Posted by: Christine | April 8, 2013

My First Conference

Any regular readers of this blog might remember that this time last year I wrote about my experience trying to watch the Guild of One-Name Studies Conference on-line. This year I decided to attend the AGM and Conference in person. This was the 34th Conference and titled ‘Around England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in 8,000 names”

Friday morning I set off with my driver and non-delegate for Cardiff. As we had plenty of time we took the “pretty” route. Down the Foss Way to the Cotswolds and joined the M5 near Tewkesbury. After a couple of junctions we left the motorway and, bypassing Gloucester, drove down the A48 between the Forest of Dean and the River Severn. Not a fast route, but more pleasant than the motorway. We stopped at Tredegar House, now run by the National Trust, for some lunch and a walk around the house and grounds. It is a house which belonged to the Morgan family, which included some colourful characters! We could have spent longer there, but we had to get on.

Spring has come at Tredegar House

Spring has come at Tredegar House

Something strange in the stables of Tredegar House

Something strange in the stables of Tredegar House

Onto the M4 for, what we thought, would be the simple journey to the conference venue. The directions were not very precise, so we had a closer look at Cardiff than we expected! Eventually we arrived and, after checking in to the hotel, received a warm welcome and our name badges and goody bags. After dumping our luggage in the room, we went down again for coffee and biscuits. After waiting around for some time with other frustrated arrivals, we returned to our room for some coffee. The late (or non) arrival of coffee was to be a feature of the weekend.

Later there was a buffet dinner which was followed, after an interval of confusion as to location, by the Quiz. This occupied the rest of the evening, as the different Livery Companies battled it out under the control(?) of Kirsty. There was plenty of laughter and was a good way of getting to know people. I don’t know the final score of the Pewterers but we were not one of the three joint winners, whose names I don’t recollect.

The Pewterers ponder a difficult question at the Quiz

The Pewterers ponder a difficult question at the Quiz

Despite the late night we were up early for breakfast and then the opening of the Conference at 9.00, followed by the AGM. After morning coffee (it arrived this time – with pastries) it was time for the talks.

The audience gathers for the first session

The audience gathers for the first session

The morning session was England and started with Andrew Millard on London: Where men can most effectively disappear. This gave a useful account of the expansion of London over the years and the distinction between the City and Middlesex and how different places moved from one area to another – parishes split as the population expanded and merged as numbers reduced. Details were given on where to find the different records. It seems that you need to know the history of a place, before you can find the records, if they exist at all! Links and References for this talk can be found here.

Andrew Millard is introduced as Bob Cumberbatch controls the online broadcast

Andrew Millard is introduced as Bob Cumberbatch controls the online broadcast

The second presentation was by Gareth Davies on Companies House, Products, Services and access to company and directors information. This very entertaining talk, by an employee at Companies House, let us into some of the secrets of the department and how to find valuable information about directors of companies.

After lunch it was the turn of Ireland, with Nollaig O Muraile telling us about the complicated subject of Medieval Sources for Genealogical Research. It seems that there is a lot of information available, but difficulties in knowing how accurate it is. It also suffers from the lack of Irish language speakers prepared to translate and transcribe the records.

The second Ireland speaker was John Hamrock, on the Origins and Meanings of Irish Surnames. He concentrated on the Irish diaspora and attempts to attract their descendants to visit Ireland. He also mentioned the increasing amount of Irish information available online.

All that was enough for one day and everyone returned to their rooms to prepare for the Banquet that evening. This started with a reception at 7.00 and then the meal. This was in the same room where the talks had been, although rearranged.

The Banquet

The Banquet

The starter was Fan of ripe melon & mango coulis, followed by Pan seared chicken breast, Sauvignon blanc and tarragon cream, with vegetables. Dessert was Warm apple tart with ice cream. The food and the service was very good. After coffee was served, there was entertainment in the form of the Fraser Lawson Band. unfortunately this was so loud that anyone who wanted to talk, rather than dance, evacuated the room.

Next day at 9.00, while the Regional Representatives were having their meeting, the rest of us were back for a talk by Debbie Kennett on The Power of Social Networking: Geneaology in the 21st century. This was a similar talk to the one she gave at the Why be a Society in the 21st century Seminar last December, so I won’t go through it here.

After the morning coffee came the Scottish section of the conference. First Lorna Kinnaird, Regional Representative for Scotland South, replaced the advertised speaker Bruce Durie on Retours: the Unknown Scottish Source for One-Namers. These documents are the returns to chancery concerning disputes in the inheritance of property. These cannot be found online – a trip to Scotland is required. A transcript of an index has been produced by Bruce Durie (in three volumes – 2000 pages)

The second Scottish talk was by Dee Williams of the National Records of Scotland on Searching for historic Scots: some free and chargeable resources. This was about the records we can access online, either through ScotlandsPeople (will a subscription ever be available?) or other sites – some of them free.

Lunch followed, when I didn’t get around to any coffee because I was chatting too much – I was starting to get the hang of this conference thing!

The final session was about Wales and I found the first presentation surprisingly interesting. Peter Badham talked about The Welsh Context: A One-Name Perspective. It seems there is more to Welsh surnames than just the use and then disappearance of “ap”. It included information about the history of Wales, which I didn’t know about. But I was glad that my name was not of Welsh origin.

The final talk was by Beryl Evans from the National Library of Wales on Digitised Welsh Newspapers Online. This project appeared online only a few weeks ago and is still in its early stages. More newspapers will be added and the function of the site increased. The good new is that it is completely free!

The numbers in the audience was starting to diminish as people left to catch trains or start on long journeys home and the Conference was closed at 3.30, half an hour early. This of course meant that the afternoon tea had not yet appeared, so I met up with my non-delgate (who had spent a pleasant weekend exploring the area) and we left for home.

So, what is my final impression of the Conference? The venue was very good and easy to reach (when you knew how). The rooms and facilities were excellent and the food was plentiful and there was usually a choice.

The Copthorne Hotel, with lake

The Copthorne Hotel, with lake

View from our hotel room. (I'm sure you can't see the trading estate in summer!)

 As for the presentations, some were of more interest to me than others, but all were worth listening to. I haven’t gone into too much detail as they are available on YouTube and most of the slide shows can be seen by members in the members area of the Guild of One-Name Studies website. 

In the end though, as I think I said last year, you can sit at your computer and watch the talks, but then you miss out on all the other activities; the Quiz (whatever the question – the answer is cheese!) and the Banquet, but most of all meeting the other attendees. Discussing your one-name study, finding out how others run theirs, solving problems, etc. 

I’m glad I went and to all my old friends, old and new – See you next year!


  1. Interesting to see what went on! Living, as I do, in Cardiff I’ll probably regret not going.

  2. Good summary of the weekends events – thank you for that

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: