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…


Society Spotlight: Volunteers, Skills, and Big Ideas

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.

Photograph of maps, documents and a magnifying glass
Photo: Andrew Martin.


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.

In the words of Lisa Newman from The Cambridgeshire Family History Society:

“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 stories from people such as this member of the Women’s Land Army may provide societies with their niche. Photo: JamesGardinerCollection via CreativeCommons.

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?

This question gave the most mixed answers.

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).

defunct formats
Updating technologies will be one way of preserving history for the future. Photo: Andrew Martin.

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.

Geek Taming

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 and, 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.


Society Spotlight: How does the Society plan to preserve its knowledge for the future?

Society Spotlight: In today’s post, the history societies take a look at if and/or how they are planning the legacy of their work for future generations.

Today sees the fifth in my series of Society Spotlight posts, and the final question that I posed to the three 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?

Here’s their answers…

Society of Genealogists logoAbbie Black, The Society of Genealogists

“Many societies, including the Society of Genealogists, are always receiving new materials that are in the process of being preserved. Digitization of original documents makes genealogical materials easily accessible to people who simply can’t come to the Society. Digitization and preservation are also important for the future of a society in the case of a natural disaster. Coincidentally, Dick Eastman’s blog Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter recently published an article on 2 July 2013 concerning a society affected by the Southern Alberta flooding disaster.”

“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.”

Newman Name Society logo

Robert Newman, The Newman Name Society

“Our archive will probably be placed in the Guild Of One-Name Studies (GOONS) archive.”

Cambridgeshire Family History Society logo

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.

Society Spotlight: What is a history society’s biggest challenge?

Society Spotlight: In today’s post, the history societies identify their biggest challenge.

In the 4th of my Society Spotlight themed blog posts, I look at the second of the questions I asked the three responding societies:

‘What is a society’s biggest challenge?’

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…

Society of Genealogists logoAbbie 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.”

Newman Name Society logoRobert 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.”

Cambridgeshire Family History Society logoLisa 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?‘.

Do they have a plan to avoid a repeat of The Cross Family History Society’s death?, and the risk that Linda McCauley spoke of in my first post?

As ever, leave your comments below, or join in the discussion at LinkedIn.

Society Spotlight: What is a history society’s biggest need?

Three history and genealogy societies reveal what they feel that their society, and societies like them, see as their biggest need.

In today’s Society Spotlight themed blog post, I reveal the answers to the first question that I asked the societies:

What is the society’s biggest need?

Before approaching the societies, I had a few ideas as to what the themes of this answer might be – people, time, items/records. However, I was surprised that the other of my guesses – a financial theme – doesn’t get mentioned here.

Here’s what the society representatives had to say:

Society of Genealogists logoAbbie Black, The Society of Genealogists (SoG)

“A society’s biggest need is dedicated individuals who want the work of a society to succeed. Volunteers make up most of the workforce of societies, and they do excellent work in continuing the goals of preserving the past. Volunteers digitize documents, create indexes, and help members of the society do effective research.”

“In larger Societies like the Society of Genealogists paid professional staff are also important to a society’s function; they provide professional expertise and competencies, not only in subject specialisms as genealogists or librarians but in management accountability, finance and human resources. Genealogical Societies with professional staff are more common in the USA but the SoG is unique in the UK.”

Robert Newman, The Newman Name Society

Newman Name Society logo“Our biggest need is for more members and for people to share their Newman record finds so that we can build up our archive.”

Lisa Newman, The Cambridgeshire Family History Society

Cambridgeshire Family History Society logo

“I would say 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.”

“We also need support from the FFHS and (in a perfect world) the big internet sites to encourage people to join FHS’s.”

“With ever increasing competition from the big internet sites, why would someone join a society when they think all of the answers are available at the touch of a button? My colleague this week asked me if she typed her name in would it work out who was related to who in her family? I think I visibly deflated at that point!  So I guess we also need to educate people to manage their expectations!”

What do you think?

What do you think of the society responses – any surprises? Leave a comment below, or join in the discussion over on LinkedIn.

In tomorrow’s Society Spotlight posting I ask the societies ‘What’s the Society’s biggest challenge?‘.

Society Spotlight: How can we help history societies focus on the future?

Every day this week, I’m focusing on History Societies. Three societies have each kindly answered three questions, and I’ll be covering their answers that reveal their needs, challenges, and plans for survival.

I’m a supporter of history societies. I think they’re great resources, and that they play a very important role in preserving and sharing information to communities. However, these treasure troves of information face a real risk without a healthy long-term plan of survival.

Whilst talking with genealogist Linda McCauley a few weeks ago, she recalled a story of a  society in the US that has nearly been wiped out after the recent death of its treasurer. The treasurer had pretty much run the society single-handedly and was the only person who knew where the membership list was kept. Now, that society faces a bleak future unless the list is found by the grieving family when their home is cleared. If not, it brings an end to the individual’s dedicated hard work for which they surely must have hoped would have a long-lasting legacy.

Genealogist Linda McCauley
Genealogist Linda McCauley.

“It’s so easy today for a society to back-up their critical information. All it takes is a few files stored online and multiple officers with the ID and password to access them” – Linda McCauley.

This story struck a chord with me and got me thinking – how can we help history societies survive?

Hold on, why should we help history societies?

Societies are often run by volunteers, and with little or no funding behind them. This means that they rely on the donations from members, events, making a profit on their publications, and membership subscriptions. It also means that they don’t necessarily have the funding to digitise their archive, or to put it securely online for people to browse (or even just to digitally preserve, and/or put a searchable index online).

The kind of records that societies hold varies considerably, but often include items that are otherwise ignored by the larger organisations that have the monopoly on digitizing records and making available online – items include items such as personal collections from local people, self-published family stories, one-off types of items, personal photograph collections, and many other types. These records are likely to be ‘small fry’ for the likes of Ancestry, FindMyPast, Genes Reunited etc, as they won’t have such a wide appeal, and therefore won’t be the money-spinner worth investing in. One society I know, holds their parish gravedigger’s note book, which alongside the parish register, provides a useful corroborative record of burials.

How do history societies want to be helped?

The best way to know the answer to this is to ask them. So I contacted five different UK-based societies to see how they would answer three questions.  Three have replied since I contacted them back on 29th June 2013. The respondent three were:

  • The Society of Genealogists – a large genealogy society which holds the largest collection of parish records and is based in London. It is widely known and visible through the events and training courses that it organises, and appearances on television.
  • The Cambridgeshire Family History Society – a county-wide family and local history society in England, with a wide range of publications, international members, and support courses.
  • The Newman Name Society – a member of the Guild Of One-Name Studies (GOONS), and the first family history society I ever joined, almost 20 years ago.

I asked each of them the same three questions, and for the next five days i’ll be sharing their answers to each question in turn, and looking at ways that you can help your local society, or the society local to your ancestors. The questions were:

  1. What is the society’s biggest need?
  2. What is the society’s biggest challenge?
  3. How does the society plan to preserve its knowledge for the future?

I hope that you will find this series of posts interesting, and perhaps find it inspiring enough to contact your local society and offer them even just a few hours of your time and/or expertise, or at least become a member to help fund them.

If you’re a member of a society already, or already helping a society in some capacity, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below (and feel free to post a link to their website!). Let’s promote them!

Come back tomorrow when I’ll be talking about the death of a family history society.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013

Day Two of 2013’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live event.

So, I’m just back home from my third Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia.

The show, now in its second day, seems to be about the same size as in previous years. Thankfully the heating was on, as I’d already experienced the gentle flurry of snow adding to the shivvering I had done on the drab Earls Court station platform.

Stands at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013
View across Olympia lower court.

At one end of the hall were all the local Family History Society stands – brought together by the Society of Genealogists, whilst the rest of the hall is filled with the behemoths of genealogy – the magazines, the suppliers, and the online datashops – Ancestry, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, and GenesReunited etc.

Upstairs, once again was the legend that is Eric Knowles, along with military historians – some in period costume. This whole area was packed with people clutching medals and photos, seeking information on relatives or identification of uniforms.

Following on from last year’s Titanic themed FindMyPast theatre, this year it was the turn of the Crime and Punishment theme (coinciding with their huge launch of fresh C&P records online). Their presenters were informative and entertaining, particularly period policeman Myko Clelland‘s search for Wombles.

A presentation by FindMyPast
FindMyPast’s Myko goes hunting for wombles.

The WDYTYALive Tweetup!

I had really wanted to attend what i think was the first ‘tweet-up’, and had been looking forward to meeting up with fellow genealogy twitter users, but awkwardly I was double-booked with the Richard III talk, so I had to bail, although did manage to meet a few twitter friends.

In the run-up, during, and no doubt afterwards, you can keep up with the latest mentions of the event by following the #wdytyalive hashtag on twitter.

Still, as guilty as that snubbing made me feel, i thought I better share Rosemary Morgan‘s photo of all those that did show up, as a kind of ‘sorry i couldn’t make it’.

Samantha Womack

I arrived before 10am, so had plenty of time until my first booked session – the Celebrity Interview with Samantha Womack (or Janus if you remember her in Game On or Eurovision). Interestingly, interviewer Tessa Dunlop led Sam to reveal that she had not watched the broadcast episode as she felt that it was a personal journey and wanted to keep it that way for herself… plus she said she hates seeing and hearing herself.

That aside, we saw a few broadcast clips from key moments, and also a clip that wasn’t in the programme (something seemingly Sam had wanted kept in the show), which revealed much more about her ancestor Jesse Rider being in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ in the USA before she ever married or had children.

The Two Kings

Dr Turi King on stage
Dr Turi King shed light onto the Richard III dig and its future.

Dr Turi King‘s (University of Leicester) presentation was fascinating, and detailed the archaeological dig from the outset right up to finding and identifying King Richard III via DNA testing and genealogical research. She also gave an insight into what is still going on with the data and the all important skeleton. Dr King told us that there was still a lot of work to do and a lot of information to write up, and also a modern Y chromosome to follow up on. She emphasised that funding is a major issue in this project and in general in archaeology (a subject which Tony Robinson and Helen Geake also emphasised the other week at the University of Cambridge), and whilst this dig has been back-filled, there were still plenty of things to explore further – including a stone coffin which was left untouched.

The talk buried a few rumours (see what i did there?) circulated by the press – including free DNA tests via Who Do You Think You Are?, and also the rumour that Richard III was buried beneath the letter ‘R’ painted on a carpark. He was not.

Searching for Surnames with SoG

My third and final workshop was one with the great Else Churchill from the Society of Genealogists (affectionately known as SoG). She showed off the Society’s forthcoming much improved website, and also gave an insight into the work and vast collection that the Society performs and maintains. Sounds like the Society has a huge legacy of great and valuable historical sources but they are tied up in a range of formats making them a challenge to see. Still, it sounded like plans were afoot to change this, and the new site would at least make searching those items that are already indexed/catalogued much easier.

All in all, this was probably my most enjoyable WDYTYALive. After my first one being somewhat uninteresting, and my second one (last year) seeing me attend workshops for the first time and getting more value from it, this one built on that but with the added meeting of twitter friends old and new.

I look forward to WDYTYALive 2014 (i’m pretty sure I saw a stand selling next year’s tickets).

View across stands at WDYTYA Live 2013
View across stands at WDYTYA Live 2013

He’s got a Ticket To Live

Tickets for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013 have arrived!

Who Do You Think You Are? Live logoThis year I decided to ‘treat myself’ with VIP Tickets for Saturday 23rd – not ever so sure what ‘VIP’ means, but I thought i’d give it a go. Maybe I’ll be able to tweet from the red carpet area?

This will be my third (and consecutive visit) to the show. Last year I also visited on the Saturday.

I have also booked myself on three sessions, including the Celebrity Theatre with Samantha Womack (Series 9 of WDYTYA, Game On, EastEnders, Eurovision Song Contest entry).

I’ve also joined in on a session with the fantastic Else Churchill from the Society of Genealogists, and a session with Dr. Turi King – which fortunately, IS about finding Richard III in a car park in Leicester. Not sure what would have happened if they’d realised it wasn’t him after I’d bought my ticket!

A full list of sessions from across the three days can be found on the WDYTYALive site.

Are you going too?

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.