WDYTYA?Live move to Birmingham a Great Success

The move of the Who Do You think You Are Live? event from Olympia in London to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham proved very exciting and gave the opportunity to refresh the show for a new audience. There were most definitely many new faces in the audience and this was a great opportunity to present the back catalogue of products and publications as well as launch new things, such as the Society’s latest book My Ancestor was a Leather Worker by Ian Waller, which arrived just in time.

You can’t go to Birmingham without talking about its pivotal place within the story of Britain’s industrial revolution and with that in mind we set up a dedicated stream within the Society of Genealogists’ talks at the show, focussing on Birmingham ancestors and industry. Doreen Hopwood (former genealogist at for Birmingham City Council) and Mike Sharpe (author of Tracing Your Birmingham Ancestors) both gave excellent presentations for anyone with Brummagem roots. Michael Pearson talked of researching in the Black Country, the mining and manufacturing hinterland in Staffordshire and Warwickshire.  Perhaps our most popular talk, in the sense that it was almost impossible to get the audience to leave afterwards as they had so many questions, came from Professor Carl Chinn, MBE, Professor of Community History and Director of the Birmingham Lives Project at the University of Birmingham. Ever ebullient and a larger than life, Carl spoke on the real Peaky Blinders, the  Birmingham gangs that dominated the protection rackets and racecourses of the 1920s led by Billy Kimber whose story has been the background to the recent TV series.   These sessions inspired me so much that I took the opportunity  to visit the magnificent Library of Birmingham after the show for some very rare personal family history research into my Churchills in Birmingham from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Anyone coming to WDYTYA?Live wants to further their family history and of course we set up talks on genealogical sources and on techniques for tackling research problems. Celia Heritage’s talk I’ve Lost My Ancestors and George English’s presentation on problem solving and breaking down brick walls were very well attended and appreciated. The Society was delighted to welcome Ron Arons who is one of the most popular speakers at Roots Tech in Salt Lake City who flew in to talk about some nifty and powerful technologies for genealogical  analysis and documentation. It was fun to see Ron gently sparring with Dick Eastman as a panellist at the Q&A sessions after each of Dick Eastman’s  daily keynote talks on technology and genealogy.  Paul Howes and Debbie Kennett from the Guild Of One Name Studies were also panellist and their talks on managing a one-name  project and studying surnames were excellent.  

It’s important to see your family history in the context of the times and communities in which they lived and Janet Few and Jane Howells talked about twentieth century communities and the fabric of women’s lives ,(both over looked too often in my humble opinion). Audrie Reed and Nicci Fetcher spoke on preserving and publishing your family history using scrap booking and oral history. 

Notes, handouts or slides from each of the speakers above are now available on the learn pages of the Society of Genealogists website http://prelive.sog.org.uk/learn  and there are more to come in due course when the speakers and experts have recovered their breath. 

As usual the Society’s  volunteers worked incredibly hard in the Ask the Experts Area dealing with (and often solving) many genealogical conundrums.  The Society of Genealogists Family Show remains an integral part of the event and ensures the Society’s name is before as many attendees as possible. Trustees, staff and volunteers on our own stand were kept busy as usual and this event remains an important membership recruitment opportunity.  So once again our heartfelt thanks to the many volunteers who make this event so successful and of course we appreciate the hard work of our staff, leading up to the event and over the weekend itself.

It’s been confirmed that the show will continue at the NEC and so we‘ve started preparation for next year’s programme of talks and activities. See you in Birmingham 7-9 April 2016.


Further SoG photographs from the show can be found on the Societys Face Book Page

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