Geoffs Genealogy Update 4 May 2015

Monday May 4th, 2015 | Geoff

Some months ago I saw an offer which encouraged me to buy two tickets for the Who Do You Think You Are? family history exhibition, which was to be held at the NEC, Birmingham, between 16th and 18th April this year. At the time the show was about five months away, but the offer was a really good one, reducing the ticket cost by about 50%, so I booked. Well, it is amazing how quickly the time goes these days, and the big day for Mrs GC and I to go to WDYTYA arrived three weeks ago, on a beautiful, sunny thursday morning.

We live about 40 miles from the NEC, so it didn’t take us long to drive there. I had previously attended this show in London, once as a visitor and once as the member of the team running one of the stands, so I pretty well knew what to expect. I had high expectations, and was not disappointed.

All the big genealogy names were there, and it was good to chat with people on the Ancestry, Find My Past, Society of Genealogists, and Family Search stands, and find out a bit about what they have to offer me at the moment, as well as future developments. I found my chat with Debra on the Find My Past stand particularly helpful, as she gave me a few tips to help me in navigating their website, which I’m sure will help me in the future.

There were a very wide range of stands present at the show, ranging from the type of large entities that I mentioned above to smaller tables belonging to family history societies, small businesses and the like. Mrs GC bought herself a lovely mug from the National Library of Wales stand, and when they were not too busy I took the chance to have a chat with some old friends who were manning the Shropshire Family History Society stand. In fact they seemed to be busy most of the time, as they dealt with enquiries from other attendees.

I particularly wanted to visit the Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved? stand, manned by Professor Rebecca Probert and her colleagues. Alas, every time I went to her stand Rebecca was busy, but I still managed to buy a copy of her new book. When I was editing the Shropshire Family History Journal a few years ago Rebecca kindly wrote a superb article that I published. Her previous book – Marriage Law for Genealogists – is widely regarded as the most informative book on the subject that has been published to date, and having attended one of her lectures a few years ago at the Shropshire Family History Fair, I can vouch for her prowess as an engaging and informative speaker. I am confident that her new book, which is a guide to marital breakdown, widowhood and remarriage, will prove a great addition to my bookshelf.

I had a brief chat with the gent on the Deceased Online stand, trying to convince him that it would be a good idea to introduce a monthly subscription. At present they only offer users the choice between buying a number of units or paying for twelve months use, and thus I am deterred from using their website, which I think is rapidly becoming a potentially valuable tool.

Throughout the day there were lectures being given on a great range of family history topics. We attended two of them. First we heard John Hanson’s talk entitled “Why Pay?” in the SOG 1 theatre. This was a review of websites that offer researchers vast amounts of information free of charge, and I found it useful not so much as an introduction to such websites, but more as a reminder about all those sites that I had used previously and forgotten. Then we made our way to the Find My Past theatre, and heard Debra Chatfield’s talk “Up and Coming at Find My Past”. This was a most interesting review of some of the resources that FMP have recently added, eg the Bethlem Records, and some more that will be coming in the not too distant future, of which probably the most exciting prospect is the release of the 1939 Register.

Also on display in the exhibition hall was the Royal British Legion’s wonderful World War One sculpture, Every Man Remembered, which is most striking. This was displayed to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli, in which so many soldiers died.

Just before we left to come home I had time to have a few minutes with one of the experts who were on hand to try to help people in solving their genealogical problems. I explained the ongoing problem posed to me in my 29 year search for the origins of John Bankes, Citizen & Haberdasher of London (c1650-1719), and ran through all the many avenues that I have explored. He was most helpful, and it was good to talk this through with somebody else – a fresh mind on the subject, as it were. He did suggest a couple of avenues that I have not yet tried, and I shall be following up on those as soon as I can.

We left the NEC at the end of our day, with the sun still shining as we joined the queue on the M6 northbound carriageway. It had been a very enjoyable day on many levels for both of us, and we certainly intend visiting Who Do You Think You Are  at Birmingham in April 2016.

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