Website launched to commemorate the Lives Of The First World War

IWM and DC Thomson Family History launch Lives Of The First World War website – creating a digital memorial celebrating the bravery of those who contributed to the WW1 effort in the Commonwealth.

Back in February, the Imperial War Museums and DC Thomson Family History, tantalised the audience at Who Do You Think You Are? Live with their collaborative project – Lives Of The First World War.

In the months since, the site has been open to Beta testing, and today finally saw the site go live to the general public at www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org.

The idea of the project has been to build upon the records, and create a huge digital memorial that commemorates the lives of those who served in WW1 – whether they survived or lost their life.

I’ve jumped straight in to add my great grandfather, Herbert Martin, who served with the Suffolk Regiment and the Northamptonshire Regiment as a Private, but was sadly crushed to death in a train accident in Boulogne, France, on 17th October 1917.

Lives of the First World War screenshot
I’ve added my great grandfather to Lives Of The First World War.

It’s a sad fact, that I have a lot of other brave people to begin adding, and that this will take some time, but the collaboration is seen as one that will provide an archive that will detail the social history of the 8 million men and women from the Commonwealth who contributed to the First World War effort.

Find out more via the video below:

Interested?

The site is clean and pretty easy to use. It’s also free, up to a point (you pay for access to some archive material), but you can add content yourself. You can also ‘remember’ any of the people listed – which kind of acts as a bookmark for you. The site also carries a message saying that they are aiming to keep updating it to add further features.

I was keen to hear that there is an educational side to this site, and that the project is keen to see this site used as a school’s resource – in a bid to ensure that the service and bravery of our ancestors, is remembered for another 100 years.

Day Three: Who Do You Think You Are? 2014

Day Three – the final day of the 2014 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia.

I’m writing this at the end of the third and final day of Who Do You Think You Are? Live. I’m home, and can honestly say that I throughly enjoyed myself.

The Family History Society stands on Day 3 of WDYTYA? Live 2014
Some of the Family History Society stands at lunchtime on Day 3 of WDYTYA? Live 2014

I arrived at about 9:45 this morning, after yet another wonderful walk through Hyde Park in the sunshine (still definitely Winter mode). Whilst there was no queue outside Olympia, I managed to get in just before the mass of visitors who were walking over from Olympia station arrived at the doors.

After disposing of coat and case, I then went up to the workshop ticketing team, where there were also no queues, and picked up my two free tickets – one on ‘Finding Your London Ancestors‘ with Michael Gandy, and the other for ‘Wills: not just a source for our better-off ancestors‘ with Celia Heritage.

I must confess that I didn’t make it to Michael Gandy’s talk – I chose it as I briefly have a family that lived in London for about 10 years, and occasionally through history a marriage turns up in its parishes. The queue was long, and so I decided to bail, and regret missing it based on the comments I’ve since heard and seen on twitter.

However, I am very glad that I finally caught a Celia Heritage talk though, as her talks and work has always come with such positive praise. Plus, I’ve really been enjoying reading Wills and even the Probate Calendars that I’ve found on Ancestry.co.uk.

I’ve got copies of Wills that hint at family feuds, and ones that detail every spoon and bowl. Those latter ones don’t seem like much now, but as Celia’s talk suggested, it wasn’t just the better-off people that wrote them.

Through case studies from her own tree, Celia was able to show how it is important to view the full Will, as they carry so much information about relationships (not just siblings, spouses, and children, but cousins can turn up too), and locations. She also highlighted the importance of looking around at the same surname in roughly the right area, and seeing whether you can find some potential connections in Wills – in a hope that their Wills will mention your branch and help link it all together.

The Babbage Breakthrough

It was my first venture to Who Do You Think You Are? Live (2011), when I dragged along a selection of my handwritten notes, expecting to find a whole new swathe of ancestors in some monumental research breakthrough.

I soon found it wasn’t really that kind of event, and that I should use the show to learn about new techniques, new technology, and discover about new resources that can help my  breakthroughs, and for the years since, I’ve stuck to this notion.

Devon Family History Society stand at WDYTYA? Live 2014
Devon Family History Society stand at WDYTYA? Live 2014

So it was a surprise to find myself sitting alongside the very helpful Terry Leaman – Vice-Chairman of the Devon Family History Society looking at a baptism list of my Babbage relatives.

Thankfully, my iPad has Reunion 10 (Mac only genealogy software) on it, so I was able to jump straight into the right tree and check my current research against the results – it matched – and with a few extra children in their records, and a completely new set of baptism dates for all of them to add to my research. A quick print-out and donation later, and I was off to sit down and add the data to my files.

#WDYTYAlive #tweetup

There were a few tweet-ups this year, and I managed to get in on one of them, and serendipitously right in the foreground of the commemorative photo. As ever, it was great to meet new people, finally meet some not-so-new Twitter/blogging chums, and to once again see friends made at previous shows.

Here’s one tweet-up photo from genealogist Luke Mouland..

and here’s another, from Geoff and Di Swinfield, starring yours truly (yes Sue, I’m REAL!):

If you’re intrigued as to quite what a ‘tweet-up’ is, or concerned about what people do at a ‘tweet-up’, then essentially it’s an impromptu small-scale flashmob, organised via Twitter, where people turn up to meet those sometimes anonymous/faceless Twitter users, or to meet up with Twitter users that you’ve got to know well. Tea, coffee, or alcohol is usually consumed.

Bonding over genealogy (and a hotdog)

Just prior to the tweet-up, I sat upstairs reading emails, when a retired man asked if he could sit at my table to eat (as there were no other free tables). Of course I didn’t refuse, and so we got chatting. He said that he’d travelled from Essex and that this was the second day for him, but his first ever visit to a show like this. He said he’d been meaning to come to something like this for ’20 years or more’, but just hadn’t found the right show.

He said he’d been enjoying the talks on day one, and was going to spend his second day looking around the stands.

We talked for about 15 minutes in all, about the WDYTYA? TV show (he isn’t a fan of celebrity culture, and we both kind of nodded in agreement), and we talked about all the great innovations, and how we’d both done our stints sifting through microfiche, film, registers, and transcripts for hours looking for names that were never there.

I’ve no idea who he was, but just for those 15 minutes, the world got a little bit smaller, and that wonderful ability of genealogy to bond people together, proved once again to have worked at ease without boundaries. I left him finishing off his hotdog, and made my way over to the IWM demo I’d booked….

Seeing new online genealogy tools

I arrived for my demo session of the new Lives Of The First World War website from the Imperial War Museum and DC Thomson Family History partnership. I’d already had my interest piqued on Day Two, thanks to Melanie Donnelly and Luke Smith’s keynote session, but this was great to finally see the new site up-close and have it explained to me, and to bounce questions.

I’m really keen to get using this site, and was also keen to find out about tagging people in a photo (which could be a war memorial), and also about the educational programme that I hope is sitting behind this site, and the opportunity for it to become a key resource in classrooms and universities.

I also met up with Steve Bardouille and Ola Dada from the team at Famberry – a relatively new, but fairly well established in the US company, that is specialising in creating secure spaces and tools for people to privately build family trees in collaboration with a closed or invite-only audience.

They’d been talking to a few different people at the show, and wanted to meet with me to find out what thoughts I had about what I’d want to see from their product as a family history researcher, as they are keen to grow their UK audience.

2015 at Olympia, London?

As the show had moved forward a weekday, there was no opportunity for Sunday visitors. This had let me to wondered whether the would-be Sunday visitors would turn up today, and it certainly seemed to be the case. It was much busier than Thursday and Friday, and at a guess, it was a busier Saturday than last year.

Day 3 of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Day 3 of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

Day One’s (Thursday) visitors seemed to be on par with this year’s (and previous) Friday visitors, so I’m not entirely sure that the change has done the show any favours (last year saw 13,941 visitors). Couple this with the end of the District Line rail service from Earls Court to Olympia during the week (it only ran today), and it feels like it’s getting difficult for the 3 day show to stay at Olympia.

After speaking with a couple of reliable sources on stands, I realised that there was no mention of next year’s show. Usually by now, we’ve heard that the following year’s show dates, and last year I remember seeing a stand selling tickets to this year’s show. But nothing.

Thrown into the mix, is the first Who Do You Think You Are? Live show in Glasgow in Scotland – running for a few days in August 2014.

Is there something going on? Is the show to end? Or are we to shift location? Hopefully not London Excel (I find it dreadful to get to – another show I go to, has just switched to there, so I’m no longer attending). Maybe, as rumour rumbles, Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 will be in Birmingham? We’ll just have to wait and see.

I thought i’d try to get the answer myself from the WDYTYALive team’s twitter account, but maybe they can’t confirm anything just yet. I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

In better news (well, for me at least), I found Olympia’s wifi was finally flawless. I can only hope that it’s the same quality/system at Earls Court 2, where I’m visiting on Tuesday.

So, in conclusion, I really enjoyed the show. I really enjoyed all three days. I enjoyed my hotel stay and beautiful Hyde Park ‘commute’. As ever the SOG workshop speakers were brilliant, and the mixture of stands really helped to fuel my time in-between the talks.

Thank you, to the team at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, to the team at the Society of Genealogists, and to the team at Olympia.

I hope 2015 brings us together again.

Day Two: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

Day Two of the 2014 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia.

After a late night at the annual FindMyPast dinner, i creaked out of bed and headed across a beautifully sunny (but assuringly still Winter) Hyde Park for the second of three days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014. I’m quite enjoying this ‘commute’!

Sunshine beams into Olympia for day two.
Sunshine beams into Olympia for day two.

I got to Olympia just a few minutes after opening, but there was no queue. A small queue remained at the cloakroom and the workshop ticket desk, but both were fast moving.

I went straight into my pre-planned session with Cassie Mercer from Inside History magazine, on ‘How to get your ancestor’s names in print’.

Her talk covered how to approach family history for magazines and newspapers, how to pitch to editors, and how to get writing.

She highlighted that when writing, you should always think about the reader. The audience. Who are they? Will they want to read this? She also advised that when writing an article, you should start with your best anecdote, and end on one too.

Do mention the War

After Cassie’s talk finished, I then spent time exploring the stands over in the new Military History section on the upper floor.

Audrey Collins at The National Archives stand at Who Do a You Think You Are? Live 2014
Audrey Collins talks ‘Discovery’ at The National Archives stand at Who Do a You Think You Are? Live 2014

Here I found The National Archives (with Audrey Collins talking about on-site ‘Discovery’), and the exciting looking Lives Of WW1 from the Imperial War Museum.

Lives of WW1 talk at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Lives of WW1 talk at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

I was fortunate to attend the Keynote from Lives Of The First World War with Melanie Donnelly and Luke Smith, expertly compared by Else Churchill and her roaming mics. They were able to explain the initial test conducted in 2011 on Flickr, and the subsequent development of the project to the now, 2-day old, showcased product.

It’s yet to be publicly launched – they quoted May 2014. It certainly looks like a great resource for creating what is essentially a memorial Facebook-style profile of people who lived and died in the First World War, complete with photos, audio, video, documents, stories, and community.

Eric Knowles at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Eric Knowles at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

Was pleased to spot the legendary Eric Knowles again, deep in conversation with a hopeful heirloom keeper.

I’m now off for a ‘tweet up’ at the Hand and Flower pub opposite the event venue…. so I best leave that out of today’s blog post!!