Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012

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.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012
Day 2 (25th Feb 2012) – it’s impossible to take a photo that shows the full scale of WDYTYA Live.

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).

Else Churchill introduces the panel
Else Churchill (far left) introducing the panel of the Keynote Workshop: ‘Breaking The Barriers with Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks’.

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.

If you’ve never heard of Lisa before, check out her free podcasts on iTunes!

Societies

Titanic themed FindMyPast theatre
FindMyPast might be bigger, but Family History Societies are equally essential in your research.

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!

Spotted!

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.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011

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.

I was pleased to look out across the hall to see some very familiar brands – of course the Who Do You Think You Are? magazine team were there, but also Ancestry.co.uk, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, Society of Genealogists, and a fantastic Victorian set, complete with staff in period costume belonging to Genes Reunited.

Amongst them were an array of other organisations that provide information on DNA testing, Caribbean ancestry, the fantastic Cassini Maps team and many many others.

The Society of Genealogists had paved the way for a plethora of local family history societies to hold stands there too – I was pleased to stumble across my chums Cambridgeshire Family History Society (CFHS) and Parish Chest – both of whom I regularly shop with.

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.

FREE: Family History guide and cd-rom with The Telegraph

Free Family History step-by-step guide and CD-rom inside every copy of The Telegraph on 19th and 20th February 2011.

In association with Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, The Telegraph are giving away a step-by-step Family Tree guide and CD-rom, that will help you to trace your ancestors in only 14 days. Find out more about these great gifts at The Telegraph website.

Free Family History guide with The Telegraph

If that’s not enough, the fifth Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE event takes place at London’s Olympia between 25th and 27th February. I’m going to be going along on Friday 25th in a bid to catch talks by Monty Don and Tony Robinson.