Category Archives: Events

Who Do You Think You Are? Live, London

I have just spent two wonderful days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in London. I had promised myself last year that I would attend all three days in 2014, but with the days changing from Friday – Sunday to Thursday – Saturday, it was all a bit tricky, so two days again it was.

I had an early start on Friday morning to travel in from Kent in time for my first talk: Rosalind McCutcheon on Irish Poor Law records. It was a mix of background history and details of what records might have survived, all delivered in Roz’s inimitable style, and I’m hopeful I may find something for my Irish families. Next up was the “Celebrity Talk” in the main SOG theatre, though it differed in format this time, as it included the producers as well as Larry Lamb talking about the making of the show. It was a lovely insight into what happens behind the scenes, from the production point of view rather than just focusing on the celebrity’s experience.

Larry Lamb and WDYTYA producers, Olympia 2014

Larry Lamb and WDYTYA producers, Olympia 2014

The next talk I attended was Researching Australian WW1 Military Personnel given by Helen V. Smith, and it gave me some great ideas for further research on my Kiwi soliders. After a short wander around the exhibit hall, I listened to Stephen Scarth talking about PRONI online resources, and while I was aware of many of them, there are some exciting resources being made available soon. I’d also overlooked the very useful research guides they provide on their website.

I had booked an Ask the Expert session in the afternoon, and the military expert I requested gave me some very helpful tips on where to go next in my research. Looking around this area, it didn’t seem as busy as in previous years. Perhaps it was busier on the Saturday?

Definitely the greatest value for me this year was meeting lots of lovely genealogists, some of whom I only “knew” via Twitter. I’m always inspired by those making a living out of genealogy, and love how passionate they are about what they do. A “Tweet Up” had been arranged at the end of the day in the Hand and Flower pub across the road from the Olympia, and there were so many of us it got a little crowded in our spot at the back of the pub! I managed to chat to a few people, before heading off to dinner with some fellow IHGS students.

After a late night, Saturday morning came a little too soon, but after a mammoth breakfast and a good brisk walk to the Olympia from my hotel, I was ready for another day of genealogical delights. I only attended two talks this day, with the first being on the Scottish Poor Laws from Patricia Whately. She gave an overview of Poor Law legislation in Scotland, and the many records that were created as a result. Kirsty Wilkinson has compiled a list of those records that survive, which can be accessed (along with other resources) on her website : My Ain Folk.

WDYTYA? Live, Olympia 2014

WDYTYA? Live, Olympia 2014

After another couple of meetups, Tweet Ups and walk around the stands, I was off to my second talk of the day: Janet Few on Putting Your Ancestors in their Place: Sources for Reconstructing 19th Century Communities. I found this a great follow up to the recent One Place Studies course I’d just completed with Pharos, and I’m keen to get a hold of Janet’s new book, Putting your Ancestors in their Place: A Guide to One Place Studies.

Somehow I managed to sign up for not one but TWO online courses – just couldn’t resist the “show special” prices. The Pharos One Name Studies course included a GOONS membership. Bonus! The Palaeography course through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies was one I’d been looking at doing, and I couldn’t resist the 50% discount, plus fountain pen. Double bonus! Both start next month, so I shall be a little busy, I think.

I was disappointed to miss a couple of talks that were scheduled for Thursday, but luckily the one I most wanted to see has been recorded and can be viewed online: Maurice Gleeson’s Autosomal DNA – a step-by-step approach to analysing your atDNA matches.

Over the two days I met some fantastic people, caught up with friends, and learnt a lot from the talks and discussions. There are rumours that next year’s event will be at a different venue (Birmingham?), but hopefully I will be there. WDYTYA? Live will also be making an appearance in Glasgow this August, which will be especially handy for those living further north. A fabulous excuse to visit Scotland, if you really needed one!

Chief of the Brosnan clan

As part of the Brosnan Clan Gathering last month, a Ceann Fine or “clan chieftain” was inaugurated at the Festival Banquet. There were great cheers from the Kiwi contingent when Seán Brosnahan’s name was announced. (Not sure the ash stick will make it through NZ customs, though.)

Sean Brosnahan, the new Ceann Fine

MC Mark Daly and Fr Dan Riordan with Sean Brosnahan, the new Ceann Fine.

Seán is the author of The Kerrytown Brosnahans, a book about his East Kerry ancestors who emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 19th century, and lived in the area of South Canterbury known as “Kerrytown”.  Sean describes his initial journey to Ireland to find his ancestral roots, details his and the many other Brosnahan families that settled in New Zealand, and includes an extensive listing of the descendents of those first Brosnahan settlers.  Seán is Curator at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Under Brehon Law the leaders of Irish clans were acclaimed by their kinsmen as custodians of the clan. This clan system formed the basis of society in Ireland up to the 17th century. The Ceann Fine was responsible for maintaining and protecting the clan and its property. This often meant leading his clan in battle on land and sea. In the old ages he was the military and political chief of his clan and the go-to person if someone wished to petition their regional king.
The Ceann Fine would also have held all sorts of social responsibilities to his clan members, including the fertility of the land and for protecting his clan against the blight and plague of any sort.
In the modern age he would provide an equally important role, that of unity and family identity, bearing importance on familial relations and establishing a deep seated sense of cultural pride. He will be often at times the only link one disparate sept of a clan shares with the larger sept, creating a sense of security and unity.
Brosnan Clan Gathering, Facebook page

Brosnan Clan Gathering, Castleisland, Co Kerry

The East Kerry Roots Festival & Brosnan Clan Gathering was held in Castleisland, Co Kerry, over four days last weekend.  I am still trying to recover!

It was a fabulous event, well-organised and offering a whole range of walks, talks and everything in between.  By a stroke of pure luck, I ended up in the same bed & breakfast establishment as a (previously unmet) third cousin and his wife from New Zealand, as well as two lovely women travelling on their own like me.

There didn’t seem to be any time to rest at all over the four days – the festival programme was jam-packed with events and you didn’t want to miss out on anything.  For me the highlights were:

  • hearing one of my favourite poems read in the original Irish at the poetry reading session
  • Seán Brosnahan’s illuminating talk on Irish emigration to New Zealand in the 19th century
  • learning to play the bodhrán, bones and spoons
  • story-telling and songs at the rambling house in Farranfore on Friday night
  • the polka and sean nós dancing workshop
Maura's Rambling House, Farranfore

Maura’s Rambling House, Farranfore

And, of course, not forgetting  the bus trips to traditional villages and graveyards in the area, Saturday night’s festival banquet, Mass on Sunday morning at Currow, and the bog walk in Kilcummin.  Top of the list has to be meeting so many wonderful people, both local and from further afield.  There were over 20 Brosnahans from New Zealand alone!  (Pokarekare Ana was sung many times over the course of the weekend.)

There were opportunities to chat to local genealogy experts, but I spent most of my time enjoying the cultural activities and exploring the area my ancestors left a century and a half ago.

Music workshop at O'Riada's, Ballymacelligot

Music workshop at O’Riada’s, Ballymacelligott

Unfortunately I had to leave on Sunday afternoon to catch my flight home from Cork, so missed out on the farewell concert, but I heard it was fantastic!

My only suggestion would be to have a larger pub/venue for the some of the evening events.  For instance, the Poet’s Inn is a lovely wee pub in Castleisland, but couldn’t fit us all in on the Thursday evening.

My special thanks has to go to Joan, one of the festival organisers, who was so helpful before the weekend, putting me in touch with a relation from the area.  I think this is what made the gathering so special – we were all made to feel very welcome, even before we’d set foot in Ireland, by the locals and organisers alike.  Thanks also to Maggie,  our terrific guide on many of the tours.

Bog walk, Kilcummin

Bog walk, Kilcummin

Who Do You Think You Are? Live : Day Two

Saturday was another busy day at  Who Do You Think You Are? Live.  I had three talks booked, as well as an Ask the Expert session, but otherwise had more time than Friday to wander around the stands and catch up with some friends.

First up for me was “Your Irish Ancestors and the Law”, with Brian Donovan talking about the Petty Sessions order books that are available on www.findmypast.ie.  The Petty Sessions courts handled most criminal cases in Ireland, apart from the most serious, and were held by Justices of the Peace without a jury.  Record taking was made mandatory in 1851 and so only a few earlier documents survive.  Among the order books are dog licence books (1850-1924) – every dog had to be licenced, and every farmer usually had a dog. Details  include owner’s name, address, and occupation.  Brian also discussed the Irish Prison Registers 1790-1924 on findmypast.ie, another great resource.  I really enjoyed this session as I learnt a lot and Brian’s a very entertaining speaker.

I had a long break until my next talk and made the most of the time to chat with fellow IHGS students, and also to attend the inaugral WDYTYA? Live “tweet-up”, ably organised by Rosemary Morgan.  It was a great chance to meet some of the people I’ve been following on Twitter, and to discover more folks to follow!

My Ask the Expert session was with Kathy Chater who gave me some great tips on how to chase up details of my 3xgreat grandmother Elizabeth Rose, born in Cape Town in 1845.

Nick Barratt’s presentation on the future of genealogy was interesting, and it’s apparently his last gig at WDYTYA? Live as he is moving back to the National Archives to head up their Medieval team (amongst others).  Somehow I can’t see TNA keeping him away next year!

I then raced around like a mad thing to pick up a Flip Pal (thanks for speedy service, guys!) and the second-hand books I had scored earlier and were being kept for me by the bookstall, before leaping into the last talk of the day – Rosalind McCutcheon on The Registry of Deeds in Dublin.  Wow. What a resource!  I’ve heard Rosalind talk before, and so I signed up for this without knowing how much the Registry of Deeds could be of use to me in my own research.  It was a great way to end the day, and I am itching to get over to Dublin to start digging away amongst those dusty tomes.

Overall, I loved WDYTYA? Live this year more than other years.  I think the main difference was that there were more people I knew to chat to during each day, and I had chosen the talks I attended wisely. (Oh yeah, and I got my Flip Pal. And lots of books!)

Handouts for most of the talks will be available from the Society of Genealogists website soon, hopefully.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live : Day One

Last weekend I attended the Who Do You Think You Are? Live exhibition held at the Olympia in London.  It runs for three days, and I went along for the Friday and Saturday.

What struck me on Friday was how CRAZY busy it was in comparison to last year.  I like going on the Friday, because I have this idea it’s a “quiet” day.   Not so!  I  also filled up my time with four talks and the Keynote lecture with Q & A, so by the end of the day I was feeling rather overwhelmed.

WDYTYA? Live 2013

It doesn’t look that busy in this photo, but it was!

The most illuminating presentation I attended was Debbie Kennett’s “A Beginner’s Guide to DNA”.  A fellow IHGS student and I raced into the Olympia to get seats for her 11am session, and were not disappointed.  Debbie gave a clear and concise overview of the three main tests you can take : Y-DNA (males only), mtDNA and Autosomal, and explained how they can be used for genealogical connections.  I found it completely fascinating and now want to get everyone in my extended family tested!

In my Ask the Experts session I scored Dominic Johnson as my expert, and wished I had brought along my palaeography assignments instead of a question about my South African ancestor! Last year I had been inspired by her workshop on palaeography.

In the few spare minutes I had between talks, I managed to get my hands on a Flip Pal mobile scanner and find out all about it, with plans to buy the next day.  I also purchased four books on my ‘Want to Buy’ list (hurray for show specials!):

  • Bruce Durie’s Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History, The History Press (2013)
  • Simon Fowler’s Tracing Your Army Ancestors, 2nd ed., Pen & Sword (2013)
  • Celia Heritage’s Tracing Your Ancestors through Death Records, Pen & Sword (2013)
  • Debbie Kennett’s The Surnames Handbook, The History Press (2012)

One of the best parts of the day was chatting to the staff from IHGS, and catching up over dinner with fellow students.

WDYTYA? Live ~ wrap up

Today I enjoyed a lovely lie-in and leisurely breakfast at my hotel, before heading home by train.  I would have loved to have visited WDYTYA? Live for a third day, but had afternoon commitments.  Next year I will clear my calendar for the weekend!

Best decision I made this year was my choice of hotel which was only a five minute walk from Earl’s Court tube station, and on the way to the Olympia.  So this meant I could travel up on Friday morning by train, drop my bag off to the hotel, and then it was only another ten minute walk to the Olympia.  Genius!

I had splashed out on platinum tickets for both Friday and Saturday, which is an expensive way to do it, but it was worth it.  I just wish they had some kind of deal for a three day platinum ticket!  Maybe next year?

I spent a lot of my time in workshops.  Unless there are some special deals that are show-only, I tend to buy books/products online.  (I am still regretting not buying a Flip-pal, though!)  So I think it’s really the talks and presentations that make it worthwhile for me.  This year I got to meet up with a couple of friends as well, which was fantastic, as in the previous two years I’d attended on my own.  It was also lovely to hear talks by people I’ve heard/read about, and to see them in person.

One thing I meant to do last year was join the Suffolk Family History Society, and this year I finally did it! It’s the first FHS that I’ve joined, so I’m hoping for great things to come of it.

It wasn’t until the end of Saturday that I realised there was  free Wi-Fi available – doh!  I had real problems sending tweets out via Vodafone, so stopped trying.  It would have been good if the Wi-Fi had been better publicised (or maybe I should have checked for it at the beginning..?)

I managed to snaffle a FindMyPast polo shirt – score!  Plus track down Else Churchill for a genealogy blogger/tweeter rosette (um… sorry I hassled you straight after your presentation, Else!)  Maybe next year it would be a good idea to have a central point to pick one up (the SOG stand, perhaps), to save us stalking poor Else?

All up, I had a fantastic time at WDYTYA? Live, and am looking forward to next year.  (February 22nd-24th!!)

Day Two WDYTYA? Live

I was looking forward to today as I was meeting up with some of my fellow IHGS students. They are a bit further along in the course than me, and as hoped, I am now all fired up to crack on with my next assignments!

However, on with the event – I got some extra workshop tickets today, and the first talk I attended was Audrey Collins’ on TNA’s new Discovery service. Despite numerous technical glitches, it was an interesting and useful presentation. Looking forward to getting back to my laptop and doing some searches.

Next up was a comparison of parish registers and bishops’ transcripts in Wiltshire from John Hurley. I’m about to tackle these in my next IHGS assignments, so good timing!

Yesterday I spent some time going around the different stands downstairs, but today decided to mainly spend my time at the workshops instead. I bought a ticket for the keynote talk with Laurence Harris (unfortunately forgoing Bruce Durie’s presentation on Heraldry), and was a bit disappointed – not sure what I had expected, though. Perhaps something pitched at a slightly higher level? The Q & A session that followed was great, however.
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Panel participants included Laurence (myHeritage),
D.Joshua Taylor (brightsolid US), Dan Lynch (Google), Lisa Louise Cook (Genealogy Gems), Peter Christian, and Paul Howes (Guild of One Name Studies).

And then for a bit of light relief (and some excellent info), there was Chris Paton on doing Irish research online. Great craic altogether!

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I had an Ask the Expert session booked after this – I got some useful guidance on where to go next in the hunt for my Burkes in Mayo, but I wonder if I might not have come up with it myself given half a spare moment. Always nice to have someone’s undivided attention for 20 whole minutes, though (not something I’m used to with three young kids).

By this time I was in WDYTYA Live overload. Had a quick covetous look at the Flip-pal, and then legged it to the pub.

Day One WDYTYA? Live in technicolour

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Main event hall

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Nick Barratt on Family History and education

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Nick Barratt with Colin McFarlane

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Jayne Shrimpton – dating and researching family snapshots

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Jackie Depelle and her fabulous hat! (Lovely meeting you, Jackie!)

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Dominic Johnson on palaeography

My iPhone doesn’t take great photos and I can’t tell if any of the above are very clear, but am posting them ás is’ for now and fixing them up later when I get home.

Day One WDYTYA? Live

Couldn’t believe how busy the place was today! I arrived just before opening time of 10am and the queue of ticket holders outside seem to go on forever. It was at this point I was very glad I had splashed out and got a fast track platinum ticket, which enabled me to bypass the queues and go straight inside.

I managed to grab some extra workshop tickets upstairs,and then I headed straight for the photo-dating area, where my luck was in! Maureen Taylor dated four photos of mine before there was anyone else waiting in line (top tip: head for the photo dating area first).

The first talk I went to was Larry Lamb sharing his experiences of WDYTYA. His episode was voted as the most moving of the last series, and it was lovely to get his feedback on the whole process.

After that session, I grabbed something to eat and prepared my information for the Ask the Expert session I had coming up next. I spoke to a very helpful man about my military ancestors and found out where to look for further information. A visit to TNA at Kew seems to be in order!

I then had four talks/workshops in a row – all of them illuminating. Nick Barratt (along with Colin McFarlane) spoke about an amazing project they’re working on with school children, integrating family history with the national curriculum. (Can’t check website address right now, but will add as soon as I can!) Jayne Shrimpton showed us family snapshots from the 1880s to the 1940s, giving us ideas on how how to date them and also proving what value they have to our research.

Then it was palaeography with Dominic Johnson – I found this a brilliant presentation, despite numerous technical glitches. She has a real passion for her subject, and I can’t wait to get stuck into this topic for my IHGS assignments. (Famous last words..?)

Last session of the day for me was Discover Scottish Church Records with Chris Paton. Essentially a Quick History of the (surprisingly many) churches in Scotland, with helpful hints on where to research, all delivered with great humour. Lovely way to end the day!

(WordPress on iPhone won’t let me upload photos at the mo, so they’ll have to keep for another day.)

WDYTYA? Live ~ one more sleep to go!

Who Do You Think You Are? Live, the biggest family history event in the English-speaking world, begins tomorrow!

Apparently the District Line between Earl’s Court and Kensington Olympia is on a restricted service on Friday, so if you’re going along tomorrow, check the Transport for London website, for an alternative route. The walk doesn’t look too bad from Earl’s Court, though – about 15 minutes.  Service seems to be running normally during the weekend.

Many of the exhibitors are running competitions and promotions.  One that caught my eye on Twitter was FindMyPast – visit their stand 707 and quote “the transcription has landed” for a free 1911 census polo shirt. First come, first served!

The Society of Genealogists‘ Else Churchill has organised some rosettes for genealogy bloggers and tweeters to wear, so do go up and ask her about this. She’ll be around the SOG workshop areas, mostly likely, or catch her at one of her talks.  If you’re not a blogger or tweeter, look out for the rosettes!  (I’ve jimmied up some business cards to hand out.)

The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies are at stand 69/70, with a great discount on their Correspondence Course if you enrol this weekend.  Check out all their other courses too, and have a chat to the lovely staff.

I’m not sure what I’m more excited about – the actual exhibition, the workshops, meeting up with some fellow IHGS students, or having a weekend away from the kids!

Hopefully I’ll get a chance (and an internet connection) to post tomorrow night.