Sunday, 23 February 2014

Who Do You Think You Are Live 2014 - report

Another year's Who Do You Think You Are Live event is over, though for the first time I attended only the first two days of the three day event (largely due to jet lag after my Oz trip, and a real need to sleep!).

A first for the event itself was to pull the scheduling forward by a day, so that the three day programme fell on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and not the usual Friday to Sunday. Going by the attendance I witnessed on Thursday and Friday, I have to wonder about the wisdom of that decision, though reports from the last day do seem to indicate a much busier final day's attendance. Thursday's attendance felt to me like the lowest I had ever witnessed for a single day at the show, not really picking up until midday, though Friday's seemed higher and more par for the course. For those who have not attended the show before at Kensington Olympia, here is a quick view of the main shop floor from the upstairs gallery (

Normally when I attend the show, there are several major announcements from vendors of new record sets, but this year there were not a lot of major developments. FindmyPast (, for example, normally goes to town each year with a new themed set based on a major record collection being promoted, and I had assumed this year the theme might be India, with its new India Office records collection having been just released online. In fact, the set used was the same as that utilised last year, from what I could see, with some reused costumes also. Despite perhaps lacking the usual visual wow factor this year, this in fact hid some major developments going on behind the scenes with the company, as relayed to me in a conversation with the company's Debra Chatfield.

Within the next couple of months, a new online search platform will be implemented on the FindmyPast site, subject to user feedback, and several more local authority derived record sets will be made available for English counties such as Shopshire, Devonshire and Yorkshire. The British Library sourced electoral registers will be going online, though this will be only for districts with a first letter beginning with A-L. This is because the British Library itself has only microfilmed these records, and not the later books for districts from M-Z. Debra did suggest that if the dataset became popular, it might encourage the British Library to look at the later records for microfilming, though that is not currently on the books by the sounds of it. Another major forthcoming development lies with the Periodical Source Index, aka PERSI - although the index itself is online, FindmyPast is ambitiously hoping to actually link the index entries to copies of the original articles themselves. And that is a whole new definition of ambition! If successful, however, that will become a major resource for genealogists in years to come.

I caught up briefly with Nigel and Mark Bayley at The Genealogist ( It was really sad not to be able to see Sue Bayley there this year, she having unfortunately passed away just a few weeks ago, but despite such a recent blow to the family The Genealogist team were as hard at work as ever, pushing several new datasets and running their own talks programme. For more on their newest developments, including a major announcement on English and Welsh tithes records, visit Exhibiting at the show for the first time was Australian based Unlock the Past, exhibiting to raise awareness of its new genealogical cruises venture ( - it was a tad bizarre to see Alan Phillips, Rosemary Kopittke, Helen Smith and Jan Gow at the show, as I only left them a few days ago down under! They seemed to deal with the jet lag better... :)  A huge thanks to Jan for demonstrating her Brookstone scanner mouse - it's a computer mouse that is also a scanner. I soooo want one...!!!(See!

Elsewhere, I caught up briefly with the team at Deceased Online (, the news there being that a new subscription is about to be launched, providing unlimited access for a set fee - the reason they can now do this is that they now have enough records online to justify this as the next stage of their development. The subscription fee is £89 annually, but there are some omissions in terms of what can be accessed, mainly cemetery maps (for licensing reasons). The new sub details are available via the site.

As far as I was concerned though, the biggest news event of the whole show was the presence of the General Register Office of Northern Ireland for the first time, and the news of their forthcoming ScotlandsPeople style records platform in (hopefully) early April. It was certainly the case that the team were blown away by the interest - I don't think they quite knew what was going to hit them. As a wise man in a shark infested film once said, for their next venture at WDYTYA Live, they're "going to need a bigger boat"! I have previously blogged a fuller report on this development at

It was interesting to also see the new set up for ScotlandsPeople ( at the show, which alongside ScotlandsPlaces ( and the National Records of Scotland ( all occupied a new, and much more centrally located stand. So Scotland and Northern Ireland both had major initiatives on display for the online access of statutory UK based birth, marriage and death records - whilst the General Register Office for England and Wales, also in attendance... well, it didn't. It really does get harder each year to feel supportive of an agency that seems determined to remain resident in the dusty past surrounded by tumbleweed, and rapidly becoming a national embarrassment - but that is no comment on the professionalism of those at the organisation's stand itself, who I assume probably had to answer the question "when will your records be going online?" more times than they had hot dinners!

I briefly caught up with Alison Wallace from DC Thompson Family History, who worked on the ScotlandsPeople terminals, and she mentioned that the big forthcoming project now is Lives of the First World War (, a project in partnership with the Imperial War Museum.There was in fact a well attended stall on the first floor for the initiative, as indeed there was for a long overdue return to the event of the National Archives ( from Kew. Last year they did appear to give some talks, but this year they were back with what they should never have departed with a few years ago - advice desks. Great to see them back! Sadly, that was not something that could be said of the National Archives of Ireland, again absent, though the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland ( and the National Library of Wales ( were again there to fly their respective flags and to equally offer advice - Stephen Scarth from PRONI looking particularly well tanned, having just got off the plane from Cuba to do his talk at the show! Eneclann ( was present from the Republic of Ireland, however, offering help on their stall and participating at the FindmyPast stand, with whom they are in partnership on the Irish version of the site.

Sticking with the Irish, I did my Ulsterly duty and signed up for another year's membership of the North of Ireland Family History Society ( Ann Robinson of the group kindly gave me a copy of a new publication, "Researching Your Ancestors in the North of Ireland: County Cavan", which I will review in the next day or so, but suffice to say it is a decent looking wee number with lots to offer! More on that soon... I also managed to have brief chats with the Anglo-German FHS, the Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain, One Stop Genealogy, and many others.

In addition to catching up with folk, I gave two talks at the event. The first was entitled Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, attended by amongst others, American blogger Dick Eastman, who gave it a favourable review at (about 23 minutes in). At a dinner later in the evening hosted by FindmyPast, Dick was given a well deserved certificate by the Society of Genealogists recognising his blogging work. After this talk I caught up with Peter Calver from Lost Cousins ( to discuss plans for the Genealogy in the Sunshine event he is organising in a few weeks time in Portugal. I'll be attending this with other speakers including Else Churchill, John Hanson and Debbie Kennett - it should be good craic! Peter's site is free to access this weekend and until Tuesday night, so do pop along and see if you can make any family connections via historic census entries.

My second talk was British Civilian Prisoners of War in First World War Germany, which was attended by many folk who had an ancestral connection to the Ruhleben internment camp near Berlin, which housed some 5500 civilian POWs from 1914-1918. In addition I also did an hour on the Society of Genealogists expert advice area, handling several Scottish based enquiries, and a two hour stint on the Pharos Teaching and Tutoring Ltd stall, for whom I teach the Scottish courses - remember that my next Scottish Research Online starts next Thursday February 27th, and there are still spaces if interested! (See

Finally, it is worth mentioning some developments concerning Who Do You Think You Are Live itself. As previously announced (see, the show will be attending the Glasgow based SECC in late August, but there were big question marks about where it will actually be in England next year.

It seems that the Earls Court conference centre, not too far away from Kensington Olympia, is about to be demolished, with the result of additional pressure being placed on the Olympia venue. I heard several rumours at the show that the slot for the event next year had already been booked by another show, with the result that it might be moved - to later in February, perhaps in May, or possibly even to the NEC in Birmingham. Whatever the plans are, we could certainly do with hearing about them sooner than later. Personally speaking, I would love to see the show in Birmingham, or even Manchester - although successful in London, the capital should not have a God given right to constantly host the event in England, placing many societies across Britain at a financial disadvantage to exhibit in the most expensive part of the island. I look forward to hearing what the future holds for the show down south in due course.

A huge thanks to all those I caught up with, tweeted up with, drank with, ate with, advised and sought advice from at the two days I was there - and hopefully see you at the Glasgow event in a few months time...!

A few more pics of interest (apologies for the resolution, I had to use my iPad!)


My latest genealogy books are Tracing Your Family History on the Internet (2nd ed)Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, and Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet. My next Pharos course is Scottish Research Online, which commences Feb 27th 2014, 5 weeks, price £45.99.


  1. A wonderful wrap up of what was clearly a very exciting and worthwhile event! Thanks for the photos as well as all the news fit to print!! :)

  2. Thanks for the review, Chris. Hoping the date and place is set soon (and close to Rootstech) so we folk from distant lands can do a roundtheworld jaunt.

    I'm sure you'll let us know when something is announced.