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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

'Who do you think you are? - Live' is almost here


I still have more to say about Rootstech, which has dominated my posts of late (and not just mine), but I will give it a rest for a while, since this weekend sees the 5th annual Who do you think you are? - Live at the Olympia exhibition centre.

Show highlights

It has been described as 'The largest genealogy event in the English-speaking world' by Dick Eastman, who comes all the way from the USA every year for this event (OK, he missed last year, but only because of a clash of dates). Dick will not be the only American visitor; the New England Historic Genealogical Society will have a presence for the second year running, and as usual the FamilySearch stand will be staffed by a combination of helpers from the London Family History Centre and a party who come over from Salt Lake City each year. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) will also have a stand; this is an international organisation with members all over the world (including me), but with a high proportion of American members. Look out for a number of American speakers on the extensive programme of workshops.

Ireland is also well represented, as usual, by the National Archives of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the Irish Family History Foundation, Eneclann and Tourism Ireland. Tourism Ireland are also the sponsors of all the Irish talks in the Society of Genealogists regional workshops.

There is also the popular Military Pavilion on the mezzanine floor, where you will find a wealth of help and expertise, including the Military Memorabilia Checkpoint, and exhibitors such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Western Front Association.

The website

The printed Show Guide is quite widely available, but obviously had to go to print in advance, so you will find the most up-to-date information on the Who do you think you are? - Live website. Unfortunately the site is rather disappointing; the point size of most of the text is very small, and some of the colours could have been better chosen, so it's not always easy to read if your eyesight is less than perfect. The list of exhibitors is particularly poor, with very small orange text on a white background, and the list itself could be more helpful - some exhibitors are listed twice, and for many of them there is no extra information when you click on the name, let alone a link to a website. Whether this is the fault of the exhibitors, or of the organisers, it is impossible to tell, but it is a pity either way. The 'Starting Your Family Tree' page suggests that one of the stands you should visit at the show is the Probate Service, but they don't appear on the list of exhibitors. There whole site appears not to have been proof-read very carefully, and together with its other shortcomings it gives an overall impression of lack of care.

HOWEVER you shouldn't let the failings of the website put you off the show itself, which is visited by thousands of people every day that it is open, and who have a good time there. And people come back year after year, some of them from overseas, so the organisers are obviously doing something right! I'd rather have a good show and an indifferent website than the other way round, but getting both right would be even better.

Some tips

I will be there all day, on all three days, some of it as part of my job, and the rest as a volunteer and interested bystander. I am looking forward to meeting up with many old friends (and a few new ones I haven't met in person yet). As a veteran of all the previous WDYTYA Live events, and the Society of Genealogists shows for many years before that, I have learnt a few things over the years.

  • Getting there; on Saturday and Sunday in particular there are often engineering works on the railways and London Transport, so check the Transport for London Journey Planner even if you think you know your route. 
  • And of course wear comfortable shoes, because you will spend an awful lot of time walking or standing. 
  • If you want to attend any of the free workshops, go and get your tickets as soon as you arrive, because the most popular ones can 'sell' out very quickly.  
  • Food outlets in the hall tend to be expensive and have long queues at peak times, so you may want to bring your own food. Even if you don't come with a full-on picnic, I'd definitely advise bringing your own bottle of water, because it can get warm in there, and all that networking can make you very thirsty!
  • If the cloakroom is in the same place as last year, it's not the most accessible I have seen; it's up a flight of stairs and can become congested. If the weather is not too bad, you might choose to travel as light as you can and carry your coat or jacket with you.

Feel free to ignore as much of the above as you like. I won't be checking up on you.

Have a great time - see you there!

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