My Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 tickets arrive

The postman brings a reminder that some serious genealogy indulgence is right around the corner. Well, 83 miles West.

I’ve been so busy lately – for the last five months I’ve been helping my parents to clear my late uncle’s house, whilst also going through a house sale myself, and preparing to move in about 5 weeks time… but amidst all that chaos comes a treat, and I was reminded of this this morning when my postman made my letterbox rattle.

My Who Do You Think You Are? Live tickets have arrived.

One of my two Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 tickets.
One of my two Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 tickets.

This year I’ve opted to just attend 2 days – Thursday 6th and Friday 7th April. For the last few years I’ve done all 3 days, but as I need to be packing up, and paying solicitor bills(!!), I’ve opted for just 2.

The show is once again at NEC Birmingham, which I’ve found has continued to be just as enjoyable as when the show used to be in London.

Maurice Gleeson explains how to identify which bits of your tree give you your X and Y matches.
Maurice Gleeson explains how to identify which bits of your tree give you your X and Y matches at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016.

I’m not sure which talks I want to attend yet, but I’ll be browsing the timetable real soon – suspecting that I’ll be magnetised for my usual nerdfest over the latest DNA innovations in genealogy, and insights into newspaper archives.

I’ll be keeping an eye on twitter for more of the now traditional ‘tweetup’ flash events (that’s a meet up arranged via Twitter, usually involving a photo of the attendees – like the one below, which I’m probably going to get in trouble for digging up once again! 😀 ).

Are you going to WDYTYA? Live this year? What are you looking forward to seeing?

Andrew

A page-turning genealogy crime mystery

Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s ‘The America Ground’ is a satisfying genealogical puzzle, that I enjoyed untangling as I turned each page.

I’m a fair-weather reader. Slow, and driven by the habit of only reading in bed just before I doze off. Some years I will read as little as 1 or 2 books, others will see that closer to 6 a year. Still not a great number, but the time that I’d spend reading, I could spend researching my family tree.

So when author Nathan Dylan Goodwin asked me if he could send me a copy of his book ‘The America Ground‘ – a book about a genealogy puzzle – I agreed, warning him of my tardiness.

The book is the third adventure for Nathan’s ‘Forensic Genealogist’ character, Morton Farrier. I’ve not read the others, but I didn’t feel like this book relied on prior knowledge of him, or his earlier adventures.

Morton’s character is a professional family history researcher, and we find him enjoying the chance to research his own unclear ancestry, with him trying to locate his biological parents’ movements in 1970’s Sussex, England. This is soon interrupted by a painting and a mystery related to the Lovekin family that takes him back to the early 19th century and land disputes over a strip of land known as ‘The America Ground’.

This piece of land, which really does exist, anchors the historical characters, and Nathan writes a truly grimy and poverty-stricken existence for them as they cling to their livelihoods. The menace of the sea is as much of a menace as the authorities are in this story, and I could almost hear the unforgiving waves crashing as I read this at night.

I found the chapters alternating between modern and historical, not a new invention, but a welcome one that really helped to lure me through this story, as I too became tangled in the mysterious branches of the Lovekin tree, and Morton’s own mystery.

There’s plenty of familiar nods here for family historians – alongside the social history depictions there’s plenty of revelation BMD certificates, legal inheritance hurdles, puzzling parish register appearances, and an abrasive archives keeper in the form of Miss. Deidre Latimer (we’ve all known one).

angrylibrarian

There’s also plenty here for crime fans too, although as the historical and modern mystery boundaries began to blur towards the finale, I found the series of events that occur to Morton became a little bit too dramatic. The clever drawing together between the modern and historical characters to form the resolve really tied those time-scattered stories together perfectly.

The last few lines of the book deliver a completely unexpected cliff-hanger, which must surely be the opening point for the next book in the Morton Farrier series, and the next era for his own puzzling ancestry.

My 2017 Genealogy Resolutions

Happy New Year! What better time to set yourself a new challenge than the start of a new year. Here’s my 5 Genealogy Resolutions for 2017…

Having gone back and checked on the progress of my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions, it’s now time to set myself a new set for 2017.

The aim of these are to encourage me to complete a particular genealogy puzzle that has maybe been baffling me for a while, or to achieve something new. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn (!) that sometimes I get side-tracked by other branches of the family and end up researching those instead. This post acts as a reminder, as well as a way for me to set myself some challenges, so here goes:

1. Kill Mary Clarke

In the last few weeks I spent my 37th £1 on another certificate in a bid to kill off my 4x Great Grandmother, Mary Clarke, later Mary Bailey, but it was another miss. She’s out there still and I need to find her, in order to bring her life story – which includes prison and hard-labour for neglecting and abusing step-children, and numerous stints in workhouses, to a close. Last known address: Hartismere Workhouse, Suffolk in April 1881.

I’ve attempted to kill her off in previous genealogy resolution lists, but her invincibility irritates me.

2. Scan my BMD certificates

At the moment these are all carefully filed in date order in plastic sleeves in a lever-arch folder. There’s a lot. To better preserve these, and to make it easier for me to access them when I want to (if only to stop me accidentally buying the same ones twice), I want to scan them. As there’s a lot, I’m aiming to scan 50%.

3. Finish reading published family histories

For ages now, I’ve had Richard Benson‘s ‘The Valley‘ and Deborah Cohen‘s ‘Family Secrets‘ books on my to-read pile. The events of 2016 consumed me, and caused me not to really have time or the inclination to sit down and read much.

I did manage to read some of Deborah’s book, and I also read ‘The America Ground‘ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, but I want to read more, so that I can get a good feeling about how to approach writing my own family history book.

4. Find my uncle’s grave

In October 2016, as I walked from away from the huddle of mourners at my uncle’s open grave, my mother tells me that he was not the first uncle to be buried there. This confused me, as I’ve always known all of my aunts and uncles. They watched me grow up, and I’ve watched them grow older. But no.

There was another, which my aunt remembers (because she was a young teenager) but my father doesn’t (because he was only very little). Certificates swiftly revealed Malcolm’s short life of 6 weeks. His cleft lip and pneumonia made it impossible for him to thrive, and he died in hospital in 1958. With my aunt visiting the UK in June, we’ll be back to visit my uncle’s grave, and I want to be able to take them all to the spot where their little baby brother was buried.

5. Run a 4th AncestryDNA test

In my first conflict of conferences, in which I was going to feast on my twice yearly nerdfest in Brighton, i switched my mind and decided to return for just 2 days of WDYTYA? Live in 2017 (the Thursday and Friday). I even managed to bag a complete bargain on my usual hotel (£25 a night!). In recent years I’ve stuck around for 3 days, but in 2016, I found this stretched my enthusiasm a bit, and as someone who is a family historian and therefore doesn’t have a stand, have books to sign, nor do I run a series of talks/record videos or podcasts (hmm… maybe that’s 2018’s resolution list right there!), then 2 was best.

During this time I aim to acquire a 4th AncestryDNA kit – avoiding the stupid P&P fees again (honestly, Ancestry, also let these be sold through someone like Amazon – expanding your audience and getting them delivered for free!!), and hopefully at another show discount rate.

This 4th kit may go to my visiting Aunt in June (if she’s interested), or to my mother’s sister (my maternal aunt), my own sister, or if I’ve hit a dead end, then I may try to locate a descendant from one of my 2x Great Grandmother’s first husband’s siblings. My Great Grandfather was illegitimate, but my grandmother tells me that he WAS the first child. DNA is going to be the only way to check, so I need to find a match with someone who contains only his family’s DNA, and not my 2x Great Grandmother’s DNA, in a bid to prove or disprove once and for all.

 

So, there we go. I can think of a load more things I already want to do in 2017, but I like to stick to 5.

Do you ever set yourself Genealogy Resolutions? How have you got on with those? Or what might you set yourself a challenge for in 2017? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy New Year to you all – may your 2017 be happy and healthy throughout. Thanks once again for reading my blog.

Andrew

 

Those 2016 New Year Genealogy Resolutions

How did I do at keeping my 2016 New Year Genealogy Resolutions?

It’s time to take a look back at my 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions, and to see how I fared at keeping/completing them.

1. Kill Simpson Bishop

If anything, 2016 has a reputation as being a year full of death – the news is rarely empty of celebrity deaths, terror deaths, and as some readers may know, the last year has been one which has seen me attend 4 family funerals, out of 6 family deaths.

Despite this, Simpson Bishop has continued ‘to live’ on. The challenge for me is to identify where he may have gone to in order to find the death. Having established that he left the area after his oldest children (including my 3x Great Grandfather) had grown up and married, he heads north to Lancashire and re-marries in 1868. He’s alive at least until the early part of 1873, as his last known child John James Bishop is born in the December quarter of 1873. Simpson gets mentions in later records, but he doesn’t get hinted as being dead until his final wife says she’s a widow in 1901, although he’s not been living with her since at least 1881. His name also has numerous variations, including being preceded by the name James (mirroring his son, my ancestor, James Simpson Bishop).

There’s a Bishop emigration after the 1871 census to New York, with a feasible estimated birth date, although he’s noted as a Clergyman on the ship.. which I find a little unlikely, despite some of his children also heading overseas too.

Sadly, I failed this resolution in 2016. Nil points!

2. Read other written family histories

I’m a fair-weather reader – in that I can go the best part of a year without picking up a book, and sometimes I just can’t put one down.

'The Valley' by Richard Benson, and 'Family Secrets' by Deborah Cohen.
‘The Valley’ by Richard Benson, and ‘Family Secrets’ by Deborah Cohen.

I began reading Deborah Cohen’s Family Secrets (2013) book, but ended up being side-tracked by research, work, and other family issues. I hope to return to it soon, having realised it was one of my resolutions (oops).

I waded in to this resolution, and although life swept me away from these books, I think I can take a half point for this resolution.

3. Finish the website site-relaunch

I greatly underestimated the size of my familytreeuk.co.uk website when I wrote my resolution – estimating that there were about 130 hand-crafted profiles to reconfigure to a new design that was mobile-friendly (and therefore more favourable to users and search engines).

In reality, there are actually 82 surname ‘hubs’ and 378 individual profile pages to re-engineer.

I’ve plodded my way through these steadily, and have been able to re-launch 214 (57%) profiles, with only 168 to go. Whilst re-writing these profiles, I’ve often been re-scanning images, adding in extra information and references to other records that help to add flesh to the lives of these people. Obviously, that has flung me down research ‘rabbit holes’, and seen me add a few more profiles or go off on tangents.

I’m happy with this progress, so i’d like to think that I’ve half completed this resolution – so another half point.

4. Run another AncestryDNA test

I’m pleased to say that it took little effort to persuade my father to take an autosomal test, so I picked up a third test at 2016’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, and we ran the test in the May.

By July, we’d got the results – revealing that he isn’t very Great Briton after all and that he’s almost a quarter Irish, and a lot of Scandinavian. This amused and pleased him a lot – as he really is fascinated with the Vikings and their impact on the UK and Europe.

My Father's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

Resolution completed, so there’s a full-earned point!

5. Meet more relatives

Events as described in Resolution 1, meant that this turned out to be somewhat easy, despite the sad occasions that led to it happening.

I was so pleased to see some relatives again – like my father’s cousins, and also to meet (and in part, reunite) some of them too. I’m now in regular contact with some of them, which is a great feeling, and a nice ending to a sad year.

I was also really pleased to get to properly talk to my 1st Cousin, Twice Removed – the daughter of my Great Grandfather’s youngest sister. Despite this making her my Grandfather’s cousin, due to the large family above, she’s actually a year younger than my now-late uncle.

She was fascinated in family history, and talked to some length about a branch of our family tree. I know that her mother was a great source of photographs in the early years of my research (via my uncle), so I hope that I can talk to her more, and share the stories about our Martin and Giddings families in the new year.

I can safely say I completed this resolution, and earn another point.

The over-all score

So, all in all, I managed to score 3/5 for my 2016 Genealogy Resolutions.

To be honest, I forgot what some of these resolutions were, because I got carried away with research or website re-launching, or just life events that needed my attention. I like having these resolutions though, as it reminds me of challenges to do, and also gives me something to look back on – helping me to notice my own achievements.

Other things I managed to achieve in 2016 include:

  1. Re-joining The Newman Name Society
  2. Helping The Littleport Society by digitally cataloging hundreds of items in their archive…and digitise their audio interview archive that was stored on deteriorating cassette tape.
  3. Helping them to run two 200th Anniversary Riots events
  4. Rescued hundreds and scanned many family photographs – I now have 341 different relatives in my photo archive, across 565 photos, with a few hundred photos boxed up yet to scan, and many yet to identify people in.
  5. Used the General Register Office new searchable indexes to discover a terrible family tragedy that saw the infant deaths of 11 of the 12 children, and the first wife, of my 3x Great Grandfather, James Martin.

Did you have any genealogy resolutions for 2016? If so, how did you do? Let me know in the comments below.

Once again, thank you for reading,

Andrew

I’m dreaming of an old Christmas – just like the ones they used to know

For those of you who do Christmas, you’re unlikely to have missed this weekend’s diary fixture.

I’ve seen a lot of new (to me) photos in the last few months, and yet there’s very few that cover Christmas. I was wondering whether my family is unusual in this, in that Christmas time hasn’t been a time of year that the camera comes out.

I’ve found a few photos that I wanted to share – all showing my paternal family, and most showing at least one of those Grandparents in about the 1960s.

The first three photos, all black and white, capture a more playful side of my Grandparents, a side that in the brief time I knew them, I’d not really knowingly experienced as I was probably just too little to realise.

Percy Martin wearing a Christmas hat
Percy Martin wearing a Christmas hat. Photo: Andrew Martin

I’m not sure whose house this photo was taken in, but there’s a tiny glimpse of the tree over on the right, and the obligatory bowl of nuts just over his shoulder. And that TV… wow! Might need a special adaptor for the Playstation.

I love this next photo – it’s clearly an act of two halves…

Edna drinking tea with her friend. Photo: Andrew Martin
My grandmother Edna (right) drinking tea with her friend. Photo: Andrew Martin

but then…

Teacups down, and the real drinks come out.
Teacups down, and the real drinks come out. Photo: Andrew Martin

Again, I’ve no idea whose house this is, or whether they’re from the same Christmas as the first photo above, but they capture a playful side of my grandparents wonderfully.

The next two photos show my now late uncle in the family home, and the other shows my aunt, and were taken at the same event just moments apart, and probably from the same spot.

My uncle Norman (seated right) and cousins, all wearing unusual Christmas hats. Photo: Andrew Martin
My uncle Norman (seated right) and cousins, all wearing unusual Christmas hats. Photo: Andrew Martin
My aunt Beryl (seated right) wearing a somewhat bag-like Christmas hat. Photo: Andrew Martin.
My aunt Beryl (seated right) wearing a somewhat bag-like Christmas hat. Photo: Andrew Martin.

Interestingly, I have all three of the framed photos seen on the walls in these two photos.

I love spotting photos within photos and always rush to get the magnifying glass out when I spot them on the wall, to see whether I have already found them.. or whether they are tantalising glimpses of photos that might be out there in the family somewhere.

In this instance, there’s two of my father when he was a small child (I’ve got them still in those frames) and the other is of my Great Grandfather Herbert Martin who was killed in a train accident France on his way home from WWI.

I love this window into late 50’s/60’s style, and it’s fun to see relatives in a more casual mood – those weird looking Christmas paper hats make me chuckle a lot.

Oh, here’s one more, this time of my other uncle, but whether he’s on the tea because this is the morning after, or whether it’s because he was a Policeman and had to go on duty.. I’ve no idea.

My uncle Barrie with tea and another stupid hat. Photo: Andrew Martin
My uncle Barrie with tea and another stupid hat. Photo: Andrew Martin

Speaking of style and weird hats, it brings me to the time for me to close this little blog post, with my own ‘style’ and stupid hat, via a photo taken just minutes ago.

Have a lovely Christmas time, and thanks so much for reading this blog through 2016, and for your support and kind words during what’s been a tough 12 months.

May your 2017 be full of broken brick walls, and lofty new branches that are easily climbed.

Andrew

Andrew Martin beside his Christmas tree. Photo: Andrew Martin
Have a great Christmas. Photo: Andrew Martin

 

My Grandmother’s Century

In the midst of the First World War, on 11th November 1916, my Great Grandparents Alfred Newman and his wife Clara (née Gilbert) became parents again for the fifth time. This time they welcomed another daughter – Edna – my Grandmother, to their little Ely family.

Today, in 2016, marks what would have been her 100th birthday.

2016 has been a hard year, although I’m sure that 1916 was harder. However, partly as a result of the four family funerals I’ve attended so far this year, I’ve found myself in what was once her family home, and for the first time seeing the mass of photographs, keep-sake tins of bits and bobs, letters, a passport, and other ephemera.

My grandmother would certainly know hard times too – witnessing her older brother Wilfred being sent home to die in 1929 after exhaustive treatment in hospital for septicemia and tuberculosis when he was just 16yrs old, and hearing the news that her little brother Owen had died on a Japanese hospital ship after it was struck by a torpedo off Singapore. There would be more.

In particular, these photographs are letting me see my grandmother for the first time in her younger years. So far, the youngest photo I have found of her is when she was bridesmaid for her older sister Phyllis, and she stands beside her, and their brother, in 1935. This is my grandmother at 18/19yrs old – just a teenager – but to me, she’s unmistakeable.

Phyllis Newman and Sidney Fitch wedding group in Ely, 1935.
Phyllis Newman and Sidney Fitch at their wedding in Ely, 1935. My grandmother is second from right, with their brother Leslie Newman on the far right. Photo: Andrew Martin.

Within two years she would walk down the aisle with my grandfather Percy Martin, although perhaps somewhat hurriedly, as my uncle was born just 6 months later.

Their family grew in Little Downham, a village near Ely, but it wasn’t without difficulties.

Until a fortnight ago, as I had watched her oldest son’s (my uncle’s) coffin be lowered into his grave, and eventually turned to walk away, my mother tells me that this uncle was not the first to be buried there. This confuses me, but she relays the snippets of information that my aunt has told her and my father over the phone just days beforehand. There was another sibling – Malcolm – who my aunt (being his sister) believes is buried somewhere there too.

Edna and Percy, my grandparents in happier times. Probably Hunstanton during the 1950s.
Edna and Percy, my grandparents in happier times. Probably Hunstanton during the 1950s. Photo: Andrew Martin.

It was a shock. I thought I knew all my aunts and uncles, how had I never known about this one, and how had I not just spotted it anyway in the records? So I’ve set myself the challenge of identifying his burial plot. That’s in progress, and will need my detective work to find the cemetery plot map.

The next day, I searched through the birth and death indexes at freebmd, and sure enough, baby Malcolm Paul Martin was there. His birth in a neighbouring county hospital, his death in the hospital at the city of Cambridge – away from where the family’s other children had been born, and far outside of where I’d suspect him – if I’d ever suspected there was another child to find!

The sadness of spring 1958 was revealed.

This must have been so very hard on my grandparents, with my grandmother, now in her early 40s, giving birth prematurely to her final child. He hardly stood a chance – not just because he was premature (there’s no indication of by how much), but he would have been struggling to feed and grow strong due to having a cleft lip, and his weakness meant he stood no chance against the pneumonia. He was just 2 weeks old. My father hardly recalls him (as he was only young himself), my aunt remembers only a little more. My uncles never said a thing.

After the breakdown of her marriage to my grandfather in the early 1970s, she remained living with my uncle, and was already a doting grandmother to my aunt’s children, but clearly missed them dearly as they were based in the USA. As my sister, my UK-based cousins, and I came along, she proved to be just as doting to us.

I remember staying with her and my uncle on a few school holidays and playing with the kids next-door. I remember where my grandmother kept the sweets (in plain paper bags on the tray on the sideboard) which caused me to develop my light-footedness in aid of the liberation of countless aniseed balls.

Edna with Claire and Andrew, circa 1984.
Edna with my sister and I, c.1984. Seems the Christmas excitement turned me into a demonic child that year. Photo: Andrew Martin

I remember (and still have) a couple of the Christmas toys she saved up to buy me in my childhood – and I found a letter just last week whilst clearing my uncle’s house, where my mother is explaining to her what the toy was that she’d paid for in 1983. That was quite a lovely little find.

My parting memory of her is sleeping in a hospital bed. The same hospital where she’d had Malcolm almost 40 years earlier. I didn’t understand what was happening as an 8yr old in 1986, but my memories can take me right back there in an instant.

I wish we’d known each other for so much longer, but I cherish the memories of the time we shared.

Happy 100th Birthday, Grandma.

Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Three)

About 18 months ago, I undertook the Ancestry autosomal DNA test. I’d been completely sceptical of what use it would give me, but after seeing lots of talks from Ancestry, other DNA test providers, and genealogists at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in 2015, I decided to pick up a test for me and for my mother.

We both took the test and after about 6 weeks received our results.

At the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 show, I picked up a third test – again avoiding the expensive P&P cost, and this time for my father. He’d been interested when my mother and I received our results, and had enjoyed reading the historical analysis of how our DNA had gotten into such a mixture through invasion, war, and trade routes.

After dribbling into the AncestryDNA tube just before lunch (in a bid to avoid me seem to descend from a ham and mustard sandwich!), I posted it off.

My parents are Daily Mail newspaper readers. This irritates me a lot, as it is somewhat of a toxic, bigoted, racist, baby-boomer brain-washer (and i’m being polite here), so their news always comes with poorly written and sensational stories that show people of other countries, but mostly Eastern Europe, in a truly horrific way. The only justice in their newspaper habit is that the paper either gets used to light fires, or to line their cat litter tray.

My mother’s DNA result gave her a 1% Eastern European, and 2% Finn and Russian DNA ethnicity, which amused me endlessly, given her newspaper reading habits.

Mother's AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result in Lego
My Mother’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result.

I didn’t inherit the Eastern European DNA, but I did benefit from the Finn and Russian.

My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate in Lego
My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate

But what might my father have?

I received the results.

My father’s AncestryDNA result

I picked up the phone, taught my mother how to go hands-free, and then said (in Daily Mail language) ‘Mother, you’ve only gone and married a bloody foreigner’ – we all laughed.

My father, who has an affinity with Scotland (but no known ancestral connection), actually turned out to be just 46% Great Briton, and yet 24% Irish. Compared to my 61% GB and my mother’s 68% GB, that’s quite a difference.

My Father's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

My father was somewhat pleased to see that Ireland (24%) and Scandinavia (19%) made up for where his GB DNA had decreased. He feels even more Celt/Viking than ever, even if I’ve yet to find any ancestor with a hint of Irish ancestry in them. My only suspicions might be our Newman (which seems more German to me), Tingey (which seems more French to me), or Clarke ancestors.

My Mother’s DNA remains the most varied, with 7 ethnicities estimated (and they are estimates, remember).

What you can see above, courtesy of my Lego depictions of the three of us, is that I dodged Iberian Peninsula DNA despite it being present in my mother (5%) and my father (3%).

My sister – who has not been tested – has a darker complexion to me, so maybe Iberia plays more of a role in her DNA, or maybe the Italian/Greek? Obviously, she could easily have none of those ethnicities at all – as it’s completely a 50/50 gamble as to what DNA you inherit, and which ones fall by the way-side.

My (decreasing) blond hair, and my gingery beard suggests that I’m a carrier of the red hair gene, and science has found that it has a high frequency in Ireland and Scotland. Maybe this suggests that I have inherited that from my father’s DNA. It’s also clear that I inherited my 4% Italian/Greek ethnicity from my father (his was 3%).

My mother’s high Western European DNA ethnicity (13%), and my father’s lower 5%, played little role in my DNA, which came as a surprise to me, as I’d have guessed that I had some Germanic DNA via my Moden or Gothard ancestors.

What next?

I could try to test some other relatives – they’re certainly curious, but the more distant I get in a bid to see results, the more ‘other’ DNA is being introduced via non-biological Uncles and Aunts.

I was pleased to see Ancestry match me up with a paternal second cousin, once removed, who I already knew their position of in my tree, but had never had contact with before. There’s also a few more distant cousins emerging, which is allowing me to fill in some contemporary generations from distant relatives.

The whole DNA testing exercise has been interesting for us as a family, and it’s a great conversation piece. I’m guessing my parents are having a great time telling their friends about what they’ve discovered. It’s certainly nice to find people who have a link to you, although there’s so many test results that match, and yet the users don’t have trees, or they never reply.

I guess to some degree, it’s a bit of a genetic tourism. Pay > Wait > Oh wow, i’m XYZ > Done.

I think I’ll keep my mind open, and see who else I can cajole into being tested (hopefully either my maternal aunt, or my sister).

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

Cambridgeshire Family and Local History Fair 2016

The Cambridgeshire Family and Local History fair returns for 2016!

The Cambridgeshire Family History Society’s Family and Local History Fair returns on Saturday 22nd October 2016.

Once again, the Glebe Primary School in Girton, on the North West of Cambridge, plays host to this genealogy feast day with doors opening 10am until 4pm, and as usual it’s free admission and free parking!

Expert genealogy and history talks

There’s a great line-up of guest speakers at this year’s fair, and it’s going to be very tempting to stay all day! These talks aren’t free, but are usually well worth their £2 fee:

  • 10:30 – Robert Parker: Our Ancestors 1939-1945
  • 12 noon – Mike Petty: Reflections on Eight Decades researching Cambridge
  • 13:30 – Myko Clelland: Making the most of FindMyPast
  • 15:00 – Gill Blanchard: Behind the scenes of Who Do You Think You Are?
The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair. Photo: Andrew Martin
The Cambridgeshire Family History Fair. Photo: Andrew Martin

I’ll be making my shopping wish list up in the next few weeks, so that I can peruse the trade and society stands without accidentally buying duplicates (like i have done with a few certificates lately, oops!).

As the fair gets ever closer, check out the Cambridgeshire Family History Society website for the latest info.

Day Two: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

As the sun sets on Day Two of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016, I take a look at some of my favourite bits.

Having walked more than 10,000 steps around Day Two of Who Do You Think You Are? Live, I’m now sat in my hotel with my feet up as we head towards the finale of this, the show’s 10th Anniversary year.

As with Day One, I threw myself into the DNA themed talks again, and enjoyed some great sessions from Maurice Gleeson who gave a fascinating guide at how to identify which bits of your family are giving you which bits of DNA, and in turn help you work out where your DNA matches match up with you.

Maurice Gleeson explains how to identify which bits of your tree give you your X and Y matches.
Maurice Gleeson explains how to identify which bits of your tree give you your X and Y matches.

Later on, I returned to listen to John Reid talk about the case of Richard III and how research led to a 99.9994% certainty that the skeleton was the former king.

John Reid examines the evidence in the Richard III case.
John Reid examines the evidence in the Richard III case.

Each step in his talk presented the varying pieces of evidence, at which point he’d ask if we believed it was the dead king without doubt. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t until mt-DNA that the audience felt reassured that the body wasn’t just someone random. John made the great point that ‘DNA is not a trump card’, and emphasised that it’s just another source to examine and consider.

As a tech nerd, who builds websites and loves using tech to tell stories, a talk titled Technologies For Timelines led me to stand for a few minutes in the morning for my £3 workshop ticket.

Ron Arons talked impartially about a wide range of online tools and desktop software that can be used to turn family history data into interesting interactive content – maps, timelines, and map timelines hybrids.  He also covered a few of the pros and cons too.

Speaking of timelines, I bumped into Steve Bardouille  from the team at Famberry, who showed me their latest demo.

Famberry logo

The site’s interface has changed somewhat since I last saw it, with a load of customisation features for users, and a really slick timeline and tree building feature.

I was also really excited to see what looks like a new idea to reach the geneasphere – pulling in the data from unclaimed estates, and looking for matches.

FamilySearch giving talks on search at their stand.
FamilySearch giving talks on search at their stand.

I returned to the Society of Genealogists section, to find the Lincolnshire Family History Society, and with my iPad to hand carrying my synced Reunion11 tree, the team on the stand were exceptionally helpful and kindly spent time with me to see if I could extend my Watson family tree knowledge. I came away with an index CD for records covering the parish of Fleet and its neighbours, and a handful of leaflets.

Once again, the show allowed me to meet and catch up with geneafriends old and new (or perhaps longstanding and recent is better), and I look forward to tomorrow’s final part of the WDYTYA? Live 2016 trilogy.

Tips for tomorrow:

  1. There were plenty of train delays for arrivals coming in from Birmingham New Street, and a few from Coventry. If you’re coming by train, give yourself plenty of time if you’ve paid for your workshop tickets already. In theory, delays tomorrow could be horrific given the potential visitor levels for a weekend day.
  2. The Breakfast Sandwich (bacon and fried egg – yum!) from the café is a great set-up for a busy morning, but have a wander around the NEC complex as there’s plenty of less busy and competitive food outlets…including a quiet Starbucks down some stairs.
  3. The wifi is unreliable, but I was able to find the battery-eating 4G. If you’re hungry for wifi, simply step out of Hall 2 (re-entry is permitted with a hand-stamp).. there’s loads of stable, powerful, free wifi there.
  4. Look out for deals – Pen & Sword Books had some great deals on today.
  5. If you’re a Twitter user (follow me on @familytreeuk) then look out for tweets with #wdytyalive and #tweetup – giving you opportunities to meet fellow genea-nerds just like you, over a coffee in real life.

Until tomorrow, happy tree surgery!

Andrew

Day One: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

Day One of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 is over…. So what is this year’s show like?

The first of the three days of the 2016 Who Do You Think You Are? Live (or WDYTYALive to cut it short) show in Birmingham has passed, and day 2 is galloping towards us…

Ask the Experts - kind of like speed dating for genealogy answers.
Ask the Experts – kind of like speed dating for genealogy answers.

Now into its second year at the NEC, the show has certainly made its home here, and the days of the two floor Olympia are now heading further into my foggy reminiscence.

This is also the 10th Anniversary show, not that you can tell yet, but whilst it took me a few years to start attending, the years have seemingly flown by.

As I wandered around today, I got the feeling that maybe the stands were a little more spread out, or maybe simply less imposing. It felt like there was plenty of space to move around, and it was pretty easy to get up close to talk to people or browse products.

MyHeritage stand at WDYTYALive 2016
MyHeritage stand at WDYTYALive 2016

Gone is the exciting 1939 themed café that marked Find My Past’s launch of the 1939 Register, and the number of WWI themed stands seemed to have reduced a little. However, the formation of the Education Zone (including a lecture theatre, and close-up WWI artefacts) feels like a great addition to the show.

WW1 in the education zone
WW1 in the education zone

Ancestry, the show’s sponsor, dominates the entrance again with what feels like a stand that’s twice the size of last year. This year they are still showcasing their DNA autosomal test (yeah, I bought another one), and this time they’re offering it at £59 – that’s abt 40% off and cheaper than last year (£70 I think).

DNA is still a hugely hot topic, and there’s plenty of other stands offering kits and advice on this subject. There’s also a specific DNA lecture theatre, covering a range of topics and a range of levels.

 

Prof. Mark Jobling of University of Leicester talks demographic history.
Prof. Mark Jobling of University of Leicester talks demographic history.

Having discovered what appears to be my surprise Jewish ancestor, I had plans to seek advice today – and the team at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain stand, who were able to give me a few pointers as to where I could seek more records to help unravel the mystery.

It was also great to see what the Societies were offering, and I made sure that I visited my home teams of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire to see what they had to offer.

Myko Clelland (FindMyPast), presenting in the Education Zone.
Myko Clelland (FindMyPast), presenting in the Education Zone.

There’s always so much to take in with the societies, because they produce such a wide range of materials or publish some fantastically niche record sets of which some are so specific and small scale that the larger companies would never find them financially viable. You also get to speak with people with that specific local knowledge – go see them!

Couple of down sides this year:

  1. The wifi was very unstable and mostly useless. In previous years it’s worked a treat.
  2. There was a theft of a purse and a camera, so it’s a reminder to keep your valuables close to you at all times

On the up side this year:

  1. The show is in exactly the same place as last year.
  2. There’s some great offers on this year, so have a good browse before you commit.
  3. There’s a beautiful Spitfire parked up at the back of the hall. I heard Else Churchill (Society of Genealogists) landed it there herself.