IT began as a local history project – but culminated in a family reunion for relatives who previously hadn’t even known each other existed.

In April, the village of Sessay, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, held an archive exhibition as part of the history project and 500 people attended from across Yorkshire.

Among them were Mark and Jean Williams, from Skipton, Judith Hanley, from Scarborough, and Ian and Marion Moverley, from Richmond.

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And as they chatted over tea and cakes about their links with the village, they realised they were all longlost relatives.

They were all descendants of Butler and Fanny Moverley who, according to the 1911 census, lived at Church Farm, Sessay, with their seven sons and two daughters.

And so delighted were they by the revelation, that 11 of the family have now held a proper family reunion in the village.

They visited St Cuthbert’s Church where they found not only the family grave but a poignant scrap of history.

In the vestry above one of the choirboy’s coat pegs, was a label inscribed R Moverley – Robert Moverley, son of Butler and Fanny – and his very distinctive handwriting was immediately recognised by his granddaughter, Judith.

At the former family home, Church Farm, they were shown around by the current owner, Sally Spilman, and were even able to identify the site of the old tennis court where the family used to play.

History project manager Janet Ratcliffe said: “It was a memorable day for everyone involved and brought together a family, now determined to keep in touch, and has helped shed more light on Sessay village history.”

The three-year Sessay Local History Society Archive Project was launched last October with the help of a £14,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Among its aims are to produce three digital archives reflecting life in village, to organise a family day in 2012 based on life in 18th and 19th Century Sessay, and to publish a book about Sessay in 2013.