Monday 28 January 2013

Looking forward to...WDYTYA Live

Dick Eastman and Sarah Williams at last year's show.
 In four weeks' time it will be all over again for another year, the event that has become Britain's biggest annual genealogy extravaganza, Who Do You Think you Are? - Live at London's Olympia. As before, the show takes place over three days, Friday 22 to Sunday 24 February.  Many features of the show are the same every year, but there is always something new, too. The Show Guide is out, with the February edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, but details are on the show website, too.

Many of the regulars are in their usual places, notably the big stands in the middle section of the hall, such as FamilySearch, Ancestry and Findmypast. Some other regular attenders with smaller stands have their favourite places, too, like Bob Blatchford with his Family and Local History Handbook now a familiar fixture   on his corner pitch close to Findmypast and Deceased Online, another show regular. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain are also back in their usual corner spot, strategically sited next to Pizza Express and and a staircase to the upper gallery and the restrooms - maximum foot traffic guaranteed.

Paul Gorry giving advice for the National Archives of Ireland 
Other familiar faces are back at the show, but not in their usual spots this year; the theme of this year's show is migration, and a number of stands form the Migration Zone, next to the Society of Genealogists Regional Theatre. These include the Families in British India Society (FIBIS), the Anglo-German Family History Society and the Anglo-Italian Family History Society who are usually to be found in the Society of Genealogists (SoG) Family History Show area. This is where you will find most family history society stands. Exhibitors from Scotland, Wales and Ireland are grouped together close to the SoG Regional Theatre. Ireland is particularly well-represented, with sponsorship as usual from Tourism Ireland and this is a big year for Ireland with its year-long celebration The Gathering. Nearby is the DNA Theatre, and a number of related exhibitors.

The ever-popular Military Pavilion is again on the upper Gallery Level, along with the Photography Gallery, the SoG 'Ask the Experts' area and four of the studios or theatres where lectures are held. There is also a cafe bar on this level with some seating, generally less crowded than the ones downstairs, and the Ancestry Members' Lounge. The gallery is also a good place to look down on the main hall and get your bearings.

Ian Tester, Captain of the Titanic (2012)
 There is a wide range of talks to choose from; admission is by ticket for some, others are on a drop-in basis, and very few are repeated, so working out the action plan for your day(s) requires almost military precision. Tickets are free on the day, but many of the sessions 'sell out', so the ticketing area (upstairs) should be your first port of call if you are very keen to attend one of them. Some can be booked in advance with your show tickets, but there is a charge for these. If you miss out on a ticket for a talk in SoG Studios 2 and 3 or the Regional Workshop you can still hear the talk from outside, because the Studios are only surrounded by little waist-high barriers.The SoG Studio 1/Celebrity Theatre is in a separate room, but has many more seats than the others. Some major exhibitors have unticketed talks, like the Ancestry Academy, and Findmypast, who get into the spirit of things by dressing up and styling their stand on a different theme each year - I hear that choosing their costumes is one of the highlights of the year for Findmypast staff (and that Ian Tester has the sharpest elbows when it comes to picking out the best ones from the dressing-up box!)

I think that most of this year's progamme is very good, not that I will get to hear any of Friday or Saturday's offerings because they are both working days for me; The National Archives has a presence at the show again, for the first time in a few years, and there will be staff at the show on all three days. There will be a dedicated theatre, with two lectures a day, and two more sessions each day as part of the main programme. My colleagues and I will also be on hand for advice sessions in the Ask the Experts area, and the rest of the time you will find us on a variety of stands. I haven't seen the whole schedule yet. but I know that I will be spending time with Findmypast, FamilySearch and the Genealogist. See you there?

People who are travelling some distance for the show often take some extra time while they are in London to do some research, and the Thursday before WDYTYA Live has become one of the busiest days of the year for me, back at the day job at The National Archives. Last year there was a capacity crowd for the Thursday afternoon lecture and the reading rooms were full of family historians. This year we are trying something a little different, a series of  Focus on... short sessions throughout the day.

Once WDYTYA Live is over, it will be less than four weeks to Rootstech, a very different kind of event, now in its third year, but already the biggest genealogy event in North America. This is another event I am looking forward to, but more of that later.



  1. Suffering from a major case of geneaenvy here.

  2. Hmm, I'm not sure how much envy I'm prepared to accept from Jill 'when's my next cruise?' Ball :-)

    Looking forward to meeting up again at Rootstech, Jill!

  3. So glad that TNA will be back at WDYTYA this year- can't wait for my fourth consecutive show. With luck this one will be even better!