkins who produces the DARTBOARD news sheet for us each month & Charles Hammond for his audio skills. Well done everyone for another very successful year at Dartford. We hope to move to the new school at the end of next year. This is just a few yards down the road from our present site & members will be given plenty of notice before we move.
The Sevenoaks branch has continued to hold its regular monthly meetings and has continued to welcome a small but steady stream of new members. There is still a hard core of regular attendees and I am grateful for them turning out in all weathers and forgoing the easy comfort of TV in the home for live talks and meetings. Most of our attendees come from the immediate Sevenoaks area, although we do see and welcome several from north of the North Downs ridge, but and it would be good to see some of the society members from the Tonbridge and Weald areas coming to our meetings. You would be assured of a warm welcome and interesting talks.
The year did not get off to a good start as the first scheduled talk in February had to be cancelled because of a sudden snowfall. But once we got the general meeting out of the way in March (when the local committee was re-elected en bloc – thank you all for volunteering to stand again) the talks for the rest of the year got off to a flying start with Lionel Cole talking about the incredible volumes of information he has collected in over 50 years of researching family and local history, mainly of Edenbridge. In May Ian Curry entertained us at length on the subject of South East weather and June saw our local journalist Bob Ogley give us a flavour of 20th century Kentish history and anecdotes. Three of the next four talks were on more serious topics, Else Churchill on the facilities at the Society of Genealogists for researching overseas persons, Mari Alderman on old handwriting and Stewart Gilles on the newspaper library at Collingdale. All were professionally given and well illustrated and we all learnt a lot. In between them we were hugely entertained in October by Meryl Catt and Audrey Gillett's double act on the subject of surnames and the year ended in December with a bit of a social do and a talk by Chris McCooey who himself lived up to the title of ‘Kent characters – wacky, weird and wonderful’.
My thanks go to all the committee but in particular to Chris Barnett for producing a superb mixture of serious and entertaining speakers for us. My thanks also go to three non committee members, Jean Stirk, our President, Linda Meaden and Geoff Webb who are always an immense help at meetings. I am pleased to say that Debbie Hill has offered to take on the role as branch secretary, a post which I have been vainly trying to cover for the last two years; I am very grateful for her coming forward.