DAY ONE: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Blog post from Day One of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015.

Well, here we are, the end of Day One of the 2015, re-homed Who Do You Think You Are? Live show, at Birmingham NEC. Its been a long day, involving driving from Cambridgeshire to Coventry (where I’m staying), then onto the train for the token £2.10 return trip to Birmingham International station, which adjoins the venue. I spent the entire day on my feet, wandering around, sat in on some talks, and then went to the 1939 Register launch celebration by the team at FindMyPast. Then, train back, a gym work out, and now to my hotel room to write this.

Stalls at Who Do You Think You Are? Live
Stalls at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

 The new venue

I’m new to the NEC and it seems perfectly adept at putting on shows. Briefly, due to the volume of posters as I walked towards the show, I thought I was about to arrive at a Transit Van show… but thankfully, no. The familiar tree logo was in sight and I arrived about 10:15am. Once in, I wandered in, and over to the FindMyPast stand where I sat in on a talk on Military Records and the extra features of the FindMyPast tree (audio!).

Having soon gotten my bearings, I found myself checking out the Society of Genealogists family history show section of the event – the bit where the Societies come together and have stands. I was pleased to see Carol from my home team (Cambridgeshire Family History Society) was busy at their stand, but noted the absence of neighbouring Societies from Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire.

Cambridgeshire Family History Society stall
Cambridgeshire Family History Society stall

Right at the end of the hall were two great additions, one was a beautiful statue of a soldier, commemorating the First World War, and the statue was within a wind machine, that periodically would blow poppies upwards and you could then watch them drift down over the still, silent, soldier. Very poignant.

Remembrance statue at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015
Remembrance statue at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015
FindMyPast 1939 tea room
FindMyPast 1939 tea room

The other, was the 1939 Find My Past tea room, set up to promote/celebrate the forthcoming release of the 1939 Register – the nearest thing we’ll get to a census for 30 years, due to the destruction of the 1931 census and the cancellation of the 1941 census, both due to war.

It was also in this tea room, that an aftershow party was hosted, with various speakers, Society representatives and experts… and your humble bloggers, were treated to live wartime songs, and 1939 style food (I enjoyed the corned beef hash cakes more than I thought).

Anyway, that’s some bits from the first day… So how better than to end on a song…


Website launched to commemorate the Lives Of The First World War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more via the video below:


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

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

I spent the weekend in the 1940s

Spent the weekend in the 1940s – meeting Winston Churchill, watching a Spitfire flying around, eating spam sandwiches, and escaping Nazi officers.

I’ve just returned from a trip with friends, to the 1940s, where I saw Prime Minister Winston Churchill, some Nazis, was treated to a Lancaster Bomber and a Spitfire fly-by, and I ate some spam.

The NAAFI canteen was packed full of people having the tea, bread pudding, jam, and spam sandwiches.

Speaking of which… I did eat it. The blank flavour, and synthetic texture reminded me of when I last had it in about the 1980s. Despite it providing a useful food source back then, it’s pretty much sneered at these days despite still being in production and readily available (someone/thing must be eating it!).

The Spam Sandwich

Lucky the Pigeon
Around 250,000 Pigeons were used during the second world war to carry secret messages home in some of the most deadly battlefields, often from behind enemy lines, over the fighting and in to the British officer’s hands. The acts of the pigeon saved thousands of soldiers. Apparently this little chap is called ‘Lucky’.

NAZI soldiers

Ran in to these chaps. Thankfully my limited German allowed me to escape… although it was fraught with danger.



Doctor Carrot

A wartime poster encouraging healthy eating – and getting children to eat Vitamin A (a deficiency can lead to blindness).

Which will be no trouble, as there’s plenty of fresh vegetables growing in the garden:

A 40s house

Will post the Spitfire and Lancaster Bomber fly-past videos later (they’re taking a while to down/upload).

Check out the Ramsey 1940s Weekend website for more.

Encouraging children to take an interest in their genealogy

What motivates children to take an interest in genealogy?

I remember being about 11 or 12 and sitting in the front rooms of both sets of maternal Great Grandparents and being completely bored by tails of the war years. Whilst one Gt Grandfather saw action in Egypt and other places, whilst the other was with the Home Guard, yet to my child ears, they were so utterly boring.

As a child, I didn’t want to know about ‘The War’. It meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t comprehend the date, why people would want to fight each other, and certainly not the scale of what actually took place. My mother was the same – she too had spent many hours listening to the very same stories as a child, and had not been interested either.

Now, as an adult, with those Great Grandparents all deceased, I’m left with a gap. An unrecorded gap in oral history, in personal history, and with only a few pay-to-view scanned documents sitting in sites like Ancestry or FindMyPast.

I was in Cambridge earlier today, picking up a few last minute Christmas presents when I spotted the following book from the Who Do You Think You Are? brand. I generally don’t buy genealogy books, as I rely on online information, but this one was different – it was aimed at children.

Be A Family Tree Detective book
Be A Family Tree Detective

I picked it up and flicked through, to find that it was full of colourful pictures, flaps to reveal information, and more along the lines of a pop-up book (without the pop-up bit).

inside the Be A Family Detective book
Inside the book – open the envelope to look at Census, lift the magnifying glass to reveal a tip. 

I wondered what it was that inspired me to start (although admittedly i was 16/17yrs old) – knowing that it wasn’t anything like this. Had it have been, i would most likely have been hooked and written down the stories (or at least listened and perhaps remembered some of them) at a much younger age.

I also got home to find that Who Do You Think You Are? magazine had also landed on my doormat – the January edition – and inside was a great tree chart from FindMyPast – encouraging people to fill in their ancestors. What a great way to help inspire kids to think about the past lives of their family?

The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.
The free FindMyPast tree chart with the January 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

What was it that motivated you, and at what age?

Remembrance 2012

Remembrance Sunday 2012 – Remembering the bravery of those who have served in, and gave their lives to war.

Remembrance Sunday has arrived again, and like so many others here in the UK, i have bought a poppy and will be observing the two minute silence at 11am.

There are seldom few days where I don’t spare my ancestors a thought, especially those who served and gave their life in the ugliness of war with a bravery far beyond anything I can comprehend.

The Martin Family (c. 1916)
ABOVE: Herbert (my Great Grandfather) would have been 32/33 in this photo, which was taken in 1916. Within 12 months, he had been killed in a train accident in France, leaving 31yr old Daisy with her 4 young sons.

Death Card for Herbert Martin (1884-1917)

Support The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal

Remembrance 2011

Remembrance 2011 – remembering the brave and heroic who fought and who were lost in war.

I get completely tongue-tied when it comes to writing about war and Remembrance. So instead, here’s some photographs of a few of my relatives. Some of whom made it, others who weren’t so lucky.

Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey - 1st World War

Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey (1896-1991)

Albert Martin (1899-1918)

Owen Newman (1919-1944)

Herbert Martin (1884-1917)

Herbert Martin's gravestone

Owen Yarrow (1882-1917)

Owen Yarrow

Remembrance: Owen Newman

Remembrance: Owen Gilbert Newman (1919-1944) who died when the Japanese ship he was on, was torpedoed and sunk by American forces.

Owen Gilbert Newman (1919-1944)
Owen Gilbert Newman (1919-1944)

Owen Gilbert Newman (2009982) served as a Sapper with the 288 Field Company of the Royal Engineers during the Second World War.

Sadly he was taken Prisoner of War by the Japanese and joined 900 other British troops onboard the Kachidoki Maru ship, heading to Japan.

The ship was torpedoed and sunk by USS Pampanito, just North East of Hainan Island, near China on 12th September 1944.

400 British soldiers were on-board and subsequently lost their lives.

Remembrance: Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey

Remembrance: Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey (1896-1991).

Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey (1896-1991)
Ernest Edward Thomas Dewey (1896-1991)

Ernest lied about his age in order to sign up to the Suffolk Yeomanry

Ernest was a year younger than was permitted – a scenario which was actually quite common amongst men who were keen to fight for their country.

He fought in the First World War and travelled to France and Egypt whilst part of the Yeomanry.

Unlike so many of his comrades, he survived the First World War and went on to live until he was 94 years old.

Due to his work with the Yeomanry, he married after an 11 year courtship to Susan Jane Moden of Ely.

Remembrance: Albert Martin

Remembrance of Albert Martin (1899-1918) who died in a hospital in Germany.

Albert Martin (1899-1918)
Albert Martin (1899-1918)

Albert Martin (65727) enlisted as a Private for the 1st/5th Batallion of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

He went to fight in the First World War but was sadly taken prisoner during the German’s third offensive that swept through Fismes, France on 27th May 1918.

Records from the Comité International de la Croix-Rouge (CICR) revealed that he was captured the following day at Fismes.

He is recorded as present at a Prisoner of War (POW) camp in Dülmen, coming from Laon on 19th July 1918. He then appears at the POW camp at Münster II on 20th August 1918.

He died 10 days later in the “Res.Laz.Abtl.Krankenhaus” (hospital) at Homberg, Germany.

He was buried in an English cemetery in the same place “Feld” 21, Nr.64.5″

Remembrance: Herbert Martin

Remembrance of Private Herbert Martin, 1884-1917.

Herbert Martin (1884-1917)
Herbert Martin (1884-1917)

Herbert Martin (40572) enlisted as a Private of the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment.

He was tragically killed on his way home towards the end of the First World War in a train accident in France.

His name is featured on the Little Downham war memorial and was until recently also on a stone in the cemetery, along with his sister Emma and her husband John William Goodge.

Herbert is named in the Cambridge Regiment’s instalment in St. George’s Chapel in Ely Cathedral, where it lists the names of the brave who died during the two world wars.