In Pictures: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 (and 2016’s show dates)

Now that I’m safely home and recovering in a bath of tea from this year’s superb 3 day Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, I thought i’d share my photos.

But before I do, there’s been some initial confusion over the 2016 show dates. Chris Paton (from The British GENES blog) picks up the case, and Else Churchill from The Society of Genealogists confirmed 2016’s show dates, again at the NEC:

Else explains that the plans changed over the weekend – presumably based on the success of the show rather than a guesstimate of its success, given that it had also moved home.

UPDATE: The Who Do You Think You Are? Live team have also now confirmed the dates:

You can read the full Twitter conversation here.

Right, on to those photos!

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DAY THREE: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Well, that’s it! The 2015 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show is over.

If you went along, what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Was Birmingham NEC up to the job? Are you going next year? Did you think it was busy?

Once again, I really enjoyed the show – it was lovely to see familiar faces and brands, and also meet new ones too, and learn lots of new ‘old’ things. (Check out my Day One and Day Two posts!)

Having checked out of my hotel in Coventry, and stepped off the train at Birmingham, I noticed that there was a ‘Tweet up’ (essentially, a group of twitter users, who arrange a time/place to meet up via twitter, and so extending the invite to a wide audience) about to happen, so a quick diversion via the courtyard, gave us a wonderfully sunny set of Tweet Up photos.

Here’s mine:

After this, I made my way back into the show and noticed that the workshop ticket queue had reduced down nicely, so joined it behind a senior couple. Sadly, the woman in the couple was taking issue with the queuing system ‘this is the third day, and they haven’t managed to sort it out! The third day!’ she repeated to her silent male companion, and promptly decided to snap at the helpful ticket lady, who kept her cool perfectly.

I hope you’re reading this – you should have seen the queue earlier. The ticket team seemed to be doing a great job.

Turning around, I could see that the AncestryDNA stand was already doing booming business, again echoing just how much ‘DNA’ is this year’s buzz-word. I wonder just how many kits they sold over the three days? (and whether the testing period might become elongated?). I can only assume that the more kits that are sold in the UK, means that the data gets bigger, and the potential for more DNA matches increases.

AncestryDNA stand with visitors

Busy AncestryDNA stand.

Moving on a little, I stumbled across Linda Kerr (from The International Society of Genetic Genealogy – or ISOGG) giving a talk on DNA for Absolute Beginners – her talk seemed very clear and straightforward, and whilst the buzz about DNA was resonating through a lot of companies this year, it was great to see that the basics were being covered too. I loved how my photo captured ‘Does not replace traditional research’. A very good point!

Linda Kerr of ISOGG talking DNA for Absolute Beginners

Linda Kerr of ISOGG talking DNA for Absolute Beginners

I then headed over to the very well stocked stand at My History and picked up a load of archive safe photo pockets.

I have a large collection of small 1930-1950s photographs in my grandmother’s photo albums, but when you pick them up, the photos all fall out because the sticky pages have dried up.

Hopefully this should help sort, store, and put them safely back in order.

I think that out of all of the stands, my favourite design was The National Archives – i found it visually striking, wonderfully themed and lit. Of course, the 1939 Tea Rooms from FindMyPast, were wonderful too.. but it’s hard to compare them as their purpose was so different.

National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015

National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015 was my favourite stand (not including the 1939 tea room)

My 2015 Who Do You Think You Are? Live take-aways

  • Death Duty Records are a big, exciting, mess, and a trove of information (Day Two via Dave Annal)
  • I quite enjoy corned beef hash cakes (Day One via FindMyPast)
  • Letters from paupers and pew rents can sometimes be found in Parish Chest records (Day One – Alec Tritton)
  • Wills aren’t subject to copyright (Day Two via Intellectual Property Office)
  • I’m enjoying reading Angela Buckley’s ‘The Real Sherlock Holmes – The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada‘ (Day Two via Pen & Sword Books)
  • ‘The spoon’ isn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped (Day Two via Eric Knowles)
  • It’s dribbling, not swabbing time, in the Martin households (Day One via AncestryDNA)
  • I walked 29,454 steps over these three days – the equivalent to 12.81 miles. Most of this would be inside the venue.

Cabin fever?

One thing I noticed this year, was that my enthusiasm for a third day was waining by midday. In London, if I dipped out early, I knew enough of London and had enough friends there, that I could pop out for a bit and do something else and head back, or head out early, but here at the NEC, it didn’t feel like that. Maybe next year, I might cut down to 2 days unless there’s some specific lure to keep me there/busy.

Don’t get me wrong, the show is really worthwhile, but as a family historian, whose ancestors have struggled to move more than 10 miles within Cambridgeshire over the last 420+ years, it’s really only the ‘generic’ talks and stands that give me the extra value. Learning about Irish roots, or researching Scottish records, or visiting a specific locale society stand, will be hard to apply to my somewhat almost ‘insular’ research territory.

Having said that, I’ve not done my DNA test yet… so that could all change. I’m still guessing Scandinavian is going to be in there.

I’m yet to hear of the official figures for this newly re-homed show, but I did hear that day two (Friday) was busier than the first day.

My brain struggled to imagine whether the show itself was bigger – as Olympia was always spread across a main hall and a mezzanine, with a few of the talks held off in rooms to the site, and the aisles between stands were about 1/3rd narrower than those in the NEC. It’s difficult to compare.

Where Do You Think You Are Going? Live

Where Do You Think You Are Going? Live

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 dates

That said, as revealed in the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine 14th April email campaign, the show remains at the Birmingham NEC for 2016 and for 3 days – running 28-30th April 2016.

See you there!

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DAY TWO: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Day Two of the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 show at Birmingham NEC is over, and the final day is coming!

If you’re yet to tread the halls of this year’s show, then here’s what you missed in Day Two.

AncestryDNA talks

AncestryDNA has been a heavily promoted product this year.

Right near the front of the entrance is the show’s main sponsor, in prime space – Ancestry. I’ve had my account with these guys (and FindMyPast) for some time, and this year the team are going all guns to promote their AncestryDNA product.

Essentially this consists of a kit, that you can buy and register on their site, and then use to take a swab sample of DNA. Post them off, and then your results are returned to you online about 6-8 weeks later, via your Ancestry account.

The results will then give you an ethnicity estimate (I’m hoping for Vikings and old Saxons), and then it will give you leads to other people who have taken the test on AncestryDNA, where they have found matching DNA.

Two AncestryDNA testing kits

Two AncestryDNA testing kits

I’ve picked up two kits, as I was curious, and my mother has been far more excitedly curious about her DNA for some years. I guess that with all the other kits around, and with the recent discovery, questioning and burial of Richard III, the DNA market is booming.

I’ll write more about the tests another time – so keep posted!

Day Two was definitely busier, and even though the aisles are wider between stands (most noticeably amongst the Society of Genealogists Family History stands) they were still thick with busy, eager, genealogists looking for the next clue.

The Home Team – the Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry was naturally a busy spot to be. I have only a couple of distant relative marriages in Birmingham, so I didn’t need to stop.. but the team certainly looked busy!

Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry stand

Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry stand

As with yesterday, where I was able to catch Alec Tritton talk about the many wonders of The Parish Chest, and caught some of Jayne Shrimpton talking about the dating of 80s and 90s photographs (1880s/1890s, okay!), today I was able to catch some more.

The first was from Dave Annal who gave a fascinating talk on the FindMyPast stand, on Death Duty Registers. I could tell that it was something to do with death and taxes, but beyond that I had no idea what they would contain. As a source, they look like the fantastically messiest, chaotic and cryptic set of possible information ever (beyond Doctor’s notes!).

Understanding the Death Duty Registers sign

Understanding the Death Duty Registers sign

Later, I briefly caught the team at FamilySearch, who gave me a lovely warm reminder about the years of research I’ve put in working my way through microfilm. They themselves are in the midst of a big project to digitise microfilm, and are looking for volunteers to process batches of transcripts so that everything can become much easier to search. I don’t think that this was new news, but it was good to hear what they are up to.

Margaret Haig talks copyright and family history

Margaret Haig (IPO) talks copyright and family history

Finally, I sat in on Copyright and Family History – a talk by Margaret Haig from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). She gave a fascinating talk on the law and the minefield of copyright when it comes to family history. There were loads of questions after, but I poppe along to their stand to ask them my one: Who owns the copyright of a Will? The answer I was given was that they are not under copyright because they are not a creative piece, they’re a commissioned piece of work that follows a formulaic formal process. This wasn’t really the answer I was expecting.

I managed to meet Eric Knowles, and he was able to shed light on  my mystery spoon… But I’ll write more about that soon too!

I ended my day by treating myself to two books from the team at Pen and Sword Books – one The Real Sherlock Holmes – The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada by Angela Buckley, and the other one by Stephen Wade, titled Tracing Your Criminal Ancestors.

Some criminal reading to add to my reading pile.

Some criminal reading to add to my reading pile.

I was flicking through the latter when the stall-holder asked me if I had criminal ancestors. I said ‘yes’, but reassured them it wasn’t for fraud as I handed my card over.

Anyway, more on DNA, the spoon and the criminals another day. Day Three is calling…

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DAY ONE: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Well, here we are, the end of Day One of the 2015, re-homed Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, at Birmingham NEC. Its been a long day, involving driving from Cambridgeshire to Coventry (where I’m staying), then onto the train for the token £2.10 return trip to Birmingham International station, which adjoins the venue. I spent the entire day on my feet, wandering around, sat in on some talks, and then went to the 1939 Register launch celebration by the team at FindMyPast. Then, train back, a gym work out, and now to my hotel room to write this.

Stalls at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Stalls at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

 The new venue

I’m new to the NEC and it seems perfectly adept at putting on shows. Briefly, due to the volume of posters as I walked towards the show, I thought I was about to arrive at a Transit Van show… but thankfully, no. The familiar tree logo was in sight and I arrived about 10:15am. Once in, I wandered in, and over to the FindMyPast stand where I sat in on a talk on Military Records and the extra features of the FindMyPast tree (audio!).

Having soon gotten my bearings, I found myself checking out the Society of Genealogists family history show section of the event – the bit where the Societies come together and have stands. I was pleased to see Carol from my home team (Cambridgeshire Family History Society) was busy at their stand, but noted the absence of neighbouring Societies from Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire.

Cambridgeshire Family History Society stall

Cambridgeshire Family History Society stall

Right at the end of the hall were two great additions, one was a beautiful statue of a soldier, commemorating the First World War, and the statue was within a wind machine, that periodically would blow poppies upwards and you could then watch them drift down over the still, silent, soldier. Very poignant.

Remembrance statue at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Remembrance statue at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

FindMyPast 1939 tea room

FindMyPast 1939 tea room

The other, was the 1939 Find My Past tea room, set up to promote/celebrate the forthcoming release of the 1939 Register – the nearest thing we’ll get to a census for 30 years, due to the destruction of the 1931 census and the cancellation of the 1941 census, both due to war.

It was also in this tea room, that an aftershow party was hosted, with various speakers, Society representatives and experts… and your humble bloggers, were treated to live wartime songs, and 1939 style food (I enjoyed the corned beef hash cakes more than I thought).

Anyway, that’s some bits from the first day… So how better than to end on a song…

 

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So you want to be a professional genealogist?

Archives - Photo: Marino González via Creative Commons

Archives – Photo: Marino González via Creative Commons

I’m not a professional genealogist.

My interest in researching was fuelled by my love of Victorian photography and a hand-drawn tree that both showed my father and I people we’d never heard of, and so my interest for family history was ignited.

But whilst there are many large online family history websites like Ancestry, FindMyPast etc, there are also thousands of individual professional genealogists who work with people to uncover their family stories.

So far, I’ve not wanted to be one of those. Mainly because I just enjoy researching my own tree, and I wanted to do it however and whenever it interested me, and without a deadline. I’ve turned what have been hobbies into jobs before, and eventually for me, it has taken the fun out of it.

So, I’m curious as to why and how other people became professionals genealogists.

What better way to find out, than to ask two tame experts: Pam Smith, and Mark Daly.

Q1: How did you first get interested in genealogy?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: I’ve always taken a curious interest in family matters. Who? Why? What? Where? and When? whether  the living wanted to tell me or not!

Roger Stonebanks, a journalist and author came searching for the family of Albert (Ginger) Goodwin, Miner 1887-1918 who’s death/murder (which ever way you want to look at it) started Canada’s first general strike.

The family history evidence in Roger’s book Fighting for Dignity –  The Ginger Goodwin Story was the catalyst which ignited my interest.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: Procrastination and avoidance. It was 1993, I was 22 and only a few weeks away from my final Law exams. My addled brain needed distraction and it seemed the obvious moment to start investigating my roots!

Often when I visited my Yorkshire and Staffordshire grandparents and great aunties as a child, they would give me something related to the family’s history such as a set of medals, an army cap badge, some old documents or an entire Royal commemorative china set, normally with the aside “Eee, I’m not long for this life, you ought to have this” and a conspiratorial wink. I was made the adolescent custodian of these objects of fascination and working out who they belonged to, as a young adult, seemed the next sensible step.

Genealogy was largely still the preserve of the retired, researching notable ancestors, and the Internet as a research tool did not yet exist. Despite this, and the laborious process of manually searching thorough heavy registers of BMDs and unindexed censuses on microfilm in the dark basements of government buildings, I became hooked. My legal training suited the research process and I suddenly had a vehicle to explore periods in history, through the stories of real people.

The initial research into my roots proved unexceptional but after years of sticking with it, the past began to yield its secrets and its characters.

Q2: What made you decide to research other people’s families and turn it into a professional career?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: I began a course of education, firstly with WEA and the IHGS which made the archives my second home. Speaking about genealogy to local groups became second nature and word of mouth spread fast.

Queries started coming in and I realised there was potential to make an income from what came naturally to me i.e. an inquisitive mind and a passion for historical documentary evidence.

There is fulfilment and reward in taking a client step by step through their family history. The joy of discovery experienced by them, makes it all worthwhile.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: I started doing research for friends, in order to learn more, to make people aware of what could be discovered, to feed my genealogy addiction and to satisfy my ‘family tree envy’. I was still wading through my own coal miners and ag labs at that stage and so others’ roots seemed far more romantic or exotic. I particularly enjoyed researching stories of foreign roots, migration, diasporas, adventurers, people displaced by war and famine, anything with a cultural shift. Foreign languages felt like a challenge rather than a barrier and these stories with a foreign element remain one of my specialisms as a professional genealogist.

I continued like that for the next 20 years, as a sort of paying hobby, learning as I went along, fitting it around the day job as a lawyer. I then set up my own business as a legal translator and this gave me the flexibility to go professional with the genealogy.

Q3: What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of becoming a professional genealogist?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: Initially, undertake at least three courses:

  1. An academic course on the types of records available and how to use them.
  2. How to become a Professional Genealogist.
  3. Genealogical Report Writing.

Join a Professional Body, advertise and network with colleagues. Genealogy can be a solitary pursuit and it is essential to build relationships and leave your computer every now and then to maintain a sense of reality with the outside world.

Make Continued Professional Development (CPD) a life choice. Be an eternal student.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: For those with an existing job, start gradually. Do research for friends as a freebie but treat them as you would third-party clients: at the outset, give them a written description of what you will be doing and what they can expect; for the research, produce a well-drafted, fully-evidenced report; and finish off the job with an invoice (albeit for £0). As you get more confident and your name is passed around, you can follow this same procedure but finish with invoices that begin to reflect your worth.

Whether you are considering genealogy as a first career or a gradual switch from an existing one, academic study is invaluable. There are an increasing number of providers of courses. The Society of Genealogists  runs some excellent short courses and the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Strathclyde University and Dundee University provide longer courses.

Joining a body such as the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives as an associate is also a great way to meet fellow professionals once you have reached an assessable level of expertise and have decided to go professional.

Q4: What has been the most memorable life story that you’ve helped to uncover for a client?

Pam Smith - Family HistorianPam: Settling an argument between two elderly and warring cousins over the accuracy of their claims and links to an ancestor who was a famous author.

Although the outcome was not palatable to one, my client was justified in his account of events backed up by the evidence I provided.

Mark Daly - Time SleuthsMark: I have done lots of research for television companies in the UK and the States and it is always satisfying to see your name in lights, not least to add some respectability to the profession that is genealogy. That said, it is still the private client work that is the most satisfying, especially when it relates to a person’s very identity (adoption, separation, etc.).

One case earlier this year was particularly rewarding: a lady, Ruth, in her 90s had been searching for over 70 years to establish who she was. She had grown up in an East End orphanage and was never informed of the name she was given when she was born or the identity of her parents. Other than her children, she had no family and no roots and had spent decades contacting different bodies and trying different researchers, in an attempt to work out who she was. The local authority had provided scant information and had told her that nothing more could be found or done. Assuming this to be a workhouse story, I trawled the categories of records that could relate to her time in care, such as workhouse registers and minute books, infirmary records, local schools and the orphanage itself. The exercise was complicated by the ever-changing London boroughs that had responsibility for different bodies at different times.

Most of these records were closed, so I used a Freedom of Information Act request. Within a few days, and after some thorough checks by the London Metropolitan Archives, I received 50 pages of documents relating to Miriam’s time in the orphanage. One of those 50 pages contained a single, vital piece of information, that the Ruth’s birth mother had been divorced by her husband four years before. Despite some confusion over the name of the mother, this led me to the mother’s divorce records at the National Archives which gave me her maiden name. With this, I was able to find Ruth’s own birth certificate, registered under a different first name and with her birth mother’s maiden name.

Although Miriam is now very frail, the break-through was delivered to her by her daughter over the summer, along with the news that I had found two nephews who were still alive. Researching aristocratic families in the English Civil War and Polish families captured by Soviet Russia is fascinating stuff but it doesn’t get much better than being able to tell Ruth who she is after 70 years of searching.

Still want to be a professional genealogist?

Becoming a professional sounds like a lot of fun, rewarding, and interesting hard work to me, but I’m happy to keep it as my go-to hobby.

How about you? Are you inspired after reading Pam and Mark’s answers? Or are you like me and enjoy keeping the casual nature of it?

Huge thanks to both Mark and Pam for taking time out (ages ago!) to answer my questions. If you’re interested in contacting either, you can of course find them online at:

Pam: pamsmithfamilyhistorian.co.uk / @genejean

Mark: timesleuths.com / @theTimeSleuths

 

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Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 Ticket Discount Offer

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 ticket website

Enter code AM24 to get 2 tickets for £24.00

I’m looking forward to next week’s WDYTYA? Live show next week – which I’ll be at for all three days.

The WDYTYALive? team have kindly given me a special discount code to pass on to you – meaning you can get 2 tickets for just £24.

If you’re not sure about attending, I can say that I honestly know exactly how you feel.

It took me a few years to want to come to such an event – I was confused as to why I would want to come to a large London-based building (as it was), to see/hear/talk about something to do with the TV show. As usual, curiosity got the better of me though, and I’m grateful of it.

In the few years that I’ve been attending, I’ve since found the event a wholy enjoyable experience – where I learn so much, discover some great resources and tips from those who have been researching for much longer than I have, and get to meet and learn about great new innovations and record sets from a wide range of large and small companies.

Add to this, the means of meeting up with fellow bloggers and genealogy twitter users.

It’s since become a genuine highlight of my genealogy and actually, my social calendar.

So, if Who Do You Think You Are? Live is teasing your curiosity – go on, give it a go.

You can use this discount code AM24 at the WDYTYA? Live ticket site. Just enter it in the ‘Code’ box near the top of the screen, click ‘Use Code’. Then scroll down a little, and you’ll see that the option to buy ‘Adult 2 for £24′. Select ‘2’ and then you can complete the payment as usual.

Easy!

Thanks to the WDYTYA Live team for this offer, and I hope to see some of you at the show.

Andrew

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Reluctant Roots: Those who just don’t want to know

I was driving home on Wednesday with the radio on, when I heard the familiar Who Do You Think You Are? theme. This of course, prompted me to turn the radio up instantly.

Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor at BBC Radio 4

I was listening to BBC Radio 4‘s Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor, a show that I often listen to on a Wednesday afternoon.

He was talking to Professor Janice McLaughlin about paediatric genetics and her research study published recently as ‘Family Ties in Genes and Stories: The importance of value and recognition in the narratives people tell of family‘.

I was amused at Laurie’s comment about the popularity of the many people who research their family tree ‘even if they do so at the cost of ignoring their living relatives’ (I’m conscious of this situation)!

The segment only lasts 11 minutes, but I thought it was fascinating enough to share here – to hear about those people who DON’T want to discover their family’s past, and their reasons why.

Sometimes those reasons were because they didn’t want to ‘reconnect’ with disreputable family members in the past, as they’d put in a lot of effort to distance and better themselves and their own family.

Here’s a link to the episode (there might be geo-specific restrictions)

Have you ever reached out to a relative who specifically tells you that they don’t want to know about their family’s past?

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Relationship Calculator

I often get emails in response to my website or this blog, or through sites like Ancestry, from distant relatives. Naturally I am fascinated to work out the relationship between us, but it can be really tricky to do so.

Probably like a few of you this long Easter weekend, you’ll be spending time with family, and inevitably talking about ‘the tree’. My mother often asks if i’ve discovered anything new, but I often watch her eyes glaze over as she gets lost after about the third step when I’m trying to describe how one of those distant relatives is related.

A couple of days ago, Mark Subel from the team over at Crestleaf, sent me a handy chart that helps make it clearer, so I thought I’d share this with you here to help you overcome those glazed eye responses too…

Crest leaf Family Relationship Chart

Print it out, pin it, stick it your fridge, or save it to your iPad (i’ll be doing that for Who Do You Think You Are? Live in a couple of weeks).

You can right click the image above, or download it (588Kb) here.

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Preparing for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

My tickets arrived this morning for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 – the first at the NEC, Birmingham. 

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 tickets arrive

My WDYTYA? Live tickets have arrived.

I’ve opted for all three days Thursday-Saturday 16-18th April, but have not yet completely picked out the expert talks from the wide range of workshop topics that are up this year.

I do have my eye on a few though, including:

I’ve also opted to stay in nearby Coventry, so will be hopping onto the train for a few minutes east > west each day.

I do have a few ‘to-dos’ though:

  • Sync the Reunion10 files on my iPad. I found this so useful last year, when I was able to talk to the Devon Family History Society, and compare what was in their database with what was in my tree without folders of papers to wade through.
  • Collect a spoon from my mother. Yes, a spoon. I’m hoping to show this spoon to Eric Knowles, in a bid that he might use his expertise to give it a date that may reveal that it is more likely to be one of the spoons that an ancestor went to court over, after being accused of theft, and was found not guilty by a jury because of conflicting evidence. Does this carefully handed-down spoon have significance. More on that after the show!

If you’re going to the show (tickets still seem to be available), how are your preparations coming along? Any workshops that you’re interested in attending? Or maybe you’re one of the presenters – in which case, are you ready?

I’m also really looking forward to re-connecting with those people who I’ve met at previous shows, and who i’ve enjoyed the discussions and witty comments from on this blog and other social media. The event really helps to make that spare room hobby, feel like part of a combined effort to preserve the history, heritage, and collective memories of generations.

For now though, happy tree surgery!

Andrew

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A world looking in: how a cousin’s photograph collection can boost your research

With today’s culture somewhat obsessed with taking ‘selfies’ or photographs of their dinner, or their cat (i admit i’m guilty of all three), it makes me wonder how this might affect photography’s role in genealogy research in the future.

Might we find in the future that there’s billions of collections of 10,000 photographs of the same one person, and no-one else?

This week, I experienced the delightful feeling of opening up an envelope and finding 16 photographs tumble out onto my desk. Not only was this somewhat un-expected, but not one of those photographs was familiar, and there are at least 9 people who I’ve never seen in a photograph before.

Collection of photographs on a desk

Some of the 16 photographs that were kindly sent to me.

This example reminded me of the importance of looking for photographs whilst researching.

And, it reminded me that while our own ancestors or relatives were often busy holding the camera and taking photographs of things that were new, or of special occasions, they were generally not taking selfies.

This seems to be reflected in the photo albums I have. Why would they fill a photo album of photographs of themselves? They would rather have photographs of people they knew, including neighbours, friends… and those all important relatives.

Having seen this in the albums in my custody, i realised that the photo albums of cousins may well be the same, but featuring photographs that their ancestors had taken at special occasions. So, like my branch looked into their world through a lens, their world was busy looking in on my branch, and often at the same occasion – giving you a potentially fuller photographic record.

So, to discover more photos of your family branch, reach out to those cousins near and distant, and see what snaps they have. This is one of my 2015 Genealogy Resolutions (and was also one in 2014).

It was a handwritten tree and a single photograph of two adults with a horse and cart, that sparked my interest in genealogy. Since then, I’ve been lucky to have found a vast wealth of family images reaching back to the late 19th century.

This isn’t the first time that a cousin’s photographs have helped to expand my research.

A couple of years back, one of my Cooper family cousins solved a puzzle of a crudely cropped photograph, and in doing so, changed the identity of the man in the piece of photo I had.

Originally, the man below was ‘Charles Newman‘, my Great Great Great Grandfather, but tantalisingly there’s someone else in the image who has been cropped out.

John Cooper cropped image

‘Charles Newman’ in the cropped photograph…

Two years later, cousin Evol Laing, who discovered me online, revealed the rest of the image, changing his identity completely to John Cooper, and showing his sons Alfred, John and Harry. She also had other photographs to back this claim up, and a wealth of photos from the Cooper family.  The connection between Newman and Cooper? Well, the ‘Charles Newman’ had a daughter-in-law named Harriet Cooper. John was her brother.

John Cooper with his sons

John Cooper (seated) with sons (L-R) Harry, Alfred, and John.

My scanner hasn’t been this busy since my first year of genealogy research, where I scanned dozens and dozens of images from my Martin and Dewey families.

I’m now back on the photograph trail, and hopefully will be able to tick off that Genealogy Resolution for 2015.

Happy tree climbing,

Andrew

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