The Genealogy Show 2019

Day One of the first ever The Genealogy Show at the NEC BIrmingham has ended, but what is the show like? Well, here’s my review…

I’ve been looking forward to The Genealogy Show for ages now – just one of the family history-focused UK events to step into the void left by Who Do You Think You Are? Live as it closed its doors in 2017.

It’s only a few weeks since Family Tree Live at London’s Alexandra Palace, and this time I’ve headed back to the NEC Birmingham – familiar territory for those who ventured to the latter WDYTYA? Live shows.

The lush green carpet welcomes you into the venue, a refreshing positive colour and one that befits those lofty boughs that form our tree obsession. Straight away you’re met by the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine team and the team at LivingDNA on their stands. A quick glance beyond their welcoming faces shows you that the “big two” aren’t present here – with no dominating giant Ancestry stand, or elaborately themed FindMyPast stand. That’s fine… we know who those two companies are, and where to find them (maybe RootsTech?). I’m wondering how many people are drawn to these events because they want to see them specifically.

Beyond these first two welcoming stands is a spacious hall – not quite the size of WDYTYA Live was – probably about 2/3rds the size. However, the space is welcome, and it’s comfortably filled with our friendly local history societies, and smaller family history related company stands.

The Twiggli Trees show stand
The Twiggli Trees stand was my favourite – bright, colourful, and nice lighting.

Some familiar friends are here – MyHeritage, the Railway Museum, FIBIS, the National Library Of Wales, and the GOONS. Pen & Sword, and stands with genealogy supplies are missing, which is a shame as they usually run some great deals (particularly on the final days of these kind of events).

The FIBIS stand
The FIBIS stand is always a delight to see – the team are so friendly and helpful.

Theres a lot of chairs, perfect for resting those feet (put your pedometers on, you’ll be surprised), or for those wanting to rummage through notebooks, or digest the arrival of a new piece of information or research strategy.

An Experts section is on the left as you come in, perhaps a little enclosed and therefore a bit hidden (half-height screens would have been better) but the free programme (yay!) has a handy floorplan to help you find it, and the lecture arenas, which are also enclosed – so no sneaky listening in!

The Photo Alchemist at The Genealogy Show
The Photo Alchemist was getting plenty of interest in photo restoration and colouring.

If you’re here for a wander round, hoping for inspiration you might not find enough for a whole day, but if you’re here to see a lecture (you can still buy tickets on the door), or to get help from the society stands or experts, then I think you’re going to have a great time.

Behind the scenes of a genealogy sleuth

I pre-booked two lectures for Friday – the first being author Nathan Dylan Goodwin talking on ‘Novelising Intrigues In Genealogy’, and this was a fascinating behind the scenes insight into how Nathan got hooked on genealogy.

Nathan Dylan Goodwin at The Genealogy Show
Nathan Dylan Goodwin talking about how he handles crimes that span history.

Like me and many, he got hooked on it as a young teen, and he explained how that inspired him to begin writing, eventually leading to what is now a highly successful genealogy crime series starring character sleuth Morton Farrier including books Hiding The Past, and The America Ground. His son now has a double-glazed tree-house, so things must be doing alright!

Inspiration for “the book”

In the afternoon I sat in on Gill Blanchard’s talk on ‘Writing Your Family History’ not least because I’ve aspired to write “the book” since my first Genealogy Resolutions way back in 2013… and still haven’t.

Gill Blanchard at The Genealogy Show
Gill Blanchard got us all thinking about the questions we need to consider answering when writing.

I’ve been long overdue to see Gill talk, as I have 2-3 of her books, as she’s written on Cambridgeshire and Norfolk researching, house history, and crucially, writing your family history. I found this fascinating, with tons of practical advice on how to avoid issues and how to prepare, and there was a contrast in writing approach to Nathan – with Gill writing in pieces, Nathan writing in order. I suspect I’ll be like Gill… but with about a billion post-it’s and word files.

Day Two will see me attending the lecture from Michelle Leonard on ‘How To Make The Most Of Your Autosomal DNA Test’

In my experience, family history is one of the most friendliest hobbies I’ve ever experienced, and it’s a pleasure to see old friends and make new ones at these events.

It was great to see lots of family history societies attending the show, which for many was the second large event in just a few weeks. As ever, they were helpful and friendly, and it was nice to hear how they were finding the show. I even caved and bought another data CD from my ‘home team’ the Cambridgeshire Family History Society, with a nice show discount too!

Shopping at a Family history society stand
There’s always a new set of records or a bargain to be found!

While I don’t know if there’s enough space for Family Tree Live AND The Genealogy Show to both survive the long term, I’m simply pleased that they’re having a good damn go at it in these post-WDYTYA? Live years.

So far, I think I’m enjoying the show a little more than I did Family Tree Live, but we’ll see how day 2 goes. So, I’ll be back for Saturday, and hope to see lots of you there.

Thanks for reading, and happy tree surgery!

Andrew

 

 

A Family Tree Live 2019 review

A review of the first ever Family Tree Live show at London.

Today was the first day of the first ever Family Tree Live show at Alexandra Palace in London.

The show is what felt to me like the first of the three contenders to being the ‘replacement’ for the now defunct Who Do You Think You Are? Live annual show that closed its doors after a long run in London and later in Birmingham.

For me, the journey to Alexandra Palace has a couple of changes that I needed to make on my train journey, rather than my direct route. On my trip today I befriended a traveling companion at Stevenage, when a fellow family historian from Lincoln asked me if it was the train to Welwyn. Discovering our same destination, we stuck together and talked about research and events we’d been to in the past. This helped my journey pass quite nicely, although it’s little more than an hour in total, ending with a nice walk up the hill along the edge of Alexandra Park to the venue. I think there’s a free shuttle bus.

The entrance is on the far side of the building, so if you’re attending tomorrow (Saturday 27th April), then expect to walk around the pretty Victorian facade, unless it’s raining.

Family Tree Live 2019 at Alexandra Palace.
Family Tree Live 2019 at Alexandra Palace.

Once in, get your printed ticket ready and you can make your way through to the hall, past a myriad of signs telling you to not take photos or film things without specific permission of the exhibitors. Ouch.

Stands, Space, and Seats

The first thing I noticed once into the exhibition hall was that there was plenty of space between the stands – a welcome addition after what had at times been a bit of a squeeze between stands at WDYTYA? Live. I arrived at about 10am and the show steadily increased in visitors over the next hour.

With this being a Friday, it’s hard to judge success, as many people may not have taken a day off work to attend. Fingers crossed that Saturday is a roaring success.

Like other shows, there were a large number of Societies with stalls – these are great for shopping some county data collections, or asking one of their stand experts for advice on county-level sources.

I headed over to the Family Tree DNA theatre and caught Donna Rutherford‘s talk on getting more out of an autosomal DNA test. Clearly a popular choice as I stood with others at the back.

Donna Rutherford at Family Tree Live 2019
Donna Rutherford talked about how to get more out of your autosomal DNA test results.

Donna’s talk gave me plenty of things to think about in how to best use the data in my matches, but also ideas on what level of cM to draw a line after and put on the back-burner. I’ll definitely go looking for the extra tagging in AncestryDNA to help me manage these matches as I have 6 tests, and 1 more to go.

Speaking of DNA tests, whilst there were plenty of talks, the big WDYTYA? Live test company, Ancestry were not present. FindMyPast weren’t either. Whilst this might be a disappointment for many (if only because you’re looking for more cheap test kits or subscription deals to buy), it did mean that other companies like MyHeritage, LivingDNA, and FamilyTreeDNA had a chance to shine instead, and I saw plenty of people at these stands.

I spent some time at the Railway Work, Life & Death Project stand, as they’re busy documenting railway accidents. Sadly, my Gt x3 Grandfather, James Martin‘s gruesome death at Black Bank, Cambridgeshire in 1868 was just a little bit outside of their remit, but I’ll be ready to hand over information if they ever get into the 1860s.

I also checked in on my annual genealogy show chums, Paul and Pam, to see how Name and Place is getting on. It looks like their exciting new project is about to be released into the wild, that will help researchers looking for data and information on the people in specific places – a kind of one-name study and one-place study resource. There also seemed to be a really nice link in with Ancestry for census images as supportive resources. Can’t wait to see it live!

The food was somewhat disappointing at the venue, with not a particularly great choice. The staff seemed to be somewhat in trauma when I tried to buy a tea. With Alexandra Palace being up on top of a hill, there’s not very much nearby, so apart from walking out of the hall and going to the venue restaurant, you’re stuck with a pair of sandwich and cake stalls, with tea and coffee.

I booked my show ticket online, which was really easy, but afterwards I realised that I needed to book my talk/workshop tickets too – and this was a separate system (of if it wasn’t, it wasn’t clear there were other tickets to buy when buying the main ticket), so I was left with chance as to which talks I could attend.

Family Tree Live showguide 2019
You get a free showguide for Family Tree Live as you walk in.

The free show guide revealed that nearly all of the Workshops were sold out at the time of print – these certainly looked busy, and for those that I spoke to who’d run one or attended one, they sounded like they were really useful.

The AGRA experts advice area was busy as usual, and I saw many familiar faces at tables giving advice. This is kind of speed-dating for family historians, with each expert offering practical advice on the visitor’s genealogy questions.

I also headed over to the The Postal Museum to talk about The Post Office Rifles, and I also stopped at the newly re-branded Family History Federation stand to chat to them about their work. I was delighted to be given this amusing badge, which I wore on the train home to much concern from my fellow passengers.

i seek dead people badge
The Family History Federation gave me this great badge!

Family Reunions

I’ve never been to a family reunion, but having been a family historian for… ugh… 24 years now (how the hell did that happen?)… perhaps everyone has been waiting for me to do it.

Having been going to shows like this for 10+ years, you get to meet up with familiar faces and meet new ones, and so whilst I saw my almost-as-distant-as-it-can-get relative Amelia Bennett, I also happened to sit down at a bench in the Village Green area opposite a woman reading through her notes.

She looked up at me, asked me if I was Martin.. and then introduced herself – as it turns out that she is a maternal cousin of mine that I’ve never met before. She recognised me as she’s a blog reader here and we’ve messaged each other before. I knew she’d be going, but this stroke of luck brought us together. We spent some time comparing tree notes on our mutual ancestor (my before heading off to our respective talks.  She’ll be starting her own blog soon 😉

Royal Visitor

It was a delight to see that the show even had a royal visitor – yes, Her Majesty the Queen and Empress of India was present and, if I dare to say, was looking a very young and spritely 199 years old!

 

Overall

I only booked one day, but I’m curious as to how Saturday will fare. With 3 shows to pick from this year, I wonder which one the family historian (as opposed to the professionals) will choose to go to most.

I liked the ticket price for this show – it’s the cheapest (RootsTech’s UK debut is by far the most expensive), so that’s a positive, but it also maybe means it’s the smallest. However, the quality of the Society stands is unrivalled, as these local groups know their topic inside out.

The missing FindMyPast and Ancestry stands allowed others to shine (FamilySearch seemed the biggest), but I wonder if this might disappoint those attracted to genealogy by the tantalising TV adverts.

The atmosphere was friendly and positive, the venue surroundings were pretty, but a few more stands, and menu choices would really help this show out. I’d recommend expanding the Village Green idea (which I loved), and perhaps a few smaller short talk spots.

  • Favourite part: Meeting my fifth cousin, twice removed.
  • Least favourite part: Chips or sad sandwich decision process.
  • Overall, 3 / 5, and would consider visiting again next year.

What Do You Think We’ll Do Now? Live 2018

With the 2018 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show dead and buried, have we hit a brickwall with large UK genealogy events?

Shortly after the 2017 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show ended at the Birmingham NEC, and the last genealogist was gently nudged out of the venue, the doors locked. Forever. Then the news began to trickle through saying that the much-loved live show would not be returning.

For me, this was sad news, having easily recovered from the shift from London’s Olympia just a few years before, I was sad to not be going to the next one. I’d attended several in it’s ten year history of shows.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2018

I’m trying to think what a WDYTYA? Live 2018 show would look like in all but name.

Day One of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
The two-floor Who Do You Think You Are? Live at London Olympia in 2014.

What makes me attend the show? What brings the thousands of attendees from across the country and the globe (yes, globe!) to tread the NEC’s bright blue carpets?

News of the cancellation has been missing from the Who Do You Think You Are? Live team themselves, almost as if one day they were working and suddenly all locked out.

Even the show’s official website still talks about how they’ll be returning for their 11th show, and that they “invite you to explore highlights from previous shows, browse our extensive photo galleries and get an idea of what is in store for 2018”.

You have to turn to the affiliated magazine to find out why the show has been cancelled – owners Immediate Media (who took over in 2011), have found the show has been making a loss.

What could replace WDYTYA? Live?

If there’s to be a replacement in 2018, then organisers are surely to already be working hard to plan it – and maybe they are. A huge show like Who Do You Think You Are? Live takes many months to organise – and even something half the size would be no mean feat.

Debbie Kennett about to demystify autosomal DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017.
Debbie Kennett about to demystify autosomal DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017.

In the Autumn edition of the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Journal, a tantalising note can be read: “We understand that there are proposals are being made for a new event format at a new location. … no firm details as yet we’ll keep you posted..“. Given that this Society also knew about the Birmingham switch ahead of the curve, maybe their inside information is something to get excited about?

So what would get me out of my house, travelling many miles, staying in a hotel, and spending 3 days walking around talking, thinking, watching, listening, and eating genealogy?

For me, the essential stuff (in no particular order) is:

  1. Venue – an easily accessible venue, with good facilities. I remember there being great concern from stand-holders and attendees alike when I seemingly broke the news online in April 2014.
  2. Brands – 2017 saw those DNA tests at their most competitively priced, and there was a fair range of brands – small and large. A few charities, and age-group-targeted-clothing had crept in (hopefully you know what I mean!), but if they’re in the minority and willing to pay for a stand, then okay.
  3. Experts – I’m not particularly worried about celebrity talks. I’d rather hear talks by reputable family history/genealogy/DNA/Archives experts, who have put the hours in, felt the pain, and achieved their own results.
  4. Social spaces – One of the biggest things that kept me coming back to the show was how it would draw a large number of people, and that included those I’d grown to know – initially via twitter or this blog – but then being able to call the friends too – even a slightly-convoluted relative was met there (hey, Amelia!). The Tweet-ups were also good fun.
  5. Societies – The Society of Genealogists helped ensure that the local history societies had a presence and a voice at the show. It was always a fantastic opportunity to get to talk from the experts on their stands – they could tell me about record sets, and all the kinds of things that only local historians know about the area they live and research.
  6. Wifi – As a family historian, and an event attendee, I need wifi. That might be to look things up, tweet a friend, or upload an image. Sometimes the availability has been scarce, leaving suspicious groups of family historians to gather in the corner of the hall. If you want to amplify an event to a wider audience who might then come along, or feel envious and come next time, then allow attendees to do it from within the event, rather than pushing them outside or to a cafe to do it – that gives them a reason not to return.

Without the 2018 show in my calendar, there’s a big gap that I feel I need to fill with something similar. I’ve no intention to head over to RootsTech in the US – as someone with paternal and maternal ancestors who rarely strayed from the same 30 mile radius for the best part of 450 years, heading over to the US to hear about American records, feels like it’s not a valid reason. I know a few people who have been, but I don’t think that it would be worth it for me.

One of my favourite bits from RootsTech though is definitely the video interview booth – and wished this had been mirrored at WDYTYA? Live, again helping the show to reach further. Or that someone like StoryCorps had made it into the show (or at least the UK).

Regardless of what we do or don’t get in 2018, I am going to miss not attending the show – the whole experience: from my hotel in Coventry and leisurely train ride to the NEC each day, through to the experts on the society stands, and the meeting of old friends.

My local county family history society, who normally run a genealogy event in September each year, are seemingly not doing so this year, and there’s no sign yet of next April’s ‘Big Family History Fair’ held by my district family history society.

One of the halls at The Big Family History Fair 2012, St Ives.
Even my local family history societies seem a bit quiet on the big event-front.

One of the most intriguing sounding events appearing in 2018 seems to be Secret Lives – a collaboration between Society of Genealogists, AGRA, GOONS, and The Halstead Trust.

The FindMyPast 1939 Tea Room
The FindMyPast 1939 Tea Room at Who Do You Think You Are? Live.

What do you think a Who Do You Think You Are? Live-like event should be like, or do you think they’ve run their last? What will you miss about the show? Are you going to any alternative genealogy events instead? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy tree surgery!

Andrew

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017

What have the first 2/3rds of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 been like? Here’s my findings..

This year I decided that I would visit the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live show for just two days, rather than three. For the last few years I’ve done the full show, but with lots of other things competing for my time at the moment – packing up my house, and moving in 2 weeks time, and a load of pots and trays of seedlings in need of my attention (see my gardening blog), I’m pre-occupied.

It was great to get to meet up with some familiar faces – friends who i’ve made from my previous visits, or who I’ve got to know via Twitter conversations and the likes of  #AncestryHour. It’s also great to meet with some new faces too, and that includes companies.

As soon as you step into WDYTYA? Live, you can see exactly who the big sponsor is – Ancestry. Their stand seems to get larger each year, in floorspace and height. Still, it’s packed with information-hungry researchers all looking to smash through a brick wall with the help of their research team.

Ancestry show stand at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017
Ancestry with their three-pitch stand. Just how much bigger can they get?

Ancestry’s big sell here is obviously their AncestryDNA kit, and even if you somehow missed this whopping great big stand, you’d soon be looking for them as their tests are a hot topic of the many talks in the orbiting theatres.

Once again they had their own mini theatre to help curious family historians to learn more about autowotzits and mitre comicals or something like that.  If only more test-takers would add family trees to Ancestry!!

AncestryDNA talk at WDYTYALive 2017
AncestryDNA’s stand includes a mini theatre where you can learn how the test works, and how to crunch the data.

I swung by the FamilySearch stand, which like previous years seemed very busy, and also like last year, was running series of small demos and tutorials. I managed to join the back of a group of people watching a demo of researching my beloved 1851 census.

FamilySearch research tutorials.
FamilySearch’s tutorials are free and on their stands.

My favourite talk by far on the 2 days was Debbie Kennett‘s talk ‘Autosomal DNA demystified‘. I’ve keenly followed Debbie’s articles and advice on DNA over the year, and so I knew that I’d be a fool to miss this. Her talk clearly lead us into the topic of DNA, the types of tests that are out there – including their benefits and shortfalls – and then led us through how to analyse the data.

Debbie Kennett about to demystify autosomal DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017.
Debbie Kennett about to demystify autosomal DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017.

She also reminded us that whilst DNA is the ‘in’ thing right now (and her stage was surrounded by DNA testing companies), that you should go into it and prepare for the unexpected.

I always find Debbie’s advice to be very clear, even when it’s technical, and her approach to advice always feels impartial. There’s so many companies out there vying for your DNA test money, but it’s hard to pick out what each one can give and how they compare. Debbie seems to be the voice who talks about this.

DNA test price war?

Stand of the show clearly goes to LivingDNA – which really stood out with a big screen and swish stand.

Living DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017
Living DNA had a huge screen stand, and they really stood out as the fresh, new, sparkly attraction.

Living DNA are currently running a test for me, so I hope to report back on this in the near future.

There was definitely what seemed like a price war on this year, with AncestryDNA having slashed their usual price of £79 (excluding that annoying £20 P&P) to £49 (i bought 3 more), and with FamilyTreeDNA pitching at £40, and with newbies LivingDNA pitching at £99. Other tests were also available, but I didn’t spot the prices.

I wondered whether the DNA Test ‘price war’ simply indicates that the main players have finally recouped their product development and marketing budgets, meaning they can now discount their tests, mixed with the surge of competitors making the price more volatile. It feels a bit like it’s a race to the bottom (so to speak), but I think there’s also a need to be clearer about the differences between the tests.

I was really pleased to see that Dr Turi King was back at the show, talking about the Richard III case. I first saw her (as a VIP!!) back in 2013 when it had only recently been revealed who the mystery skeleton was. It was great to hear some of that story again, and also pick up the factoid that poor Richard is missing his feet still. Maybe he had good boots on that day, and someone took an easy way of getting them!

I mentioned this revelation on Twitter, which annoyed Richard III, who despite being somewhat lifeless of late, seemed to get a bit annoyed at Dr King for revealing it. I guess we should all tread caref…. Oh.

Where Do You Think They Were? Live

I was really pleased to bump into Paul Carter and Pam Smith – two more of my regular show chums – and I was really interested to hear about their new Name&Place project which I’m really looking forward to seeing at next year’s show (no pressure!!).

Speaking of ‘where’, I think that this year was the first year ever that Genes Reunited’s stand has been absent. Obviously, as a company, they have been passed from pillar to post, but seeing as they’re now part of the same product family as FindMyPast, then I guess they’re slowly being absorbed out of existence.

Twile and FindMyPast at their WDYTYALive stand in the middle of the show.
Twile and FindMyPast at their WDYTYALive stand in the middle of the show.

It was great to see Twile on the FindMyPast stand, and their infographic idea really strikes a chord. I think infographics are great at giving bitesized pieces of information in a memorable and eye-catching way. Family history needs this, because I’m all to familiar with just how exciting it can be… but not to the person I’m telling it to. Their eyes glaze over as they get confused by the distant cousins and multiple greats.

Once again, I caved in at the Pen & Sword stand following what is probably now my annual papping of it. I love books, and I’ve got loads of them. I tried to resist, remembering that I’ve got to pack all of mine up into boxes and move them in a couple of weeks… but I was finally lured back to the stand and bought just one more – the final copy of Stuart A Raymond’s ‘Tracing Your Nonconformist Ancestors‘.

I also popped along to see the team from MacFamilyTree, not because I’m really thinking about replacing my Reunion software, but I wanted to see what theirs was like, and whether I could finally hunt down a family history software that doesn’t have printable charts that look like they were last designed in 1997. I find that a lot of these modern on-device software releases (as opposed to online subscription websites) are great, but the printable chart options really let them down. I’m not 100% sure I’ve found what I’m looking for still. Maybe I just need to begin a start-up company.

Anyway, that’s it for my two days at the 2017 WDYTYALive show. What did you make of it?

I think this year I went with little expectation or preparation, aiming only to get 2 more DNA kits, to sit in on some more DNA talks, and to catch up with those familiar faces. I did all that, and enjoyed the show.

As I look at my show purchases, I’m trying not to think about how much money I spent – more of how much money I saved on waiting for the show to get the show discounts, and how many more relatives this will enable me to connect with.

Swag from WDYTYALive 2017
Some of my WDYTYA? Live 2017 show swag.

I don’t think my feet or my bank could handle a third day, so I’m glad to be at home with my feet up and a cuppa in my hand.

Enjoy Day 3 of the show, and as ever, happy history hunting!

Andrew

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

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.

Get ready for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

The 10th annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live UK show is almost here, but what will this year’s show bring?

When I booked my tickets to the 2016 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, it felt like such an unbearable time to have to wait for, but as my tickets plopped onto my doormat this week, I realise it’s almost time to go, and I feel ill-prepared for it!

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 logoIn just a few days time (7-9th April), the Birmingham NEC will be host to a veritable banquet of genealogical talks, services, suppliers and societies, and thousands of genealogists and family historians.

Last year I was apprehensive of the shift from London’s Olympia to Birmingham, but as with that old saying of ‘you don’t know until you try‘, I tried and found that actually it was quite a nice simple alteration to my annual pilgrimage.

WDYTYA? Live 2016 ‘hot topic’?

I’ll be there for the best part of all three days again, and I’m hoping to attend plenty of keynote and workshop talks, catch-up with a number of genealogy chums, and enjoy immersing myself into the show’s 10th year.

Last year’s show was full of stands and talks all about the First World War centenary, and DNA testing (I bought two kits from AncestryDNA), and I don’t doubt that this year will see any decline in conversations about those two subjects.

National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015
National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015

WDYTYA Live is also a great place to get to see brand new or forthcoming new record sets and online tools. Last year was the 1939 Register that was proudly unveiled by FindMyPast and The National Archives (the video below includes some of the launch entertainment). The year before, it was the Lives Of The First World War project from The Imperial War Museum and FindMyPast.

I’m wondering what this year’s ‘topic’ or theme is going to be?

Finding new ideas and tools

Personally, I’m looking for storage solutions – both physical and digital. Yes, there is Dropbox and Google Drive, and those acid-free wallets and photo pouches etc, but I need something along the lines of ResourceSpace (Open Source and free) with Dropbox attached to it, at a family historian price-tag level, not a Reuters photo catalogue price-tag. I’ll also be looking out for ideas with my Assistant Archivist hat on for The Littleport Society, as we have a ton of artefacts to store.

I’m also keen to find out about Jewish records, after an unexpected twist in my Tabraham tree seems to have suggested that I have a Jewish part of my family. A group of Tabraham surname-holders turn up in a parish church baptism record – each have their parents un-named, and each comes with the note ‘a Jew’. I’d like to find out whether this was a common practice, and why, and whether there are any Jewish records that compliment these Anglican church baptisms that might have a bit more information.

I’m also interested in finding out more about accessing divorce records or simply just seeing if a divorce is recorded as having happened (yes, I’m trying to determine whether I’ve found a bigamist with two concurrent growing families in my tree), and I’m hoping that the GRO will be back again to talk about it’s aims of turning their postal certificate service into an order/download service similar to the Find A Will service.

I’m also looking forward to seeing all the Society of Genealogists stands – I find these stands fascinating as there’s usually so much knowledge at a local level, and you don’t get that with the larger silent pay>click here>download genealogy big brand services.

Tweet Ups

As ever, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for some of the many #tweetups that take place over the three days where Twitter users meet each other IRL (that’s ‘In Real Life’ in web-speak) for a ‘hello’, group photo, and extra tweeting camaraderie over a coffee.

These are usually tweeted out a while in advance, so keep your eyes peeled for them. Here’s a little one I went to last year:

So, let me know if you’re going too, and feel free to say a ‘hello’ IRL (or via Twitter if it’s less awkward for you) if you see me wandering around.

Happy Ancestor Hunting!

Andrew

Cambridgeshire Family and Local History Fair 2015

The Cambridgeshire Family and Local History Fair 2015 takes place on Saturday 5th September 2015.

The team over at the Cambridgeshire Family History Society are running their annual History Fair again this year on Saturday 5th September 2015.

The Main Hall at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.
The Main Hall at the Cambridgeshire Family History Fair 2014.

Once again, Girton Glebe Primary School plays host from 10am until 4pm. It’s free entry, and the school has parking and public transport links.

This year’s speakers include:

  • Mike Petty on Cambridge at War
  • Helen Brown on Family History Software and Apps
  • Mike Sharpe on Writing your Family History
  • Janet Few on 17th Century Life – complete with artefacts and costume!

Each talk costs £2 per person.

As in previous years, a wide range of local history and genealogy societies and genealogy suppliers will be exhibiting in the main hall.

For the fullest and most up to date details of the Fair, please check out the Cambridgeshire Family History Society’s website.