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?
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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…
The Cambridgeshire Family History Society has confirmed the guest speakers for this year’s Cambridgeshire Family History Fair.
A series of announcements via their Facebook Page, have revealed the following experts will be talking at the Fair on 25th October 2014.
Author, and former BBC researcher, Kathy Chater will be talking about how to turn your family history research into a story.
Author, well-known local historian, and President of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History, Mike PettyMBE will be talking about the resources available to you when researching your Cambridgeshire ancestors.
Social historian Tom Doig returns, this time to talk about identifying dates of Edwardian photographs and postcards.
Carl Warner, Research and Information Manager at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, will be explaining how you can use the Museum’s vast image library to research and share your story.
The Fair returns to Girton Glebe Primary School, in Girton, on the North-west side of Cambridge. Parking and entry is free, and doors are open 10am-4pm.
Cambridge plays host to another Family History Fair on Saturday 25th October 2014.
The Cambridgeshire Family History Society has announced its Family History Fair is to return on 25th October 2014, after the success of last year’s event.
Girton Glebe Primary School plays host once again to a day’s worth of family history – with free admission and parking. Last year’s event saw a mixture of stands from Cambridgeshire, but also from neighbouring counties and genealogy and history organisations covering the local area.
A series of lectures will be announced nearer the time – I particularly enjoyed last year’s one on dating photographs by Tom Doig.
In the corner of page 20 is a small advert stating that they ‘have been advised’ that the 2015 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at the Birmingham NEC.
Whilst the official show website doesn’t currently mention the venue change yet, I’d heard this rumour floating around social media. It’s nice to finally see it for myself in print.
In the meantime, Glasgow will be playing host to a special Who Do You Think You Are? Live show on 29-31st August.
How would this venue change affect you if you plan to attend the 2015 WDYTYA show? Birmingham is about 1.5hrs drive west for me, or 2.5hrs by train (which involves travelling 1hr south to London, then 1.5hrs back up north). I might see if i can find a better plan – curse you Dr Beeching!
Blogging from The Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair 2013, held in Girton (North Cambridge) on 26th October 2013.
Last Saturday I attended The Cambridgeshire Family History Society Fair.
I think this was the first time that the Fair had taken place, and I was really impressed to see the variety of lectures and stands.
The venue – Girton Glebe School was easy to find and there was plenty of parking for those out-of-towners like me, and with bus stops for those more local. I had a strange flashback of my own primary school, when I found myself sitting on a small red plastic chair in one of the classrooms (although it seemed odd to be doing so whilst drinking a cup of tea).
I didn’t get to take many photos, as the venue was smaller and felt more condensed than other shows I’ve been to, so instead, check out these great photos from the Society’s Facebook Page.
Above: The Cambridgeshire Family History Society stand stood in the entrance with a warm welcome for all visitors. I picked up a couple of cdroms of the Society’s register transcriptions (non-conformists – which have already yielded some great info, and a Quarter Sessions transcript – which i’m yet to explore).
At the stand in the photograph above, I was lucky to find two postcards from Ely – both showing the shop that my Cross family owned and ran in Forehill (I recently referred to it in my blog and newspaper article about the Brown and Co (Ely) Ltd Shop). I chose one (£6!) and I’ve now added it to my collection. Part of me wishes I’d also bought the other one (£8.50!) as it was more of an advertisement card.
I was fortunate to get to talk with the Huntingdonshire Family History Society, at their stand, where they kindly looked up my Franks family. Sadly we couldn’t quite find them, but it seems that the parish that absorbed the now near-abandoned Coppingford village, may have retained the records. One day…. ONE DAY!
I found it a little odd for there to be no Suffolk Family History Society, given that they represent the neighbouring county. I overheard a couple of others talking about this too.
I was pleased to catch social historian (and self-confessed non-family-historian) Tom Doig‘s lecture on identifying Victorian photographs. His approach to this topic sounded odd to start with when he stated that you should never try to date photographs via the clothing seen in the photo. He shared with us his knowledge of the history of photography itself (something that I once studied with the Open University) – and explained the importance of looking at the style of the frames and mounts, and also the composition of a photograph as a method of dating it.
Freshly plied with data CDs, a monumental inscription joke from Carol Noble on the CFHS stall, my Cross postcard, and Tom’s advice on photography, I returned home and instantly began searching through my records and photos again.
An enjoyable time, and one that I hope to repeat again soon.
SOCIETY SPOTLIGHT: Today is the final part of the blogging theme of history societies, and I now explore ways that you can get involved, or ways for societies to overcome their hurdles.
In this, the final part of my Society Spotlight series of blog posts, I look back on the last five posts, and try to conclude and speculate on the future of our history societies based on their answers.
Q1. What is the Society’s biggest need?
For the first question, all three Societies were pretty much united in their answer. Their biggest need is people.
Societies rely on the time and expertise of those who can spare even just an hour a month, through to those who can offer a more regular amount of time. Not only does this volunteering offer skills to a society, but often those skills have value to the volunteer – particularly if they are looking to build their CV. Volunteers help societies to develop, and ultimately work more efficiently, and actively contribute to their evolution. Without those people who give their time for free, some societies may end up lost forever, along with all that they worked to achieve.
“Our biggest need is to encourage the next generation so that we maintain interest in the future in order to fund projects that preserve original material.”
Where do volunteers come from?
I’m pretty sure that the societies are being pro-active in seeking volunteers, but where might they be advertising? Word or mouth? Events? Their own publications? Perhaps even the media or online?
Volunteers can come from anywhere, and all will have their own interest area, so it can be hard to advertise generally when there are so many nuances that might be the hook to bring someone into helping.
Some volunteers might like to have a firm idea of what they might be doing before they offer themselves up. A few years back, I was working for a charity, and needed about 2-3 days per week help when my workload escalated. I worked alone and we didn’t have the skills in-house, so I wrote a ‘job’ description but for a volunteer, that clearly outlined the type of work they’d be doing and roughly how much time per week this amounted to (although I was clear that it could be flexible). We advertised it through the local business network community and a few local job (online and offline) boards. Within a couple of weeks, and after holding an informal ‘interview’ to work out whether there was a match of interests, the volunteer began working alongside me – they were perfect for the role. She eventually went on to take over my paid role after i left.
Some kind of structure at the outset, helps to give a volunteer a sense of purpose and a goal. If they’re just to do bits and bobs here and there, it might not be so appealing (although that approach might work for some too), as they won’t be able to see where or how their contribution fits in to the overall goals and aims of the society. By giving a volunteer a sense of purpose and responsibility, it can surely only help to keep them happy and interested.
For a bigger and fuller-time society, it might be an option to offer an internship – paying expenses in return for their time (during which they’ll pick up skills), but there’s probably a few legal hoops to jump through with that one, so worth checking before you leap into that.
Q2. What is the Society’s biggest challenge?
It would seem that awareness is the biggest challenge, again for all three societies, and particularly when pitching alongside the behemoths of online genealogy – Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, FindMyPast etc.
Finding that niche
Societies hold a vast amount of information around their focussed locale, occupation, surname etc, and these often take the form of personal stories and amateur family histories, family trees, film and audio material that’s been donated to them, physical objects relating to their focus, and a wealth of other gems that hold an important but niche connection to the society’s focus.
Such niche gems are unlikely to be as desirable for the larger websites – who are trying to cater for a wide online audience, and make money from subscriptions by digitising desirable historic ephemera.
The written history of say, Albert the coal delivery man, or Judith the land girl, might be an incredibly useful historical record of culture, occupation, locale, but of little interest to a wider audience.
My own personal opinion here, is that societies need to focus on finding their niche – something that’s popular and that they can easily handle/facilitate. Maybe it’s events and lectures, or maybe it’s the wealth of these unique records/objects, that are not found elsewhere, and using every PR opportunity to shout about themselves and what they do, in a bid to gain new members and raise awareness of the society.
In the words of Abbie Black from The Society of Genealogists;
“The biggest challenge for a genealogical society is that people are not aware of the vast amount of services a society can provide for members.”
Looking up census returns, family tree research services, and parish records, have all been wonderfully done in the past, but with these large online genealogy sites taking these activities to just a couple of clicks away, I feel that these unique items are the niche, and a society needs to capitalise on them now, and make them accessible and relevant to their niche audience.
Check out this innovative and brilliant example of a one-family-centric reunion event – that was packed with information and was so personal to a smaller group of people. Perhaps a more personal touch to events might help boost societies too?
Q3. How does the Society plan to preserve its knowledge for the future?
Thankfully, all three society representatives showed that their societies have a plan to preserve their work so that our history can continue to exist in the future. Whether this is by their own pro-active programme of evolution (like the Society of Genealogists or Cambridgeshire Family History Society), or more eventual, by depositing its records and data with another larger society (the Newman Name Society).
In yesterday’s posting the Channel Islands Family History Society commented that utilising technology will be one way to keep a society up to speed with the bigger more well-known genealogy organisations/services.
How can we help history societies focus on the future?
Thinking back to the society that Linda McCauley talked of, it may have been that the society had grown out of a labour of love, or maybe it was just too hard to find anyone else who was genuinely interested in (or able to) help.
If your society is pondering what to do with it’s data or has a technical conundrum, then there are ways to get this moving. It might cost a little, but think of it as an investment into your data or website that would bring it forward and help you and your society be more visible, and ultimately gain members, and funds.
One society that I know (I won’t reveal their name), has a large database of their member’s trees – packed with information. But the database was custom written in what is now old tech called MS DOS which was discontinued in 2000, and the person who wrote the database is sadly no longer alive. The legacy of this is, whilst the data is there and perfectly useable – it relies on an older PC to run it, and it is currently locked in time – without the skills available to unpick it, and export the data into something more modern. It also means that events rely on that old PC being transported to venues in order to delve into their database.
If you’re stuck for the free help of volunteers, a solution might come in the form of outsourcing that through sites like Elance.com and Freelancer.co.uk, where you can identify the job you need undertaking, and then allow people to bid for the work. You can then choose the best deal, and they’ll do the work for you. Each freelancer has a rating – much like sellers on eBay – so you can see which bidder is the most reliable and best for your budget and job.
Another solution, might be to pitch your tech problem (if it’s like the example I gave above) to your local college, to give them a real project to work on. This will give valuable experience to the students, a great PR opportunity for the college, and may well solve the issue.
Locally to me, there’s many active MeetUp groups, one of which where individuals can pitch to a wide range of other experts including developers, copywriters, and designers, in a bid to get them interested in your project.
If you’re stuck for budget for your big development, crowdsourcing might be the answer. It has been highly successful – funding films, music albums, books, apps and all kinds of things through sites like Kickstarter or IndieGogo – where members of the international public can give money to projects they like, often in return for some small incentive (perhaps a free family tree search by one of your members?)
Society Spotlight – and that’s a wrap!
Hopefully some of these ideas will give you inspiration to either join a society, or if you are a society, to find the help you need to keep preserving our heritage for generations to come.
Thank you for the feedback this week, and for all the readers, and sharers of the blog posts. I hope that you have enjoyed my Society Spotlight theme, and perhaps have now become inspired to offer some of your time and/or expertise to a history society local to you, or at the very least, become a member.
Of course, I’d like to say a big thank you to Else Churchill and Abbie Black of The Society of Genealogists, Robert Newman of The Newman Name Society, Muriel Halliday and Lisa Newman of The Cambridgeshire Family History Society, and Linda McCauley. Without their willingness and openness, this series of posts would not have been possible. I hope that my week of blog posts will, in some way, help to bring new opportunities to our beloved history societies.
It tackles the big question, that will help ensure that a Society and its members leave a lasting legacy to their community or the history that they work so hard to preserve, avoiding the fate seen by the Cross Family History Society:
‘How does a society plan to preserve its knowledge for the future?’
As all family historians, professional genealogists, and organisations know, if you’re going to invest your time in researching and creating records or filling databases with data, then you need to know that what you’re spending your hours doing, will actually survive into tomorrow, next year, and further beyond.
Where once keeping meticulous paper copies sounded like a good idea, it moved on to formats like microfiche, film, cd-roms, GEDCOM, and more recently that mystical place called ‘The Cloud’, but all of them have pros and cons, so what plans do the Societies have to preserve their work and leave a legacy?
“Understanding the concerns of natural disaster, the society had all of their society’s family history backed up in a cloud storage system, which protected their information from disaster. Societies are constantly storing, backing up, and protecting their data that will preserve information for the future through technology.”
“By reaching out to a new generation of genealogists, societies will be able to preserve their future. Younger people have interest in their own genealogy, and societies are reaching out to those individuals through lectures and social networking to help preserve and continue the work that the society holds most valuable.”
Lisa Newman, The Cambridgeshire Family History Society
“Other than continuing to adapt to new technologies and platforms and by encouraging interest in the Society so that we can engage new members to join the Committee to keep doing the good work that has gone before.”
Do you have a plan?
What are your own plans for preserving your research for a future generation? Do you have a plan? Or are you now beginning to wonder what might become of it? Leave me a comment below, or over at the Geneabloggers LinkedIn group.
This question is probably the one with the most variation between organisations, as each one identifies what it is that they are trying to overcome.
Some of the themes in these answers were straight forward and as you might expect, but all of them surprised me with a comment about the expectations of those who contact them – which has probably become more prevalent by genealogy and research TV shows.
Let’s delve into their answers…
Abbie Black, The Society of Genealogists
“The biggest challenge for a genealogical society is that people are not aware of the vast amount of services a society can provide for members.”
“At the Society of Genealogists, members are allowed free access to the Library, which houses the largest collection of parish register copies, as well as many other record types. The library is helpful for beginners as well as seasoned genealogists. Members also have free access to the online Society data which is always being updated. This includes digital images of original documents, as well as searchable indexes. Members also have access to free advice from volunteer genealogists, including a telephone advice service, one-on-one consultations, search services, lectures, and society published magazines. Members make provision for non-members to use the Society’s Library on payment of a daily search fee.”
Robert Newman, The Newman Name Society
“Our biggest challenge is to get more people to join and be active members. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, people joined and we all worked together searching the county archives, transcribing records and sharing their finds.”
“Nowadays I find attitudes have changed, due I expect to so much information being on the internet, now some people find they have a spare couple of days, so they decide ‘to do’ their family tree, they contact me and expect our archive to have the details of their family sitting there waiting to be given to them.”
Lisa Newman, The Cambridgeshire Family History Society
“Our biggest challenges are retaining membership, engaging the next generation, getting the message across to go out and explore the archives and not sit behind a computer screen.”
“Thinking about what we can offer, that the Internet cannot – perhaps ancestral tourism, education, an opportunity to meet with like-minded people and learn from each other.”
Competing with the giants
What stands out here is that the smaller societies are feeling the weight of the larger online family history websites – the Ancestry, Geni, FindMyPast, GenesReunited types, and the ‘instant’ trees that they can seem to give their users (i’ll skirt round the quality of that elephant in the room for now).
Whilst the Society of Genealogists is a much larger society that is perhaps more able to digitize content, what’s next for the smaller societies? How can they attract new members and interests? How are they going to compete in the future?
In tomorrow’s Society Spotlight post, I explore their future, when they answer my question of ‘How does the Society plan to preserve its knowledge for the future?‘.