Posted by: Christine | March 30, 2015

Away from the Screen

I seem to have spent a lot of time sitting in front of the computer (unfortunately not posting on this blog),  so it was nice to get away from the desk for a few days.

Last week I went, with other members of Rugby Family History Group to the NEC. It was the Hobbycraft Exhibition and we were doing our biannual turn of duty on the FFHS stand. I always enjoy this trip, as it is a chance to promote Family History and Family History Societies to non-believers. We are extremely popular with men who are being dragged around by card making wives – you can almost see the look of relief when they spot something different. We meet all types.

There are those who, when asked if they are interested in Family History, answer “Yes – I’ve done mine”. We try to explain that they haven’t done it all. Have you ever worked out how many ancestors you have once you go back a few generations? 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents – go back just 10 generations (about 300 years – say around the time of Queen Anne) and you have over a thousand.

We always get one person who has got back to 1066, if not further, and is related to every famous person, ever. I ask them if they have proved every single link.

Then there are the people who have done a bit, but have got stuck. A father who was  adopted, an illegitimate grandmother or that awkward ancestor who appeared, fathered a child and disappeared again – I sometimes think they must have been aliens. We try to help, or at least point them in the right direction.

The people I like most are those who have thought about researching their family history, but don’t know where to start. We can explain the first steps, hand them a copy of the FFHS “Really Useful Leaflet” (download a copy of the latest issue here ) and point out the list of member societies. I feel quite nostalgic, all those new ancestors to find, new relatives to meet and fascinating stories to discover.


Members of RFHG help visitors to the FFHS stand

Members of RFHG help visitors to the FFHS stand

I ended the day tired but satisfied I had done my bit for family history.

The next day was also spent away from my computer screen – and again on FFHS business. Their AGM and General Meeting were held in Portsmouth. A long way to go for a meeting, but it had been some years that I had last visited. I have been itching to see the new Mary Rose exhibition, so I booked a hotel for the night and took my husband with me. He’s been spending too much time in front of a screen too – anyway it saved me driving!

We arrived in plenty of time for the meeting, so I was able to have a wander round the Royal Dockyard attractions, before making my way to the National Museum of the Royal Navy for the meeting. I must say that it was one of the most interesting meetings I have been to. Not what was said, but the views from the windows. To one side we overlooked HMS Victory and on the other, the river. Whenever a ferry passed it appeared that we were sailing away.


View from the deck of HMS Victory. Museum is the building in the centre.

View from the deck of HMS Victory. Museum is the building in the centre.

After the meeting I had a cup of tea and a flapjack, before meeting my husband (he had been looking at submarines) and checked into our hotel, the Royal Marine Club. We were just in time to watch the last of the three Six Nations rugby matches of the day. Exciting match but not the right result!

We had dinner at the hotel and then had a walk around the area.

The bright lights of Portsmouth

The bright lights of Portsmouth

After a good nights sleep, we were waiting at the dockyard gates when they opened. Thanks to a half price ticket (Perks of attending the meeting – you didn’t think I went just for the meeting?) we could visit any of the ships or museums, but headed straight to the Mary Rose. I feel a connection with this ship. I watched the raising of the wreak in 1982 on television. Early next morning my eldest son was born. We visited some years later when on holiday in the area. It was a rather underwhelming experience, just a pile of wood with water dripping from it. The ship is still behind glass but the water has stopped. It is now being dried out – expected to finished by 2017.

Wreak of the Mary Rose. Decks drying out.

Wreak of the Mary Rose. Decks drying out.

The main reason for visiting now, is that all the artefacts found on board have now been conserved and are on display. Much can be seen in a reproduction of the decks opposite the originals. Cannons poking out of port holes, surrounded by the shot and implements for firing. Low down in the ship was the kitchen and barrels filled with stores. At either end of the museum were display cases containing possessions of the crew, their chests and tools. Even their skeletons and reconstructions of their faces. There were piles of bows and stacks of arrows. Sets of plates owned by the officers and knives and combs used by the crew. Unfortunately, it was too dark (and too crowded) to take photos but see the Mary Rose website for pictures.

Lovely weather to visit  HMS Victory

Lovely weather to visit HMS Victory

After a late lunch (they have very nice Chelsea Buns there!) we had a look around HMS Victory. I think last time we were there we had a guided tour, but this time we went round by ourselves. It was interesting to see how life and the equipment used was little changed from what we had seen on the Mary Rose. By then we were all shipped out, so rescued our car from the car park (opposite the hotel and convenient for the dockyard) and headed for home.

Three busy days that left us tired but refreshed. On Monday it was back to normal, back to the computer but at least we’d had a break away from the dreaded screen.

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