Category Archives: WDYTYA Live

WDYTYA? Live 2017 Preparations: Tickets on Sale 

It’s not even Christmas 2016, but one of my presents will be here early. After my 2016 visit to WDYTYA? Live in Birmingham, where I felt one day was far too short a visit for me, I determined that in 2017 I would spend longer at the exhibition. Tickets are now on sale with an “early bird” discount.

WDYTYA? Live 2016 – photo by Jane Roberts

So now it’s time for me to plan my visit. I’m going for a two-day option. So next to check out hotels. And based on my previous experiences I will pre-book my workshops. I’m getting old so need a seat!

WDYTYA? Live 2016 : So much to do, So little time

The evening after the day before. I’m still recovering after a 220 mile round trip and a jam-packed day at “WDYTYA? Live”.


The “Ask the Experts” area, busy right from the off

This year I focused on talks as trailed here. I did a mixture of ticketed and free talks. Pre-booking the Society of Genealogists (SoG) Workshops proved a wise choice for me – I think all my chosen ones had sold out before the event. So it meant this year I got a seat instead of loitering on the periphery.

I picked up lots of useful tips from all three SoG talks I attended, including search tips and suggested books. I now have a couple of new research strategies and record sets to check out for my Irish research from “Luck of the Irish”. It was fascinating to follow step by step the methods used in conducting research from one name in Meath, tracing the family back to way beyond pre Civil Registration.

And, following on from “Tracing a 16th and 17th Century Family Tree”, the moment I got home I ordered a copy of “Courts of the Manors of Bandon and Beddington 1489-1552” to help with my Latin to English translation of Manorial records.  Going to a Catholic school and studying Latin for two years is of limited help – and then only for basic words. My “Ecce Romani” Latin is useless for Manorial rolls!


A Packed “Tracing a 16th and 17th Century Family” Tree Workshop

My husband also attended three workshops. He’s only into Family History at a basic level, but learned lots from the “What they Don’t Tell you about Visiting Archives” and WW1 research talk “Overcoming Trench Walls”. He came away fired with enthusiasm, and insisted there and then on sharing his new-found knowledge!

As a journalist he also attended the “Copyright and Family History” talk. It was interesting to compare his perspective of what is done in reality (and ways round things), to what should be done.  He said this talk would put the fear of God into anyone about doing anything!

As an old-school journalist he was trained in shorthand, so made copious notes. I will be keeping an eye on the SoG website because, as in previous years, many (but not all) of the speakers’ handouts or slides presented at the show will be uploaded in due course.


Final Packed Workshop of the Day – Research Before 1837

I also attended Debbie Kennett’s “Autosomal DNA Pleasures and Pitfalls” talk. A clear explanation of a complex subject, and I now feel better prepared to re-visit my DNA tests. Immediately on my return home I downloaded her talk slides and joined the “DNA help for Genealogy (UK)” Facebook page. So these should help with what is a daunting subject for my scientifically-challenged mind.

One nugget I did take away with me, which hadn’t previously crossed my mind with the Ancestry DNA kit, was the need to factor in my annual Ancestry subscription cost. This is required in order to be able to continue to access the full range of their DNA online result features.


Debbie Kennett Points out the Pleasures and Pitfalls of Autosomal DNA

One talk which me and my husband attended together was Andrew Robertshaw’s “The Story of the Somme”. As my husband put it, the clearest most concise 20 minute explanation he has ever heard.


“The Story of the Somme” – one of the highlights of the show for me

As a result of the number of talks I attended, regretfully I didn’t have as much time as I needed to explore the rest of the cornucopia of exhibitors. I did plan out in advance those I wanted to visit but didn’t get round them all. Part of the problem was navigating the stand numbering system – I kept getting hopelessly lost and distracted.

I was particularly disappointed I didn’t make it to the Forces War Records stand to see what the discount was, as I am considering subscribing.


WW2 Spitfire in the Forces War Records Area

I did manage to get my 25% Ancestry renewal discount. Definitely one bargain not to be missed out on.

I was torn about purchasing some more DNA kits for the family. Ancestry had a great deal, with kits retailing at a massively discounted £59 and Family Tree DNA’s autosomal Family Finder kit at £65. I decided against it. But with luck, judging by the rate they were flying off the shelves, I may get some more matches (hopefully with attached trees).

As ever I spent a small fortune on books, my big weakness. The Pen & Sword stand got the largest chunk of my book cash. Their offer of three books for £30 proved far too tempting and I ended up buying 5 for £40! Only the fact I’ve got the indispensable “Phillimore Atlas of Parish Registers” stopped me from grabbing a £20 bargain at The History Press stand.


Pen & Sword Haul

I also managed to sign up for a Pharos course (with 20% discount). So I’ll be doing their “Introduction to One-Name Studies” course in May. For good measure I ended up registering a one-name study name with the Guild – heaven knows how much extra work I’ve landed myself there!


More Goodies – including One-Name Studies Guidance

On the subject of courses, I managed to speak to a number of providers. I’m now pondering about doing the Pharos Advanced course, the Institute of Heraldic & Genealogical Studies (IHGS) correspondence course or a Centre for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS) one. As ever for me the sticking point is fitting genealogy learning around work commitments. I need the flexibility. I also want a course which will potentially lead to formal accreditation with the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA).

And talking, listening and learning is another fantastic thing about “WDYTYA? Live”. It was great to meet so many people who share this passion for family history, including so many #AncestryHour Twitter folk! So faces to Twitter names at last.

Given my interest in WW1 history, I visit Flanders and the Somme annually. So the show provided me opportunity to do some planning for my two visits scheduled for this year.


Holiday Planning

On a WW1 theme finally, as the show was winding up, Chris and I paid for joint membership of the Western Front Association, something we’ve meant to do for quite some time.


Plenty for Military Researchers

Yet again I thoroughly enjoyed my day at “WDYTYA? Live”. The talks I attended were excellent. However, given that I felt I missed so much this year in terms of exhibitors, next year I won’t try to cram everything into one day. I will stay for two, possibly the full three, days. That in itself sums up how useful the event is.end of show

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 – Workshops

I’m pushing on with my Family History New Year’s Resolutions, as described on 1 January. Today’s task has been around keeping up with the latest developments and building upon my knowledge.

I booked my ticket to “Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016” late last year. Today I checked out the Workshop programme. Last year I failed to book these in advance. As a result the ones I wanted to attend were full. Although I was able to hang around the periphery and eavesdrop, it wasn’t quite the same as having a seat. This was my blog post based on my view of the 2015 event.

Irish Catholic Records Workshop in 2015

The programme is more or less finalised, and the workshops available to pre-book. Lots of interesting talks around a full range of topics, from Irish ancestry, copyright and War Records, to brick walls, maps and pre 1837 research. There are the inevitable workshop clashes. But I’ve deliberated and finally made my selection. These are based around a combination of my interests and areas I want to strengthen.

The full programme is here

My choices are:

  • “The Luck of the Irish” – Irish Census and Census Substitutes Might Lead You to Your Family in Ireland Prior to 1864 Registration – Grant Edward Curley (10.15)
  • Research Before 1837: Church Records on and Off Line – Else Churchill (11.15)
  • Writing Your Family History – Gill Blanchard (12.15)
  • What They Don’t Tell You About Archives – Simon Fowler (14.15)
  • Tracing a 16th and 17th Century Family Tree – Celia Heritage (15.15)
  • Copyright and Family History – Margaret Haig (16.15)


I have now received a follow up email from “WDYTYA? Live” informing me that the workshop schedule has changed since I made my booking. The “Writing Your Family History” workshop has moved to Friday’s show, so I will have to miss that one.

And “Research Before 1837” has moved to later in the day on Saturday….and it now clashes with the “Copyright and Family History” one. I’m now agonising over which one to attend. It may be that my husband will find himself attending the latter, tasked with note-taking: as a journalist, but not a family historian, it is the one he will probably get the most from.

I now have a gap at 11.15, so will probably go for Chris Baker’s  “The Fog of War: Breaking Through the Records of Soldiers of 1914-1918″, one of the talks I toyed with when making my original decision. My husband has booked for that one – so I will ask him to consider donating his place to me!

Looking at “The Education Zone” offerings which have now largely been fleshed out since my booking, Andrew Robertshaw’s “The Story of the Somme” appeals. Running between 13.50-14.10 I can probably squeeze that one in (just). But the other one I’m interested in, “Using Findmypast to Unlock Your Irish Family History“, by Brian Donovan clashes with the Archives talk.

The fact there are so many talks I’m interested in is testimony to the continued relevance of the show to family history researchers.

And the event has challenged my timetabling to the max. I only hope I haven’t gone too far with workshop overload….and I can find time to explore the various exhibitors.

I am also hoping that the surgery I’m now scheduled for will be in the week after the show. Otherwise all my planning will be in vain.


Family History Fair Tips for Beginners

I attended “Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015” staged this year at the NEC in Birmingham. It was my first ever visit to this annual event, although I have been to a number of local family history fairs in the past. Although it probably does not suit all, for me the new location was far more easily accessible than London, the previous venue. I had a fantastic time. It was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere. I met lots of fabulous people. And I came away with a wealth of new information and tips which hopefully will lead to the demolition of some of those family tree “brick walls”.  I also seem to have committed to researching my husband’s tree too as a result of my visit, from a geographical area outside my sphere of knowledge. So I made new contacts to facilitate that.

With lots of family history fairs and events coming up in the next few weeks such as the “Family History Fair and Lecture Day” at Pudsey on 25 April 2015 and the “Yorkshire Family History Fair” in York on 27 June 2015, I thought I would share my 10 tips for those new to going to such events. These are aimed at beginners, they are not exhaustive and some may be more applicable than others, depending on the type of event.

Tip 1: Before the event familiarise yourself with the exhibitors. For big events such as “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” and the “Yorkshire Family History Fair” the cast list can be overwhelming. I make a list of those stands and tables I definitely want to visit as, on the day, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and miss out someone, only realise too late when you are on your way home. I also take a map with those tables highlighted. Nevertheless the joy of these events is the opportunity to browse and see what is available. You never know what you might stumble across which may prove relevant/interesting for your research. For me this time the unexpected interest was DNA, which seems to be the latest big thing in genealogy.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015

Tip 2: Make a note of the workshops you are interested in and, if possible, pre-book them. This was my failing at “Who Do You Think You Are? Live”.  When I finally got round to checking I discovered the workshops I really wanted to attend were all booked up at least the week before the event. So if you are really keen on a particular talk book it as early as possible. All was not lost for me as there was the opportunity to hover on the periphery of the unenclosed workshops. But it was not quite the same as having a seat in the designated area.

Irish Catholic Records Workshop

Irish Catholic Records Workshop

Tip 3: Take plenty of pens and a notebook. Invaluable for making notes of key workshop points as well as any general tips or contact details you pick up whilst there.

Tip 4: Take your ancestor details with you. It is all too easy on the day to forget exact dates and locations for them. I have my full tree available on a Phone App. But I make sure I have a hard paper copy too, in case reception is dodgy or my battery dies and there are no charging facilities. A number of Family History Societies have A4 printed family tree “Ancestral File” books available to purchase where you can record your research. These are perfect not only for Family History Fairs but also for record office visits.

Tip 5: Keep a list of books you own and take it with you. I have a bookcase full of genealogy reference and general interest books, so it is all too easy to forget what exactly I have on those creaking shelves.  To counteract this I also have a small pocket book listing in alphabetical author order all my books. That way when I go to one of these events and see a book I think looks interesting I can check to make sure it is not one I already own. It does take organisation and discipline in remembering to add each new purchase to the list but it can end up saving a lot of money in the long run on duplicates! This extends to Family History Society publications such as parish register indexes, MIs and even the Alan Godfrey Map Series. Make sure you know what you already own to avoid spur of the moment duplicate buys.

Tip 6: If you have hit any ancestral “brick walls” take what information you have with you. There are lots of experts on hand to help. Some of these may be drop-in sessions; others you may have to pre-book a slot. But it is well worth getting advice which may help you progress your research. I tend to take photocopies of certificates etc just in case I end up losing them. But for photographs it is always best to take the original.

Tip 7: Talk to people. It is amazing how friendly and knowledgeable everyone is and how much you can learn. It is the joy of this type of event.

Tip 8: Have a set budget. There are so many tempting things on offer at these events it can be all too easy to get carried away. Products range from books to CDs, joining societies, magazine subscriptions, software, genealogy supplies, courses and even DNA tests. I have a set budget before I go, a mixture of cash and card. I try to stick to it…..although it can be difficult!

Tip 9:  Pace yourself. It is all too tempting to rush round all day trying to cram in as much as possible, resulting in information overload, headache and exhaustion. Take time out for a coffee and a bite to eat, a chance to chat to people, re-group, evaluate what you have learned and still have left to do and importantly re-charge those batteries (and I’m not talking my phone here). The day will be an all the better experience for it.

Find My Past 1939 Team Rooms

Find My Past 1939 Team Rooms

Tip 10: Finally take a lightweight bag and wear a pair of comfortable shoes – you will certainly cover some ground during the course of the day, especially at the bigger events!  And you will come away with far more leaflets, books etc than you started the day with.

I hope this is helpful to those new to Family History Fairs. Any other tips please feel free to share.

A useful events list can be found at