The BIG Family History Fair returned to St Ives, Cambridgeshire, this weekend, and I learnt a load about the significance of manorial records in genealogy, and let the moths out of my wallet at the Bedfordshire Family History stand.
It a one day (on Saturday) with free admission, that attracts family history fans from the area. There’s a series of talks and a wide range of trade stands from the likes of local history societies, the Guild of One-Name Studies, historic postcard companies, and some familiar faces in the genealogy supplies market like Maxbal Genealogy and My History.
After enjoying a cuppa in the gym café next door, I arrived about 20mins in, and paid the £2 for my first lecture ticket. After a quick initial wander around, and the pleasure of bumping into blogging and twitter comrade Jane Freeman, I made my way upstairs for my first lecture at 10:30am.
Philip Saunders, project officer of the Manorial Documents Register at the National Archives, began his talk ‘To The Manor Born: What Manorial Records Can Tell You About Your Ancestors‘.
Manorial records are, as yet, an un-tapped source for me. I know they’re out there for a wide number of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire manors, but I’ve been busy contending with the swathes of other records available to me. I’ll get to them eventually.
However, Philip’s talk was expertly delivered for a complete novice like me – he took time to explain how and why documents existed, and illustrated his talk throughout with examples – most of which were contextually relevant and being from Cambridgeshire or Huntingdonshire.
He showed us how what looks like a small folded piece of paper, can actually open out to give you dozens of names, dates, and other bits of information that is otherwise going un-detected in genealogy research.
His work has been to bring a register of the manorial records for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire to The National Archive website, and he showed us how to find some of these already for neighbouring counties. Apparently Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire data will start to appear on the site soon via the ‘Record Creators’ tab of advanced search.
I was amused to see that one document even carried what was a 16th century drawing of a Huntingdonshire labourer struggling with his crutches!
Having finished his talk, I returned downstairs, this time for a proper browse of the stands.
It was hard to get anywhere near the postcard stands (I like finding advertorial postcards of one of my Ely relative’s bakery, and I’m looking out for some of the now defunct village pubs that my family have run over the generations).
The one stall that was definitely on my list was the Bedfordshire Family History Society stand, and I was pleased to find their team very helpful. Having checked my now quite large pile of Parish Register CD-roms the night before, I had two parishes on my list: Leighton Buzzard, and Wrestlingworth.
Thankfully they had both, and after walking back into St Ives to get some cash (sadly no card machines available, but at least there was free wifi this time!), I decided that actually I’d buy both CDs at a total of £35. After all, it’s a bank holiday weekend, and what else have I got to do? ;)
Of course, as soon as I’d got home, I started to explore, and so began my journey back into the 17th century to find my Truelove, Goodsole and Miller ancestors.
If you haven’t heard from me by Tuesday morning, give me a nudge!
Summary of my third and final day at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 show at Birmingham NEC, including my favourite stand, and ticket dates for the 2016 show.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!
Blog post from Day One of 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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Thanks to the WDYTYA Live team for this offer, and I hope to see some of you at the show.
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.
Tickets are at £16 for 1 day (adult), £26 for 2 days, or £33 for all three days. You can buy them online from the seetickets website. The show repeats its VIP ticket type (I did this once, and it was nice to have front seats in workshops..).
Once again, it looks like a great varied range of topics, and the ticket page lists the titles of the topics for each day.
Its move to the venue, came after many months of speculation and fear amongst fans and exhibitors before it was officially announced (or as I blogged the leak earlier!). Its move was perhaps forced by the closure of Earls Court exhibition centre – which resulted in events being squeezed out of Olympia and into other venues like London ExCel (which I am very pleased the show didn’t end up in, as it’s awkward to get to!).
I attended all three days of the 2014 show, and I’m drawn to doing that again as I had a really good time. However, this was added to by also being in London – a city I am familiar with. This time, Birmingham is somewhere I’m not familiar with, so perhaps this time it might take some extra planning on my part – not least the journey there.. which is far more complicated.
A look back at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair, which took place on October 25th 2014 at Girton, Cambridge.
Yesterday saw the second Cambridgeshire Family History Fair take place – a free genealogy and local history event held in Girton’s Glebe School on the north side of Cambridge.
This year’s fair seemed much busier than last year, and although it seemed that there were fewer talks (one room, rather than two), this didn’t seem to affect the hustle and bustle in the main exhibition hall.
I went along for the whole day (10am-4pm), as I had my eye on 3 of the 4 expert talks, and also had a few genealogy hurdles that I wanted to try to resolve with the Suffolk Family History Society and the Norfolk Family History Society. I also hoped to bump into the postcard stall that I’d seen at last year’s fair… as I had a specific card to find.
Mike Petty MBE: Resources for Researching Cambridgeshire
My first talk of the day was the first time that I had attended a talk by Mike Petty MBE.
His fifty years of collectively working with the likes of The Cambridgeshire Collection, the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History (for which he is currently President), writing a weekly column for the Cambridge News, and being a seasoned lecturer and author for all things Cambridgeshire, has earned him an unrivalled knowledge of the history of the county, and the resources available to research it.
Mike admitted he’s not a genealogist – he’s a historian. This actually makes him a perfect speaker to genealogists, as his talk showed a full room how to get beyond the basics of censuses and BMDs, by digging out the more interesting information about Cambridgeshire that is tucked away in newspapers, in photographs, maps, and books.
As the audience were quickly scribbling down notes, Mike continued to show how to use online indexes to help make your next visit to a Cambridgeshire archives resource more time efficient. He spoke passionately about the vast card indexes that hold so many clues to resources, but which are themselves tucked away due to space limitations.
I’ll definitely make more effort to attend his talks in future – I feel like he could have talked for hours.
With a break between talks, I set myself off to see if I could find the Desira Postcards stall that I visited last year, and where I had bought one of two postcards of my Cross family’s bakery shop on Forehill, Ely.
Thankfully, the postcard I saw last year was still within their collection, so (ignoring the £8.50 price tag) I bought it, as it’s an example of how Frederick Thompson Cross was advertising his business. He died in 1911, after which his son Frederick Vernon Cross took over.
Carl Warner: Crowdsourcing History at IWM Duxford
Having enjoyed the collaborative crowdsourcing Lives Of The First World War project that IWM launched earlier this year, I was keen to see what Carl Warner (Imperial War Museum Duxford’s Research and Information Manager) was going to tell us about their Second World War project: American Air Museum.
This time, Carl explained that IWM has just launched a new website containing around 15,000 photographs of the USAAF, and that members of the public can register and then add their own, whilst also discuss other images – in a hope to bring names to faces and places, and record the memories of those who remember the presence of American Airmen in Cambridgeshire during WWII.
My own Grandmother remembers the American airmen near Mepal, Cambridgeshire, and like many of her generation, it’s pretty much a story about eating ‘candy’ given to them. Little could she understand then as a child, that when she waved them off as they flew away, that many would never return.
Kathy Chater: How To Write Up Family History
Ex-BBC Researcher, turned professional genealogist, historian and author, Kathy Chater was my third and final expert speaker to listen in to. Her career background, like that of Richard Benson, would give me the impetus and expert advice I need to decide on how best to write up some of my own family history stories beyond the realms of this blog, and a characterless list of names and dates.
Kathy’s advice on breaking down your mountain of research into chunks and focussing on telling each piece of one person’s life at a time, certainly felt to me like a much easier approach. She then suggested that you could then weave a few of these into a story – trying to bring in national, international, social and family events to flesh out the stories and set your ancestor into context.
I’ve certainly been looking at how national and world events may have impacted on my relatives – looking at trends in silk and cotton weaving, the impact of the railways, enclosure acts, Cambridgeshire drainage acts, and of course the horror of wars.
Like Mike Petty, Kathy recommended turning to newspapers – not just the stories, but the adverts and reviews too – all which would help you to understand the world in which your relatives lived.
It was refreshing to hear Kathy give a shot of reality with her comments on being realistic about the publishing of the book – recommending that you should probably just stick to publishing it yourself within your family, and not a publisher. She amplified a message that I’ve heard regularly – file a copy of your book with relevant archives and organisations.
Recharged with enthusiasm to get stuck in to what was the 5th of my 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014, I hope to at least be able to decide whether I’m going to aim for a novelised or non-fiction approach.
Another great genealogy fair!
I’d like to say thank you to all of the speakers that I saw, and also to the hard work of the Cambridgeshire Family History Society team who organised the event. It’s great to see this growing, and I look forward to next year’s event.