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

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…

 

FindMyPast adds Hints to their tree builder

Taking a look at the new Beta Hints that have been launched at FindMyPast.co.uk – how do these differ from those on Ancestry? Were they worth the wait?

Find My Past logo

New functionality has entered into Beta on the FindMyPast website that suddenly makes their Tree Builder much more useful – Hints have been added.

Those of you who have used another popular online tree builder will know, Hints aren’t new, so rather than strain my brain over the ‘what took you so long’ bit, I thought that I would take a look at this new functionality.

If you’ve already found the Tree Builder on FindMyPast, then you’ll know just how crisp and uncluttered it is. I was pleased when the new tree builder was unveiled at the 2014 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show. Now, the added Hints feel like they are going to help you discover what’s in the billions of records that the team at FMP have been adding recently.

Hints should make this easier – sifting through records for you (although of course, always go looking too!), and these will no doubt encourage you to grow your tree.

Family tree showing FindMyPast Hints
Hints appear clearly in orange circles on your tree and in profile views.

In my test run, I found the hints to be very clearly indicated (an orange circle with a number suggesting the number of matching Hints).

These appear in a number of places, ranging from the tree itself, to the Profile Page of your relative:

FindMyPast Profile Page with Hints
Beta Hints appear within the Profile Pages of relatives.

..and they appear on the Profile Summary (when you click on a linked relative for example):

FindMyPast Hints on Profile Summary
Beta Hints are everywhere. You can’t miss them.

When you click through on the Hints you get a nice visual style to show you what type and some basic details before you decide to click for more information, or click to accept, maybe, or reject it.

FindMyPast Beta Hints results
The new Beta Hints continue the high visual style of the FindMyPast tree builder.

I’m pleased to see Hints reach Beta. As someone who has spent a lot of time using FindMyPast and Ancestry, I know that the Hints on the latter have been very useful.

I’ve already uncovered a few new things whilst playing around with the new tree builder and the hint suggestions. Therefore, I’m looking forward to continuing this, to see how they can help me further explore their ever expanding range of data sets on FindMyPast.

What I can’t tell yet, is whether these Hints will ever alert me to the appearances of my relatives in other FindMyPast trees.

That, in Ancestry, has been available for ages, but whilst that allows members to connect and build upon their family knowledge, it has also helped others to ‘rob’ and ‘butcher’ family trees, allowing me to see information that is complete rubbish – along the likes of how a grandfather, who lived all his life in one place in an English county, and whom I knew well, had spent 40yrs living in Indiana, married 3 times, appeared on the correct 1881 UK census, but which was listed as a UK village, in a  UK county, in England but which in turn is situated within Detroit.

Will FindMyPast go down this route? I’d like to think they won’t. Ancestry’s hints have already alerted me to too many rotten trees out there, with swathes of nonsense information that’s all too easily and/or accidentally just one click away to being added to your own nurtured mighty oak.

Start your family tree – the time is NOW

In what is the last few days of 2014, I’m thinking back through to last January and my 2014 genealogy resolutions (more on their progress or otherwise, and my 2015 ones to come).

Man holding magnifying glass and death certificate
I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by ‘new records’ right now.

This year has been a busy one for genealogy as an industry, and history as a whole, what with some significant world war anniversaries.

Meanwhile, I’ve continued working on my trees, undertaking a couple of bits of free detective work for a friend and also in response to finding a family bible in an antiques store, busily updating my Family Tree UK site with some nice Structured Data for the benefit of Search (yes, my inner nerd has been binging on that), finding a ghost, and joining a one-name organisation that’s found its way through somewhat of a sudden unexpected and perhaps turbulent period of change, I’ve been merrily receiving emails about the latest new sets of hundreds of thousands of newly-available records.

That list of newly available records has kept on growing and growing and that kind of leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve dropped the ball and let my genealogy badge slip.

Perhaps I should just draw a line, and start again?

Only joking, I’m not about to throw 20yrs worth of work away.

But, there’s so much ‘new’ out there, that I feel a bit lost in the noise again.

This is why, if you’re only just starting, or you’re toying with the idea to explore your tree, or to find out if your old grandmother’s rumours were in any way true or just romanticised whimsy, then this is the time to start it.

Book yourself into a session with your local archives, or talk to your oldest coherent relatives, find out the photos.. but make sure you use the sites that carry the ‘human’ bits of genealogy and record them too – not just the number counts of a census return, but the newspapers, the scraps of info from war records, and the scribbly notes in parish registers.

How does that help me?

What I need to do is climb back down my tree branches and stand at the bottom of the family tree, look upwards, and then slowly learn to climb it again. By doing so, I should find new information that helps to make those old branches grow a little bit more.

In my random casual looks for records against close relatives, these new record sets from the likes of the British Newspaper Archive and FindMyPast, have allowed me to fill in more of the everyday lives of people I thought I had already.

I’ve only just dipped my toes/fingers/nose into their millions of records that they’ve been steadily releasing this year. Kudos to FindMyPast, who despite taking a massive backlash when they altered their website, on a scale that was a-kin to the Ancestry Search Change Disaster (remember that?), I think they have led the way with getting the more numerous and more interesting records into their data-sets.

Also, with the launch of sites like Lives Of The First World War from the Imperial War Museum, the information is not only going to come from record organisations, but also via personal histories through the wisdom of crowds.

A snapshot of Lives Of The First World War stats
A snapshot of today’s Lives Of The First World War stats

Of course I should expect to see ‘new’ information turn up – and I’ve enjoyed this immensely spending more time exploring the Ancestry ‘Hints’, and only recently found some photos of my Great Grandfather – Alfred Newman, aged about 28 (youngest I’d ever seen him previously to that, was in his 40s). I never met him.

Ancestry Hits
All these Hints will keep me busy on Ancestry in the Christmas period.

I’ve yet to delve into School Records, but really hoping to find lots of notes on my Great Grandmother as being a mischievous little devil (I always felt she had a rebellious streak in her).

I’m also yet to explore the new online ‘Find A Will’ service from The Probate Service. I’ve always enjoyed reading Wills, but have very few of them. I have some great transcripts of 16th-19th century ones, and they’ve been perfect for unravelling relationships between generations.

With so much to even start to explore, this is why I almost feel like I did when I first walked into a Records Office (the Bury St Edmunds one).

It is exciting, revealing, overwhelming…. and oh…. wonderfully addictive.

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

Day one of three, from the 2014 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia.

Today has been the first day of Who Do You Think You Are Live? 2014 at London’s Olympia.

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

This is my fourth year here, and for the first time, I’ve booked a hotel, and I’m going to be here for all three days of the show.

Hopefully I can find enough to keep me entertained, and looking at the workshop schedule, this is going to be fairly easy.

The first year that I visited (back in 2011), I hadn’t booked myself onto any talks/workshops, and so found the whole event initially interesting, but not able to sustain my interest for a whole day – and I considered skipping it the following year.

Thankfully I didn’t, and I’ve been coming back ever since.

Angels, Cushions, Books, and Sin

I arrived at about 10am, complete with case (which, together with my coat, I swiftly consigned to the cloakroom).

I soon spotted Jackie Depelle, and her now infamous WDYTYALive themed hat, and after a quick hello, found my way to my first lecture session ‘Write Your Life Story’ with Michael Oke of Bound Biographies.

He explained how he fell into publishing through helping an elderly man write his life story. He went on to explain how best to get your own life story down – highlighting the need to record all the tiniest pieces of information you can, in order to help the reader remember you, or to picture or connect with the person or people you’re writing about.

Whilst leaving his session, I thought I’d died, when I bumped into these two angelic nurses…

Angel nurses from spiritofremembrance.com
Angel nurses from spiritofremembrance.com

With (a pricey) lunch out of the way, it was time for my second lecture – this time from Dr Colin R Chapman on Sin, Sex & Probate.

Dr Colin R Chapman on Sin, Sex & Probate, at day one of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Dr Colin R Chapman on Sin, Sex & Probate, at day one of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

Dr Chapman talked through the hierarchical structure of the church, and explained that the records held by each level could be detailed and fascinating – but particularly a Bishop’s records (for the juicy gossip). He pulled some examples out from Norfolk, Essex, Cheshire, and Oxfordshire, to illustrate the range of ‘sins’ that we’re legitimate crimes – including defamation, not returning to church after giving birth to say ‘Thanks’ to God, punching a man whilst in a graveyard, and eating meat in Lent.

He pointed out that the church courts dealt with sins, and the civic courts dealt with crimes.

All in all, a fascinating topic, and I’m considering buying a copy of his book (of the same name), if only to read further examples, and help steer me to somewhere where I might find my own ancestor’s scandal.

I hasten to add, it’s the first time I’ve ever had to ask for a ticket for Sin, Sex & Probate!

I managed to pop along to the FindMyPast stand twice, catching the tail end of David Annal‘s fascinating talk on census returns and how you can use search wild cards to get better results, and examples of poor handwriting and missing relatives.

Also, appearing later, was the turn of Myko Clelland of FindMyPast, who once again under-dressed for the show (see pic below), whilst searching for Cushions in Shoreditch (of the surname kind), to help illustrate the collections, new image viewer, and new tree builder (I’ll be giving this a spin when I get home).

Myko Clelland (FindMyPast.com) talks cushions at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Myko Clelland (FindMyPast.com) talks cushions at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

All in all a good first day. Tomorrow has a tweet-up to attend, more lectures, shopping, and no doubt catching up with more genealogy friends.

G’night!
Andrew

OFFER: Earn FindMyPast credits with Historic Newspapers

Historic Newspapers have asked me to share their special offer with you – buy a Birthday Newspaper, and get FindMyPast search credits for free!

Do you like reading old newspapers?

I can spend hours looking through them – reading the old adverts (cake advert below is from my Cross family’s Ely bakery), the fascinating insights given by village micro news (along the lines of ‘Mr Roberts played the church organ to a packed crowd’, or ‘Miss Chivers won the flower arranging competition’, etc), those heart-wrenching stories of lost loved ones lost in action, and the scandalous headlines of newspapers from 100 years+ ago.

F Vernon Cross Ginger Sponge cake advert from the Ely Standard, 7th November 1930.
F Vernon Cross’ Ginger Sponge cake advert from the Ely Standard, 7th November 1930. Hungry now?

I’ve got a few old original newspapers on file, although those mainly relate to the early 20th Century British Royal Family – with the death of the current Queen’s father, and her subsequent transformation from a Princess. I also have a few more genealogically relevant ones including a rather horrible account of when my Great x4 Grandmother Mary Clarke appeared in court and was charged and imprisoned for child abuse in 1841. The report includes the words of her and the abused children, and makes for hard reading.

Credits for old news

Historic Newspapers logoI’ve had an email from the team over at Historic Newspapers, who have been reading this blog and very much love old newspapers too. In fact, they love them so much, that they asked if I would share a special offer with you, where you can earn free FindMyPast.co.uk search credits when you purchase any original Birthday Newspaper right back to 1900.

Their offer runs until the end of December 2013, and details about obtaining the credits will be included in your Newspaper order (probably best if you read the full offer info on their website for the full terms).

Which date would you pick, and why? Let me know in the comments below! I’m toying with one of my grandparents’ birthdays – which sees me looking at somewhere between the years 1914 to 1932.

2 million Hertfordshire parish records arrive at FindMyPast

FindMyPast have added 2 million Hertfordshire parish records.

FindMyPast have added another batch of parish records to their site – and again they’ve covered one of the parishes in which my relatives lived – Barkway.

FindMyPast.co.uk logoMy Head and Barker families lived in Barkway, Hertfordshire during the 19th Century, and the latest joint venture between FindMyPast and Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, will now allow me to research this branch further.

My research into the Head branch contained a few candidates for relatives, so hopefully these ‘new’ records will allow me to expand the tree further back.

The new records for Barkway are:

  • Baptism 1538-1836
  • Banns 1754-1928
  • Marriages 1538-1837
  • Burials 1538-1916

The records are just one of the many parishes that were added in this massive 2 million record update.

So, thank you FindMyPast, there goes my weekend!

%d bloggers like this: