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 page-turning genealogy crime mystery

Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s ‘The America Ground’ is a satisfying genealogical puzzle, that I enjoyed untangling as I turned each page.

I’m a fair-weather reader. Slow, and driven by the habit of only reading in bed just before I doze off. Some years I will read as little as 1 or 2 books, others will see that closer to 6 a year. Still not a great number, but the time that I’d spend reading, I could spend researching my family tree.

So when author Nathan Dylan Goodwin asked me if he could send me a copy of his book ‘The America Ground‘ – a book about a genealogy puzzle – I agreed, warning him of my tardiness.

The book is the third adventure for Nathan’s ‘Forensic Genealogist’ character, Morton Farrier. I’ve not read the others, but I didn’t feel like this book relied on prior knowledge of him, or his earlier adventures.

Morton’s character is a professional family history researcher, and we find him enjoying the chance to research his own unclear ancestry, with him trying to locate his biological parents’ movements in 1970’s Sussex, England. This is soon interrupted by a painting and a mystery related to the Lovekin family that takes him back to the early 19th century and land disputes over a strip of land known as ‘The America Ground’.

This piece of land, which really does exist, anchors the historical characters, and Nathan writes a truly grimy and poverty-stricken existence for them as they cling to their livelihoods. The menace of the sea is as much of a menace as the authorities are in this story, and I could almost hear the unforgiving waves crashing as I read this at night.

I found the chapters alternating between modern and historical, not a new invention, but a welcome one that really helped to lure me through this story, as I too became tangled in the mysterious branches of the Lovekin tree, and Morton’s own mystery.

There’s plenty of familiar nods here for family historians – alongside the social history depictions there’s plenty of revelation BMD certificates, legal inheritance hurdles, puzzling parish register appearances, and an abrasive archives keeper in the form of Miss. Deidre Latimer (we’ve all known one).

angrylibrarian

There’s also plenty here for crime fans too, although as the historical and modern mystery boundaries began to blur towards the finale, I found the series of events that occur to Morton became a little bit too dramatic. The clever drawing together between the modern and historical characters to form the resolve really tied those time-scattered stories together perfectly.

The last few lines of the book deliver a completely unexpected cliff-hanger, which must surely be the opening point for the next book in the Morton Farrier series, and the next era for his own puzzling ancestry.

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