Day Three: Who Do You Think You Are? 2014

Day Three – the final day of the 2014 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia.

I’m writing this at the end of the third and final day of Who Do You Think You Are? Live. I’m home, and can honestly say that I throughly enjoyed myself.

The Family History Society stands on Day 3 of WDYTYA? Live 2014
Some of the Family History Society stands at lunchtime on Day 3 of WDYTYA? Live 2014

I arrived at about 9:45 this morning, after yet another wonderful walk through Hyde Park in the sunshine (still definitely Winter mode). Whilst there was no queue outside Olympia, I managed to get in just before the mass of visitors who were walking over from Olympia station arrived at the doors.

After disposing of coat and case, I then went up to the workshop ticketing team, where there were also no queues, and picked up my two free tickets – one on ‘Finding Your London Ancestors‘ with Michael Gandy, and the other for ‘Wills: not just a source for our better-off ancestors‘ with Celia Heritage.

I must confess that I didn’t make it to Michael Gandy’s talk – I chose it as I briefly have a family that lived in London for about 10 years, and occasionally through history a marriage turns up in its parishes. The queue was long, and so I decided to bail, and regret missing it based on the comments I’ve since heard and seen on twitter.

However, I am very glad that I finally caught a Celia Heritage talk though, as her talks and work has always come with such positive praise. Plus, I’ve really been enjoying reading Wills and even the Probate Calendars that I’ve found on

I’ve got copies of Wills that hint at family feuds, and ones that detail every spoon and bowl. Those latter ones don’t seem like much now, but as Celia’s talk suggested, it wasn’t just the better-off people that wrote them.

Through case studies from her own tree, Celia was able to show how it is important to view the full Will, as they carry so much information about relationships (not just siblings, spouses, and children, but cousins can turn up too), and locations. She also highlighted the importance of looking around at the same surname in roughly the right area, and seeing whether you can find some potential connections in Wills – in a hope that their Wills will mention your branch and help link it all together.

The Babbage Breakthrough

It was my first venture to Who Do You Think You Are? Live (2011), when I dragged along a selection of my handwritten notes, expecting to find a whole new swathe of ancestors in some monumental research breakthrough.

I soon found it wasn’t really that kind of event, and that I should use the show to learn about new techniques, new technology, and discover about new resources that can help my  breakthroughs, and for the years since, I’ve stuck to this notion.

Devon Family History Society stand at WDYTYA? Live 2014
Devon Family History Society stand at WDYTYA? Live 2014

So it was a surprise to find myself sitting alongside the very helpful Terry Leaman – Vice-Chairman of the Devon Family History Society looking at a baptism list of my Babbage relatives.

Thankfully, my iPad has Reunion 10 (Mac only genealogy software) on it, so I was able to jump straight into the right tree and check my current research against the results – it matched – and with a few extra children in their records, and a completely new set of baptism dates for all of them to add to my research. A quick print-out and donation later, and I was off to sit down and add the data to my files.

#WDYTYAlive #tweetup

There were a few tweet-ups this year, and I managed to get in on one of them, and serendipitously right in the foreground of the commemorative photo. As ever, it was great to meet new people, finally meet some not-so-new Twitter/blogging chums, and to once again see friends made at previous shows.

Here’s one tweet-up photo from genealogist Luke Mouland..

and here’s another, from Geoff and Di Swinfield, starring yours truly (yes Sue, I’m REAL!):

If you’re intrigued as to quite what a ‘tweet-up’ is, or concerned about what people do at a ‘tweet-up’, then essentially it’s an impromptu small-scale flashmob, organised via Twitter, where people turn up to meet those sometimes anonymous/faceless Twitter users, or to meet up with Twitter users that you’ve got to know well. Tea, coffee, or alcohol is usually consumed.

Bonding over genealogy (and a hotdog)

Just prior to the tweet-up, I sat upstairs reading emails, when a retired man asked if he could sit at my table to eat (as there were no other free tables). Of course I didn’t refuse, and so we got chatting. He said that he’d travelled from Essex and that this was the second day for him, but his first ever visit to a show like this. He said he’d been meaning to come to something like this for ’20 years or more’, but just hadn’t found the right show.

He said he’d been enjoying the talks on day one, and was going to spend his second day looking around the stands.

We talked for about 15 minutes in all, about the WDYTYA? TV show (he isn’t a fan of celebrity culture, and we both kind of nodded in agreement), and we talked about all the great innovations, and how we’d both done our stints sifting through microfiche, film, registers, and transcripts for hours looking for names that were never there.

I’ve no idea who he was, but just for those 15 minutes, the world got a little bit smaller, and that wonderful ability of genealogy to bond people together, proved once again to have worked at ease without boundaries. I left him finishing off his hotdog, and made my way over to the IWM demo I’d booked….

Seeing new online genealogy tools

I arrived for my demo session of the new Lives Of The First World War website from the Imperial War Museum and DC Thomson Family History partnership. I’d already had my interest piqued on Day Two, thanks to Melanie Donnelly and Luke Smith’s keynote session, but this was great to finally see the new site up-close and have it explained to me, and to bounce questions.

I’m really keen to get using this site, and was also keen to find out about tagging people in a photo (which could be a war memorial), and also about the educational programme that I hope is sitting behind this site, and the opportunity for it to become a key resource in classrooms and universities.

I also met up with Steve Bardouille and Ola Dada from the team at Famberry – a relatively new, but fairly well established in the US company, that is specialising in creating secure spaces and tools for people to privately build family trees in collaboration with a closed or invite-only audience.

They’d been talking to a few different people at the show, and wanted to meet with me to find out what thoughts I had about what I’d want to see from their product as a family history researcher, as they are keen to grow their UK audience.

2015 at Olympia, London?

As the show had moved forward a weekday, there was no opportunity for Sunday visitors. This had let me to wondered whether the would-be Sunday visitors would turn up today, and it certainly seemed to be the case. It was much busier than Thursday and Friday, and at a guess, it was a busier Saturday than last year.

Day 3 of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Day 3 of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

Day One’s (Thursday) visitors seemed to be on par with this year’s (and previous) Friday visitors, so I’m not entirely sure that the change has done the show any favours (last year saw 13,941 visitors). Couple this with the end of the District Line rail service from Earls Court to Olympia during the week (it only ran today), and it feels like it’s getting difficult for the 3 day show to stay at Olympia.

After speaking with a couple of reliable sources on stands, I realised that there was no mention of next year’s show. Usually by now, we’ve heard that the following year’s show dates, and last year I remember seeing a stand selling tickets to this year’s show. But nothing.

Thrown into the mix, is the first Who Do You Think You Are? Live show in Glasgow in Scotland – running for a few days in August 2014.

Is there something going on? Is the show to end? Or are we to shift location? Hopefully not London Excel (I find it dreadful to get to – another show I go to, has just switched to there, so I’m no longer attending). Maybe, as rumour rumbles, Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 will be in Birmingham? We’ll just have to wait and see.

I thought i’d try to get the answer myself from the WDYTYALive team’s twitter account, but maybe they can’t confirm anything just yet. I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

In better news (well, for me at least), I found Olympia’s wifi was finally flawless. I can only hope that it’s the same quality/system at Earls Court 2, where I’m visiting on Tuesday.

So, in conclusion, I really enjoyed the show. I really enjoyed all three days. I enjoyed my hotel stay and beautiful Hyde Park ‘commute’. As ever the SOG workshop speakers were brilliant, and the mixture of stands really helped to fuel my time in-between the talks.

Thank you, to the team at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, to the team at the Society of Genealogists, and to the team at Olympia.

I hope 2015 brings us together again.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013

The dates for the seventh Who Do You Think You Are? Live genealogy show in London Olympia have been announced for 2013.

Once again, Olympia London plays host to the 7th Who Do You Think You Are? Live genealogy and history show.

I’m excited about the 2013 WDYTYA? Live show which runs from 22nd to 24th February. The event website – which will be properly updated soon – is now counting down to the 3 day genealogy feast. Tickets go on sale on the 7th of November, and in a nod to these tough financial times – the ticket prices are remaining the same price as in 2012!

Who Do You Think You Are? Live website screenshot

I first attended in 2011 – a late starter on this front – but having also visited in 2012, I recommend going along. On my first visit, I found myself wandering around, tweeting, and browsing the plateau of stands from societies and those large commercial organisation stands. This can be quite tiring, and whilst there are lots of great stands, not everything will be relevant to you and your research.

Attend Workshops

In 2012 I booked myself onto a couple of workshops, and found this to be a much better approach to the day – giving me great advice from experts, and also some structure to my day.

Else Churchill introduces the panel
Else Churchill introduces the panel of experts at the ‘Breaking the barriers of Social Networking – Strategies and tricks’ workshop

I attended the workshops ‘Google Search Strategies for the Family Historian’ by the brilliant genealogist, author and Genealogy Gems podcaster – Lisa Louise Cooke, and “Breaking the barriers of Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks” with the fantastic Else Churchill (of the Society of Genealogists) keeping an expert panel in order.


If you’re like me, and can’t peel yourself away from social media for any more than five minutes, then I recommend using twitter whilst at the event. In the past, the event has had its own hashtag (a # symbol followed immediately by a word or initialism relating to that specific event).

These hashtags are great for keeping up to date with conversation and inside information about the event whilst at the event! It’s like tuning into the grapevine.

If you are a twitter user, you can get free apps for your smartphone and tablet device that will let you keep track and contribute to the real-time event conversation.

I found this particularly useful and fun, as it enabled me to have conversations with other genealogists at the event. It is even common for people to tweet quotes and advice in real-time from the very workshop they are sitting in!

Look out for the event hashtag in 2013!

You can even take this further by using this conversation to meet up with other tweeting genealogists on the day. This is something that I will be trying to do more at 2013’s event.

Follow me on twitter at @FamilyTreeUK and let’s tweet up!

My three top tips for visiting Who Do You Think You Are? Live

  • Leave yourself plenty of time if you’re traveling via London Underground – Earls Court station gets very busy and isn’t the easiest to navigate.
  • Be prepared for lots of walking and standing….. and talking!
  • Book tickets for the ‘big’ workshops and talks online as early as you can – many of these were sold out weeks in advance.

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

John Cooper and his sons
John Cooper and his sons., originally uploaded by familytreeuk.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011

The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011 at London’s Olympia.

The fifth Who Do You Think You Are? Live runs from 25th-27th February 2011.

This was actually the first time that I had been to Who Do You Think You Are? Live. I thought that I would go along to find out for myself what it was like, to catch a talk by Monty Don, and also ‘entertain’ my Twitter followers for a few hours live from the event.

After quite an early start from Huntingdon station, I got down to Earls Court in good time. The train for Olympia seems to take an age to arrive, but thankfully once you’re on it, it’s just a short trip. I knew that I was on the right track as this train to Olympia was packed at 10:30am.

I’ve been to Olympia loads of times before for marketing/technology shows, so pretty much know my way around the place. Upon arrival, i nipped upstairs to the gallery to take the above photo and a couple of others before checking out where the Who Do You Think You Are? Theatre was (it’s upstairs), where I had my ticket to see Monty Don.

I was pleased to look out across the hall to see some very familiar brands – of course the Who Do You Think You Are? magazine team were there, but also, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, Society of Genealogists, and a fantastic Victorian set, complete with staff in period costume belonging to Genes Reunited.

Amongst them were an array of other organisations that provide information on DNA testing, Caribbean ancestry, the fantastic Cassini Maps team and many many others.

The Society of Genealogists had paved the way for a plethora of local family history societies to hold stands there too – I was pleased to stumble across my chums Cambridgeshire Family History Society (CFHS) and Parish Chest – both of whom I regularly shop with.

Up on the gallery level could be found other organisations – identifying/dating photographs, war medals.

Celebrities at WDYTYA Live

I stumbled across Eric Knowles – the legendary antique expert. I swear he didn’t leave his little stand for a second! And caught some fleeting glimpses of Nick Barratt.

Monty Don’s talk was both fascinating and funny. You could tell that he had enjoyed every moment of his adventure with WDYTYA, and even told the stories of the bits you didn’t see in his episode, and about further research that had taken place after the episode.

I had planned to catch Tony Robinson talking with but by this time I was already flagging on my feet so decided to start my journey homewards.

I think it was well worth the trip and I had a really good day. I didn’t go there looking for any particular information though, but there were plenty of people with notepads and folders – perhaps making use of the advice, or the Ask The Experts team upstairs.

I would definitely go again, but maybe not annually unless there was something specific I wanted to see or buy.

A few bits of advice:
They were allowing re-entry as long as you kept your ticket, so by lunchtime when i was starting to get a bit hot, i was pleased to grab some fresh air and a little walk over the road to get some lunch.

It can get quite hot in there, but fortunately i’d put my jacket in my rucksack… and there was a stand selling icecream.

The queue for the Who Do You Think You Are? theatre gets quite long quite quickly, so give yourself plenty of time if you fancy getting a really good seat.

There’s quite a lot of seats upstairs if you fancy taking the weight off your feet for a few minutes.

The Mystery of Elizabeth Yarrow’s Gravestone

Elizabeth Yarrow’s death spans two years. Her age at death spans 8 years. Two churches registers, and a gravestone all give conflicting and some corresponding information. What’s the real answer?

I have a mystery to solve and hopefully the death certificate of an Elizabeth Yarrow, whose death is recorded in the June quarter of 1838 in St Pancras, will unravel it.

This gravestone stands in Stretham churchyard, Cambridgeshire, amongst many other Yarrow gravestones. There is something engraved near the foot of the stone but I can’t make it out now, and perhaps didn’t spot it at the time.

However, this stone appears to have some errors.

The Stretham burials transcript gives William Yarrow as being 71, and Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright) as having been buried in 1837.

The Little Thetford burials transcript (Little Thetford being a hamlet of Stretham and it’s common for inhabitants to be buried at Stretham), gives a different story: “YARROW Elizabeth otp 50 wife of William farmer, died in London was carried home and buried at Stretham” (Nov 23 1837).

This gives two positive mentions of 1837, rather than the stone’s 1839. The Stretham transcript gives the right age for her, but not for him.

There’s no mention of William in the Little Thetford transcript.

Looking at FreeBMD, there’s only an Elizabeth Yarrow death (so far) available, and that’s the one registered in the June Quarter of 1838 at St. Pancras!

The GRO certificate is ordered… so lets see what it uncovers.

What do you think happened? Here’s a couple of my ideas…

  1. Maybe the stone was erected many years after William and Elizabeth deaths, and so family couldn’t quite remember?
  2. Elizabeth’s death was registered in the June 1838, because certification was new in late 1837 – perhaps they were resisting it (like some), or simply didn’t know that certificates had to be issued or how to go about it?

Surname Saturday: BURNELL

The Burnell family moved from Somerset to London, on to Bedfordshire and then on to Cambridgeshire.

Travelling around 300 miles, the Burnell family went from Devon to Somerset to Middlesex to Bedfordshire and on to Cambridgeshire.

When looking back at the families in my ancestry, few are more travelled (so far) as the Burnell family. The family have covered 5 counties in just over 200 years. That doesn’t sound like such an achievement by modern day standards, but in the 18th and 19th centuries, this was a journey. It was a journey for work – a journey for survival.

Back in the 1790s, the family was living in Combe Florey, Somerset. Robert Burnell and his wife Martha (née Evans – a Welsh connection?) were married in the parish in January 1816. It appears that Robert had come from Morebath, Devon, whilst Martha was a resident of the parish.

The couple had at least four children, with Samuel as the oldest – born just 2 months after his parents’ wedding. I have no record of what became of Samuel’s three sisters: Caroline, Mary and Maria – although each are born years apart, suggesting that perhaps there were more siblings.

Samuel Burnell married Mary (neé Babbidge) at Combe Florey on Christmas Day in 1839 (both illiterate) and together they bore a total of 12 children, including my Gt Gt Grandfather George Burnell in 1850. By 1861, Samuel is noted as a ‘road contractor’ and the family (by then almost complete) are living in poor houses.

The road to Middlesex

Their son and my ancestor, George, went off to work in what was then Middlesex, but is now absorbed by Greater London. In 1880 he married Miss Mary Ann Barker of Barkway, Hertfordshire. They married in All Saint’s Church, St John’s Wood on 9th May 1880, both naming residence as ’46 Abbey Road’ – a road that would find fame around 80 years later.  In 1885, my Great Grandmother Daisy Burnell was born in the Stables in Abercorn Place, London – an area that Charles Booth categorised in the two highest categories (‘Middle class well-to-do’ and ‘Upper-middle and Upper classes. Wealthy’) of his Poverty Classification system.

However, whilst this sounds like the family may have hit wealth in this part of London, they were undoubtedly servants to the wealthiest people of London.

A new start in Bedfordshire

By 1889, the couple and their four children left for Dunstable, where George became the landlord for ‘The Royal Oak’ in Church Street, Dunstable in Bedfordshire. Sadly, George died soon after in June 1891, leaving his pregnant widow with a young family and £75 13s 4d (worth today at about £4,500).

Seeking Hope in Cambridgeshire

Seeking to make ends meet, a pregnant Mary took her young mourning family off to Littleport, Cambridgeshire. Here they made a new start in the company of The Hope Brothers – a clothing manufacturing business.

Mary later re-married to James Smith, and appears to have died in 1929.