DAY THREE: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Summary of my third and final day at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 show at Birmingham NEC, including my favourite stand, and ticket dates for the 2016 show.

Well, that’s it! The 2015 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show is over.

If you went along, what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Was Birmingham NEC up to the job? Are you going next year? Did you think it was busy?

Once again, I really enjoyed the show – it was lovely to see familiar faces and brands, and also meet new ones too, and learn lots of new ‘old’ things. (Check out my Day One and Day Two posts!)

Having checked out of my hotel in Coventry, and stepped off the train at Birmingham, I noticed that there was a ‘Tweet up’ (essentially, a group of twitter users, who arrange a time/place to meet up via twitter, and so extending the invite to a wide audience) about to happen, so a quick diversion via the courtyard, gave us a wonderfully sunny set of Tweet Up photos.

Here’s mine:

After this, I made my way back into the show and noticed that the workshop ticket queue had reduced down nicely, so joined it behind a senior couple. Sadly, the woman in the couple was taking issue with the queuing system ‘this is the third day, and they haven’t managed to sort it out! The third day!’ she repeated to her silent male companion, and promptly decided to snap at the helpful ticket lady, who kept her cool perfectly.

I hope you’re reading this – you should have seen the queue earlier. The ticket team seemed to be doing a great job.

Turning around, I could see that the AncestryDNA stand was already doing booming business, again echoing just how much ‘DNA’ is this year’s buzz-word. I wonder just how many kits they sold over the three days? (and whether the testing period might become elongated?). I can only assume that the more kits that are sold in the UK, means that the data gets bigger, and the potential for more DNA matches increases.

AncestryDNA stand with visitors
Busy AncestryDNA stand.

Moving on a little, I stumbled across Linda Kerr (from The International Society of Genetic Genealogy – or ISOGG) giving a talk on DNA for Absolute Beginners – her talk seemed very clear and straightforward, and whilst the buzz about DNA was resonating through a lot of companies this year, it was great to see that the basics were being covered too. I loved how my photo captured ‘Does not replace traditional research’. A very good point!

Linda Kerr of ISOGG talking DNA for Absolute Beginners
Linda Kerr of ISOGG talking DNA for Absolute Beginners

I then headed over to the very well stocked stand at My History and picked up a load of archive safe photo pockets.

I have a large collection of small 1930-1950s photographs in my grandmother’s photo albums, but when you pick them up, the photos all fall out because the sticky pages have dried up.

Hopefully this should help sort, store, and put them safely back in order.

I think that out of all of the stands, my favourite design was The National Archives – i found it visually striking, wonderfully themed and lit. Of course, the 1939 Tea Rooms from FindMyPast, were wonderful too.. but it’s hard to compare them as their purpose was so different.

National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015
National Archives stand at WDYTYA Live 2015 was my favourite stand (not including the 1939 tea room)

My 2015 Who Do You Think You Are? Live take-aways

  • Death Duty Records are a big, exciting, mess, and a trove of information (Day Two via Dave Annal)
  • I quite enjoy corned beef hash cakes (Day One via FindMyPast)
  • Letters from paupers and pew rents can sometimes be found in Parish Chest records (Day One – Alec Tritton)
  • Wills aren’t subject to copyright (Day Two via Intellectual Property Office)
  • I’m enjoying reading Angela Buckley’s ‘The Real Sherlock Holmes – The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada‘ (Day Two via Pen & Sword Books)
  • ‘The spoon’ isn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped (Day Two via Eric Knowles)
  • It’s dribbling, not swabbing time, in the Martin households (Day One via AncestryDNA)
  • I walked 29,454 steps over these three days – the equivalent to 12.81 miles. Most of this would be inside the venue.

Cabin fever?

One thing I noticed this year, was that my enthusiasm for a third day was waining by midday. In London, if I dipped out early, I knew enough of London and had enough friends there, that I could pop out for a bit and do something else and head back, or head out early, but here at the NEC, it didn’t feel like that. Maybe next year, I might cut down to 2 days unless there’s some specific lure to keep me there/busy.

Don’t get me wrong, the show is really worthwhile, but as a family historian, whose ancestors have struggled to move more than 10 miles within Cambridgeshire over the last 420+ years, it’s really only the ‘generic’ talks and stands that give me the extra value. Learning about Irish roots, or researching Scottish records, or visiting a specific locale society stand, will be hard to apply to my somewhat almost ‘insular’ research territory.

Having said that, I’ve not done my DNA test yet… so that could all change. I’m still guessing Scandinavian is going to be in there.

I’m yet to hear of the official figures for this newly re-homed show, but I did hear that day two (Friday) was busier than the first day.

My brain struggled to imagine whether the show itself was bigger – as Olympia was always spread across a main hall and a mezzanine, with a few of the talks held off in rooms to the site, and the aisles between stands were about 1/3rd narrower than those in the NEC. It’s difficult to compare.

Where Do You Think You Are Going? Live
Where Do You Think You Are Going? Live

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 dates

That said, as revealed in the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine 14th April email campaign, the show remains at the Birmingham NEC for 2016 and for 3 days – running 28-30th April 2016.

See you there!

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.

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

Day Two of the 2014 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at London’s Olympia.

After a late night at the annual FindMyPast dinner, i creaked out of bed and headed across a beautifully sunny (but assuringly still Winter) Hyde Park for the second of three days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014. I’m quite enjoying this ‘commute’!

Sunshine beams into Olympia for day two.
Sunshine beams into Olympia for day two.

I got to Olympia just a few minutes after opening, but there was no queue. A small queue remained at the cloakroom and the workshop ticket desk, but both were fast moving.

I went straight into my pre-planned session with Cassie Mercer from Inside History magazine, on ‘How to get your ancestor’s names in print’.

Her talk covered how to approach family history for magazines and newspapers, how to pitch to editors, and how to get writing.

She highlighted that when writing, you should always think about the reader. The audience. Who are they? Will they want to read this? She also advised that when writing an article, you should start with your best anecdote, and end on one too.

Do mention the War

After Cassie’s talk finished, I then spent time exploring the stands over in the new Military History section on the upper floor.

Audrey Collins at The National Archives stand at Who Do a You Think You Are? Live 2014
Audrey Collins talks ‘Discovery’ at The National Archives stand at Who Do a You Think You Are? Live 2014

Here I found The National Archives (with Audrey Collins talking about on-site ‘Discovery’), and the exciting looking Lives Of WW1 from the Imperial War Museum.

Lives of WW1 talk at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Lives of WW1 talk at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

I was fortunate to attend the Keynote from Lives Of The First World War with Melanie Donnelly and Luke Smith, expertly compared by Else Churchill and her roaming mics. They were able to explain the initial test conducted in 2011 on Flickr, and the subsequent development of the project to the now, 2-day old, showcased product.

It’s yet to be publicly launched – they quoted May 2014. It certainly looks like a great resource for creating what is essentially a memorial Facebook-style profile of people who lived and died in the First World War, complete with photos, audio, video, documents, stories, and community.

Eric Knowles at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014
Eric Knowles at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

Was pleased to spot the legendary Eric Knowles again, deep in conversation with a hopeful heirloom keeper.

I’m now off for a ‘tweet up’ at the Hand and Flower pub opposite the event venue…. so I best leave that out of today’s blog post!!

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