Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Another WDYTYA Live Blog Post

I’m now back home recovering after a busy weekend at the ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Live’ (WDYTYA) show which bills itself as “the biggest family history event...in the world!”

This was my second visit and I wrote about my experience as a ‘newbie’ in a post last year.  This year I took my own advice and volunteered on a few different stands in order to get free entry for all three days.  I did an ‘Ask the Expert’ session on Friday, helped out on the APG stand on Saturday afternoon and on the ASGRA stand for a couple of hours on Sunday.

I was a bit nervous about doing a stint in the ‘Ask the Expert’ area (I figure anyone who describes themselves as an “Expert” and then invites questions is asking for trouble!) but this was actually good fun and I would recommend anyone who has been thinking of doing this to give it a try.  It was more like sitting down for a friendly chat than being grilled on  expert knowledge.  Although the areas of expertise I specified in advance were Scotland and palaeography, I got more questions about London research than anything else and they were much more basic than I had anticipated.  I think I was of some help to most people I spoke to, although can’t say I sent any brickwalls tumbling down.

Also learning from my previous experience, I made an effort to attend a few more workshops this year and managed to get to five ticketed ones as well as dropping in on one of the unticketed talks from the The National Archives.  I did intend to go to one of the DNA workshops, but these always seemed to be part-way through whenever I was in that area and I didn’t get a chance.  I browsed most of the stalls and bought a couple of books, but didn’t spend much time looking at the stands of the big commercial vendors.

As with last year, undoubtedly the best part of the WDYTYA experience was the opportunity to meet with other genealogists, many of whom I know through Twitter and some of whom I’d not met in person before.  As WDYTYA is such an international event, these included genealogists from Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and the USA, as well as all parts of the UK and Ireland.

The ‘I tweet’ badges designed by Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists were a big help in spotting one another as well as a bit of a conversation starter when browsing the stands.  An original plan for a few friends to meet for lunch on Saturday turned into an official ‘tweet up’ organised by Rosemary Morgan of London Roots Research.  As this picture uploaded to Rosemary’s twitter account shows, it was quite a success:

Because there is so much going on with workshops and many people involved in some way with the various stands it wasn’t possible for everyone to make it (I had to nip off after 15 mins) and plans are already being made for an evening tweet up at next year’s show.

It’s a few years since I first started going to genealogy events and obviously I’ve aged a bit in the intervening years, but one of the things that really struck me this year was the number of young, incredibly enthusiastic family historians I met.  Anyone who thinks genealogy is just a hobby for the retired would certainly get that illusion shattered by a day at WDYTYA!

Whilst I’m still physically exhausted from WDYTYA, I feel invigorated and inspired by all the fantastic people I met: people who research their own families, run businesses, write books, teach, lecture, blog, conduct one-name studies, are involved in family history societies and in quite a few cases still find time to have a “proper” job as well.  I have little doubt that, with so many great young people involved, the future of genealogy is very bright!