In 2012 The Forest of Dean Family History Trust was formed by a group of 6 friends and long time supporters of the website, together with David Watkins' sister - Pauline - to maintain and continue, amongst other things, this Website and its content. Below is a brief history of how this Website was conceived and brought to life by David Watkins. David passed on in the Summer of 2012, however he has left a living legacy in this resource.
The following words were penned by David Watkins:
In the early 1990s I started to develop an interest in Family History and Genealogy. My father Harold and many generations of my ancestors were born around the Ruardean area of the Forest. In the depression years of the 1930s, my grandfather Albert who was a coal miner moved up north with his family, he had been out of work for 5 years.
I was born in Manchester and I came to Australia in 1967 when I was 18 looking for a little more sunshine than what Manchester had to offer and I have lived here ever since.
This Web site was never planned, it has just evolved with the contributions of many. I was a member of the Royal Forest of Dean Family History Society in the early days of the internet. I communicated with Michael Holman who was their secretary about having a Web site for the society. After a little time, Michael after a lot of opposition from the other officers of the society, he managed to get them to agree that they should have a Web site. I then went ahead and made up a few web pages which were very simple by how things are today.
A year or so later things were not going well for the RFODFHS and they no longer had a Editor to put together their Journal. It was not long after the RFODFHS disbanded. All the material they held was given the GFHS and the name of the society deregistered.
I wanted to keep some web pages of the Forest of Dean so I set up the Forest of Dean Genealogy Pages. Using the word genealogy in the name so there was not confusion with the old societies name. All of the above was the beginning of what is the Forest of Dean Family History pages of today.
Nothing much was done with the Web site for many years but it was always there with a simple guestbook. At the beginning of 2005 I replaced the guestbook with the current forum we have now. With the introduction of the forum our very good friend Slowhands got involved in answering queries and he is one of the main reasons that the Web site has grown into what it is today.
A big growth of the Web site started in January 2006 when I was approached by Graham Davison who asked me if I was prepared to publish Parish transcripts on the website. I eagerly accepted Graham's request and this was the start of the Transcription Project. For more background have a read of Forest of Dean Parish Records Transcription Project.
Soon I was running out of the free web-space I was allocated with my internet account so I obtained the forest-of-dean.net domain name and started using a hosting company for the website. Also the Web site name was changed to the name we now have. Many years had gone by since the break up of the society and it was more appropriate using the words Family History in the name rather than genealogy.
Mike Williamson assisted me greatly in putting the search facility together which enables people to quickly and easily search the parish records and then view the full transcript of a record.
Another nice addition to the Web site in 2008 was the transcribed Forest of Dean Inquests which came about by another approach, this time it was by David Drinkwater, who is regularly supplying additional records.
There are so many others as well who have made great contributions to the website. The list would be too long to name them all here but they quietly go along helping out in various ways and know that their part is assisting others.
By browsing through the Web site you will find a Photo Gallery which contains well over a thousand pictures of people and places of the Forest. As well as the Parish Records database we have many other databases available that will help the researchers. I must also mention our download section which contains Stories and Articles, Wills, Miscellaneous Documents and Newspaper Clippings. There is much more but I will leave it at that for now and let you discover the rest.
Everything on this Web site is free for everybody and I believe it is a good example of what can be achieved when people get together and willingly give their time to help others who are not so fortunate.
The cost of subscriptions to obtain data from the big genealogy sites is not something everybody can afford but with the use of free open source software such as the database, forum and the Web CMS programs which we are using, our intention is to always keep it that way with the help of the volunteers and the donations we receive.
Thank you all for making the Forest of Dean Family History Web site the great place it is for Forest researchers.