Posted by: Christine | March 2, 2012

Sunday at Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Everyone else seems to have blogged about visiting the “the biggest family history event in the world.” So I thought I should add my thoughts.

The FFHS stand from the Balcony

Sunday started at 9.04am at Rugby Station, where RA and I boarded a rather full train to London. I think there was an important football match on somewhere, so we were reduced to the flip-up seats outside the WC. We travelled like this as far as Watford, where we changed to the train to Kensington/Olympia. We got seats this time.

Having been blessed with Exhibitors Tickets, we nipped in the back door – got the right one at the second attempt – found ourselves in a Wedding exhibition the first time! We went straight to the FFHS  stand to report our arrival. We than had three hours free to look around. After a quick trip to the gallery to pick up a ticket for one of the talks, I went first to visit the GoONS  stand to say hello. Unlike the rest of the hall, at this time,  this stand was very busy, but I managed to have a discussion with someone about the new Flip-Pal scanner (on sale elsewhere at the show). Think more needs to be known about whether archives will allow its use before it would be worth getting one.

The Queue at the GoONS stand

I then had a general wander round the stands in the SOG Family History Show area and back through the commercial stands and ended up in the queue for the National Archives for Scotland  . I had a question to ask, about the availability of the Register of Deeds, and there was only one other person waiting! At least twenty minutes later I eventually got my question answered – Yes they are available, if you visit the Archives, if not the cost is £15 (minimum). Other documents I was interested in could only be found by a personal visit. However I did receive a personal apology on behalf of the Scottish people for hanging my relative in 1705!

It was now nearly 12.00 and time for the talk I had booked, about Scottish Kirk Session Records. I learnt how useful these can be. They are not just about people being punished for fornication, but a lot of other interesting records that in England we would call contents of the Parish Chest. Definitely have to plan a Scottish research trip!

Having rested my legs, I did another tour of the Hall. I had a chat at the BNA  news-stand to thank them for this wonderful resource and told them about the interesting things I had found about my GGGrandfather’s Beerhouse and some more Public House information I had come across only a few days before (see a later post). I also stopped at the stand of the British Postal Museum & Archive stand to see if there was anything else coming online after the Appointment Books on Ancestry – nothing just yet. Managed to spend some money, I think it must have been on the East of London FHS stand, on a book about Wapping 1600-1800. I discovered I was starting to wander aimlessly, so I retired to the Ancestry Members Lounge to collect my “goody bag” and eat my packed lunch.

After this break I headed back to the FFHS stand. On the way I was ambushed by a woman with a microphone and camera and gave a quick interview about why I was at WDYTYAlive – it might be on the website  later – I’ll have to look out for it. Found RA resting her legs at a talk on the Genes Reunited stand so we returned to the FFHS stand, pinned on our badges and got to work.

Volunteers on the FFHS stand

Soon we were grabbing anyone who approached the stand, or even anyone who happened to be walking past, and tried to persuade them of the advantages of joining a Family History Society. It was surprising how many people do not belong to a Society. Are all these people sitting at home in front of a computer, meeting no-one apart from digitally? Do they not realise the benefit of going out and meeting other people socially; hearing talks on interesting and useful subjects; perhaps get involved in transcribing some local documents?

The most common excuse for not joining is that their ancestors did not come from the area they now live. It doesn’t matter! It is recommended that a Family Historian should join the Society where they live plus the Society where their ancestors lived. At the first you get the social side, general advice and the glow that comes from transcribing documents that might help other perople’s research. From the second you have access to local knowledge, perhaps someone will look things up for you in local archives or you can benefit from the transcriptions they have done.

We also met people who were just starting the journey of researching their family. A couple of us spent some time explaining to one lady how to get started; what documents to look for and what information she would find. We also learned things ourselves. A few days earlier someone asked about finding a relative who had travelled, with a thrashing machine, to Christchurch in New Zealand. A visitor to the FFHS stand turned out to work in the library in that very place and was able to give us an e-mail contact. Half way round the world to answer our question!

And of course we handed out numerous copies of the Federation’s Really Useful Leaflet. This does exactly what it say on the tin: a list of useful websites, a list of all the member societies around the world, even a beginner’s guide to starting your research. In the current issue there is even a competition. Write an account of a sportsman or woman in your family tree and win one of several valuable prizes. You can download a copy of the leaflet here 

Eventually our session was over, and it was time to go home. A quick walk back to the railway station and a wait for the next train to Watford. (Memo to self – next time, don’t leave the Hall half an hour before the train is due, unless you want a cold wait on the platform!). No problems once we got on the train, although when we arrived at Watford the first train out, leaving almost imedietley, was very full. It was only 10 minutes until the next, so we waited for that one and had a comfortable trip back to Rugby.

By the time I got home I felt exhausted – I don’t know how people manage the whole three days. A meal and to bed. After all, I had to be up the next morning for a session checking Parish Register transcriptions for Rugby FHG.


  1. Interesting to hear about your day. I’m sure you are quite right about family history societies. I joined the ones where my ancestors lived when I first started, but didn’t seem to get much out of it. You have inspired me to try again, but this time I will join one local to where I live.
    I found attending three days to be relaxing because there is less need to try to cram everything in, but only if you live near or book a hotel.

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