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.
The Cambridgeshire Family History Society has confirmed the guest speakers for this year’s Cambridgeshire Family History Fair.
A series of announcements via their Facebook Page, have revealed the following experts will be talking at the Fair on 25th October 2014.
Author, and former BBC researcher, Kathy Chater will be talking about how to turn your family history research into a story.
Author, well-known local historian, and President of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, Mike PettyMBE will be talking about the resources available to you when researching your Cambridgeshire ancestors.
Social historian Tom Doig returns, this time to talk about identifying dates of Edwardian photographs and postcards.
Carl Warner, Research and Information Manager at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, will be explaining how you can use the Museum’s vast image library to research and share your story.
The Fair returns to Girton Glebe Primary School, in Girton, on the North-west side of Cambridge. Parking and entry is free, and doors are open 10am-4pm.
Cambridge plays host to another Family History Fair on Saturday 25th October 2014.
The Cambridgeshire Family History Society has announced its Family History Fair is to return on 25th October 2014, after the success of last year’s event.
Girton Glebe Primary School plays host once again to a day’s worth of family history – with free admission and parking. Last year’s event saw a mixture of stands from Cambridgeshire, but also from neighbouring counties and genealogy and history organisations covering the local area.
A series of lectures will be announced nearer the time – I particularly enjoyed last year’s one on dating photographs by Tom Doig.
The Cambridgeshire Family History Society (CFHS) has revealed more details about their event in October 2013 – including free entry!
Following on from last week’s teaser, the details for the 2013 Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair have been confirmed.
The Cambridgeshire Family History Society has confirmed on their Facebook Page that the event will take place at Girton Glebe Primary School, in the north of Cambridge on October 26, 2013, from 10am to 4pm. That’s six whole hours of genealogy to be had – meeting exhibitors and enthusiasts, and the great thing is that entry to the event is free!
There will also be a programme of expert lectures (which are charged at £2 per head, per lecture), and the details of these will be confirmed in due course. There will also be a free internet research room, run by the Society’s researchers.
In 2012, the Huntingdonshire Family History Society ran The Big Family History Fair which they confirmed would not be repeated this year.
Whilst this event isn’t on the same scale as those such as Who Do You Think You Are? Live or RootsTech, it will no doubt be an essential day out for anyone with genealogy and local history interests in Cambridgeshire and surrounding area.
There will be free parking on site, and the Citi 6 bus, which runs to and from the city centre every 20 minutes, stops near to the venue.
Fortunately, the Cambridgeshire Family History Society have stepped in to fill the gap in Cambridgeshire’s genealogy calendar – and have just announced an event on their Society’s Facebook Page, with ‘fans’ of the page being advised to keep the 26th October clear for Cambridgeshire’s big genealogy event of the year.
The event venue is yet to be officially announced.
The Society also run a comprehensive range of events, ranging from regular themed talks, a club for those who are getting to grips with using computers and the internet, and they are also highly pro-active with transcribing parish registers.
Review of my day at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012 (WDYTYA Live) show at Olympia, London – including my top tips for you and for the WDYTYA Live organisers!
Back for my second and consecutive WDYTYA? Live show in Olympia, London.
Last year I was able to catch the entertaining Monty Don, who talked about his experiences of filming his episode and the effect that it had on him. Unfortunately I missed this year’s Emilia Fox, whose episode was heart-wrenching and fascinating.
WDYTYALive workshops and talks
Instead, I had pre-booked myself on to a couple of talks – the first being a keynote workshop organised by the Society of Genealogists and hosted by the brilliantly raconteur (and freshly outed event tweeter) Else Churchill. The topic of the workshop was “Breaking the barriers of Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks”.
By name, it made me quite excited to attend to see if there is anything that I could use in my own research. The session was led by Laurence Harris from MyHeritage, and whilst interesting, it did stray away from social networking – even touching on DNA testing – and did feel a little at times like a product pitch by MyHeritage. However, there were some good ideas at using social media, and Laurence was clear in his descriptions of the benefits, disadvantages and concerns over using social networks and other online platforms as tools for research. He even introduced me to Mocavo – a genealogy-savvy search tool (and kudos to Mocavo for tweeting at me in response to my tweet about them).
This was followed by a Q&A session with a panel of experts who were certainly from quite a wide range of backgrounds – including D. Joshua Taylor from BrightSolid.com (the partners that help deliver FindMyPast), and Lisa Louise Cook (Genealogy Gems, Google expert).
This year, I was also fortunate to meet the brilliant geneageek Lisa Louise Cook after she literally wowed the audience as they frantically scribbled notes during her talk ‘Google Search Strategies for the Family Historian’. What she doesn’t know about using the family of Google products for genealogy research just isn’t worth knowing.
She introduced the audience to ‘search operators’ and how to wield these to make Google search work its hardest for you. I’d never heard of ‘synonym search’ or using a date range tool in my search box, but I know that I will be doing this from now on.
It’s important to remember the hard work that societies do for genealogy – it’s not all down to the big names like Ancestry, FindMyPast or GenesReunited. Who Do You Think You Are? Live gives huge exposure to a vast number of these local societies and I was very pleased to finally meet Carol Noble from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society, who was very helpful and great to talk to – I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for records for her from now on!
I was also pleased to see the Suffolk Family History Society there too, who gave me some inside news about the availability of some more records from Elveden. Lots of other counties were also present – Norfolk’s stand was crawling with people eagerly browsing their books and cd-roms. I was a little bit disappointed to see that the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society didn’t appear to have (unless I totally missed it) anything to buy and take away – ideally I’d love to get my hands on a cd-rom of parish register transcriptions in the style of the CFHS or Suffolk Family History Society – but instead, they were offering look-ups on their computer for £2 each.
Tips for your WDYTYA Live visit
Leave yourself plenty of time if you’re traveling via London Underground – Earls Court station gets very busy and isn’t the easiest to navigate.
Be prepared for lots of walking and standing….. and talking!
Book tickets for the ‘big’ workshops and talks online as early as you can – many of these were sold out weeks in advance.
Tips for WDYTYA Live prior to my next visit
More chairs needed up in the gallery area!
Set up a ‘tweet-up’ lounge space for genealogy twitter chums to meet up in *yikes* real life (!) and talk genealogy social media and tech!
Encourage the Local History societies to put their region name up on the top boards of their stands in big letters – takes ages to track down the county you want!
Nick Barratt with film crew in tow; the legend that is Eric Knowles valuing heirlooms; a man with an incredible moustache; and author Chris Paton wearing a rosette.
The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011 at London’s Olympia.
The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011.
This was actually the first time that I had been to Who Do You Think You Are? Live. I thought that I would go along to find out for myself what it was like, to catch a talk by Monty Don, and also ‘entertain’ my Twitter followers for a few hours live from the event.
After quite an early start from Huntingdon station, I got down to Earls Court in good time. The train for Olympia seems to take an age to arrive, but thankfully once you’re on it, it’s just a short trip. I knew that I was on the right track as this train to Olympia was packed at 10:30am.
I’ve been to Olympia loads of times before for marketing/technology shows, so pretty much know my way around the place. Upon arrival, i nipped upstairs to the gallery to take the above photo and a couple of others before checking out where the Who Do You Think You Are? Theatre was (it’s upstairs), where I had my ticket to see Monty Don.
Up on the gallery level could be found other organisations – identifying/dating photographs, war medals.
Celebrities at WDYTYA Live
I stumbled across Eric Knowles – the legendary antique expert. I swear he didn’t leave his little stand for a second! And caught some fleeting glimpses of Nick Barratt.
Monty Don’s talk was both fascinating and funny. You could tell that he had enjoyed every moment of his adventure with WDYTYA, and even told the stories of the bits you didn’t see in his episode, and about further research that had taken place after the episode.
I had planned to catch Tony Robinson talking with Ancestry.co.uk but by this time I was already flagging on my feet so decided to start my journey homewards.
I think it was well worth the trip and I had a really good day. I didn’t go there looking for any particular information though, but there were plenty of people with notepads and folders – perhaps making use of the Ancestry.co.uk advice, or the Ask The Experts team upstairs.
I would definitely go again, but maybe not annually unless there was something specific I wanted to see or buy.
A few bits of advice:
They were allowing re-entry as long as you kept your ticket, so by lunchtime when i was starting to get a bit hot, i was pleased to grab some fresh air and a little walk over the road to get some lunch.
It can get quite hot in there, but fortunately i’d put my jacket in my rucksack… and there was a stand selling icecream.
The queue for the Who Do You Think You Are? theatre gets quite long quite quickly, so give yourself plenty of time if you fancy getting a really good seat.
There’s quite a lot of seats upstairs if you fancy taking the weight off your feet for a few minutes.