Wednesday, 29 February 2012

WDYTYA Live: A Newbie’s Perspective

I’m now back home after having spent the weekend in London at ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Live’. I had a fantastic time, met a lot of great genealogy people and very nearly lost my voice (it didn’t help that I arrived with a bad cold)! 

It was my first time at WDYTYA Live and my first visit to a major family history fair for several years. Having heard about the great time everyone had last year, I decided it was finally time I made the trip and I decided to make a weekend of it, arriving Friday lunchtime and leaving on Sunday afternoon.

The exhibition hall at 'Who Do You Think You Are? Live' 2012
Unsurprisingly for a show that describes itself as ‘the biggest family history event in the world’, WDYTYA Live was definitely the biggest and the best genealogy fair or conference that I’ve attended. With a well-known TV brand name behind it, the show attracts family historians from all over the UK as well as from Europe and the US. 

I’m very glad that I went, but I did feel that WDYTYA Live suffered from the same problem that has put me off from attending family history fairs for a few years - namely, a lack of substance. I did expect the event to be a bit bigger and if you’re the sort of person who already subscribes to one or two of the major commercial websites and keeps up with what’s happening in the family history world by reading magazines or blogs, it would be very easy to walk around the entire event in an hour or two and come away feeling that you hadn’t really learnt much that you didn’t already know. 

Although I did buy a couple of books (some secondhand), I didn’t find a lot to tempt to me to open my wallet and as these days it’s so easy to shop around online for a cheap deal, often with free postage, I didn’t particularly feel the urge to splurge on heavy books which I’d then have to cart home with me. It’s a shame that there weren’t more family history societies attending (especially some Scottish ones) as it would have been a good opportunity for them to sell their own, probably lesser known, publications, although I can understand that the expense of a stand and the need for volunteers to serve on it makes things difficult for many of the smaller societies. 

The best part for me was the opportunity to meet up with a large number of other professional genealogists as well as genealogy bloggers, tweeters and writers, many of whom I know through social media but hadn’t met in person before. I had plenty of good chats over coffees, dinners and drinks and there are many people I wish I’d had more opportunity to chat with. 

Now, with one entire event’s experience under my belt, I thought I’d draw up a short list of ‘dos’ for WDYTYA Live that I hope to put into practice next year: 

Do Volunteer - There seemed to be plenty of complimentary tickets going round for those who helped on stands or served as experts in the ‘Ask the Experts’ area. In most cases you only needed to help out for an hour or two and could then have the rest of the day to enjoy the show. Helping out is also a good way to feel involved and to get chatting with a lot of other people. (Note: You still need to fund your own travel and accommodation though). 

Do Plan in Advance - I attended a couple of workshops but really wished I could have been to a few more. The popular ones sell out early so it’s no good waiting until you fancy a sit down and then expecting to get into a talk, you need to get tickets as soon as you arrive. It’s also probably a good idea to work out in advance which exhibitors you particularly want to visit to avoid aimless wandering. 

Do Make Yourself Known - There were a few people that I’ve discovered were at WDYTYA Live that I didn’t get to meet. The tweeter/blogger rosettes organised by Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists were a good idea as they stood out from the name badges worn by many of the exhibitors. Next time perhaps they could have something other than ‘Follow Me’ written on them though. After the third gentleman of a certain age came up to me and asked, “Where to?” the joke began to wear a little thin! 

Do Arrange To Meet - Even with the rosettes it was very easy to miss people in the large exhibition hall. Having a few mobile numbers and making some arrangements in advance definitely helped when it came to meeting up with people, especially those who were only there for a short time. I hear rumours of a possible ‘tweet up’ area at next year’s show which would be very useful. 

Do Have A Good Time!  Hope to see you all there next year!


  1. I enjoyed reading your report. My future trips to the UK are likely to be between mid-Spring and mid-Autumn, so I'll probably never get to WDYTYA-Live myself.

  2. I've been to WDYTYA before and I'm thinking of coming back. I too had a great experience. Great article by the way.