On a personal level London is a much more convenient location for me as I can travel to and from London in a day and go back home to see my family in the evening. Birmingham is too far away to make a daily commute practical so I booked into a hotel a few miles from the NEC with a few friends and we drove to and from the NEC every day (many thanks to James Irvine who was our ever-patient chauffeur!). WDYTYA was held in Hall 2 which is conveniently located for public transport right next to the train station. For those arriving by car, the NEC has a massive car park. Exhibitors receive a free car park pass, but otherwise the fee is £10 per day. The parking is some way from the hall so you have to catch one of the buses to take you to the venue. For overseas visitors Birmingham Airport is close by. However, the journey was much more difficult for visitors from North America because there are fewer direct flights and also the flights tend to be more expensive than direct flights to London. Having to catch connecting flights also creates problems. There were a few nervous moments on Wednesday when friends from America arrived in Birmingham but with their suitcases stranded in Frankfurt and Paris. Fortunately all was well and their luggage was safely delivered to their hotels later that evening.
The NEC lacks the character of Olympia and it is also in the middle of a big industrial estate with no amenities within walking distance other than some rather expensive hotels whereas at Olympia there is a range of restaurants nearby and Kensington High Street is within easy reach. However, there are advantages in having a purpose-built exhibition centre. The hall was spacious with wide aisles making it much easier to move around, and there were good catering facilities with plenty of seating. The official attendance figures have not yet been released but the general consensus was that the numbers were probably down on last year. Last year the attendance was just over 13,000, but I would guess there were probably around 10,000 this year at the NEC. However, it may be that because of the size of the hall the crowds were more diluted and that there were more visitors than I've estimated. At Olympia there always seemed to be a steady stream of visitors throughout the course of the day whereas at the NEC the mornings were busy and then there seemed to be a lull by early afternoon. Apparently the reason for the afternoon lull was that there were a number of coach trips to the show and the coaches set off early in the morning and left early to avoid the rush hour.
This year I gave three talks at WDYTYA. On Thursday I was in SOG Studio 2 giving my presentation on "The Joy of Surnames". The advance tickets for my talk had already sold out and I had a packed studio with standing room only at the back. I hope that I will have inspired a few people to think about starting a one-name study, and perhaps even to buy a copy of my Surnames Handbook. I understand that there was a rush on the Guild of One-Name Studies stand after my talk with lots of people wanting to claim their free map of their surname from Steve Archer's Surname Atlas CD! I used a number of maps from this wonderful CD to illustrate my talk. The handout for my talk is available on the Society of Genealogists' website, along with the handouts for a number of other talks in the various SOG workshops.
|A big crowd for my talk on "The Joy of Surnames". Photo courtesy of Julie Goucher.|
On Friday I gave a talk in the DNA workshop on "DNA for beginners". There were problems with the background sound for this talk so I will be doing a new recording in the next few days for the YouTube channel.
My final talk on Saturday was "I've got my autosomal DNA results but what do I do next?" and that recording is already available on YouTube. There were a few technical glitches in my presentation when the slide presenter freezed up and I had to get a replacement, but the recording itself has come out reasonably well despite all the background noise.
Turi King's lecture on Richard III was by far and away the most popular of the DNA talks. The story of the discovery and identification of Richard III is fascinating in its own right but Turi is also a highly entertaining speaker. This lecture has not been recorded for copyright reasons but if you did miss her talk she will speaking in June at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
|Turi King on the discovery of Richard III.|
Professor Mark Jobling from Leicester University gave a fascinating talk on "Fishing for Vikings in the Gene Pool" using a combination of evidence from DNA, surnames and place names. We also learnt that Jon Wetton at Leicester has been analysing the Y-DNA and mtDNA data from the People of the British Isles Project, and we were given a sneak preview of the maps. There were 112 mtDNA SNPs on the Affy chip used for the study and 365 Y-chromosome SNPs. There was little variation in the distribution of mtDNA, but some evidence of regional variation for the Y-DNA distribution, with Devon and Cornwall in particular standing out as distinct regions. This talk was again not recorded.
|Professor Mark Jobling goes fishing for Vikings in the gene pool.|
|Professor Mark Thomas talking about the scientific method.|
Photo courtesy of Katherine Borges.
On Friday I was honoured to be invited by Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists to join the expert panel for Dick Eastman's keynote lecture. The other panellists were Ron Arons, the author of Mind Maps for Genealogy, and Paul Howes, the new Chairman of the Guild of One-Name Studies. Dick Eastman gave us a comprehensive overview of Evernote. I've not yet tried to use Evernote, but Dick was a very convincing speaker and has made me determined to try it out. One particularly interesting feature of Evernote is that it has a free tool for OCR (optical character recognition). We had some interesting panel discussions on the preservation of data, and I also answered a question on how DNA is changing our research and how it will impact our research in the future. Dick Eastman came up to me later and thanked me for my answer so I must have said something right!
ISOGG once again had a stand at WDYTYA Live. James Irvine kindly loaned all the furniture, and Barbara Griffiths did a magnificent job compiling the material for the display. James and Barbara were helped by a number of other ISOGG members including Sue Curd, Dick Kenyon, and John and Ann Blair. Copies of Emily Aulicino's book Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond were also available on the ISOGG stand.
|The ISOGG stand at WDYTYA.|
|A busy FTDNA stand at WDYTYA.|
|Sir Tony Robinson and Cathy Ball from AncestryDNA.|
|A busy AncestryDNA stand at WDYTYA.|
The fourth DNA company at WDYTYA were BritainsDNA who were selling their Chromo 2 test.
23andMe relaunched their health reports in the UK in December 2014 and now have a dedicated UK website, and it was therefore surprising that they did not have any presence at WDYTYA. However, Joanna Mountain from 23andMe gave a presentation in one of the SOG workshops on "Case studies in genetic genealogy".
The BBC were at WDYTYA on Thursday doing interviews for a forthcoming Radio 4 documentary on genetic ancestry testing to be presented by Adam Rutherford.
|Adam Rutherford interviews Bennett Greenspan of |
Family Tree DNA for a forthcoming BBC radio programme.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Borges.
In a quiet moment before the doors opened to the public on Friday I was delighted to catch up with Rebecca Probert. Rebecca was one of the speakers at the Lost Cousins Genealogy in the Sunshine conference in March, and her presentations were for me the highlight of the conference. She gave two of these presentations at WDYTYA Live: "Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved?" and "The Life and Times of An Army Wife in the Peninsular War". Anyone who attended these presentations would have been in for a real treat. Rebecca's Peninsular War talk relates the moving story of Catherine Exley, the wife of a serving soldier in the 34th Regiment of Foot, who went out to Spain and Portugal with her husband. The talk resonated with me in particular because Catherine was present at some of the same battles - Albuera, Salamanca, and Vittoria - as my great-great-great-great grandfather David Tidbury who was a solider with the Royal Welch Fusiliers (the 23rd Regiment of Foot). On her return to England Catherine learnt to read and write and subsequently wrote a memoir about her experiences. This is believed to be the only surviving memoir written by the wife of a serving soldier. Rebecca was selling Catherine Exley's Diary: The Life and Times of an Army Wife in the Peninsular War on her stand at WDYTYA so I took the opportunity to buy a copy along with a copy of her new book Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved? The Family Historian's Guide to Marital Breakdown, Separation, Widowhood, and Remarriage: from 1600 to the 1970s. I shall look forward to reading both titles.
I unfortunately missed the genealogy tweet ups organised by Celia Heritage as they either coincided with my talks or I was busy answering DNA queries. However, I did manage to catch up briefly with some of my fellow tweeters including Emma Jolly, Jackie Depelle, Rosemary Morgan, and Valmay Young.
|Jackie Depelle aka the "hat lady".|
The Devon Family History Society also seemed to be doing a roaring trade.
|The Devon Family History Society at Who Do You Think You Are? Live.|
A number of other bloggers have written about WDYTYA and I've provided a selection of links below:
- A report from Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists: http://www.sog.org.uk/news/article/wdytyalive-move-to-birmingham-a-great-success
- A review from Chris Paton: http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-2015.html
- Dick Eastman on Day 1 of WDYTYA: http://blog.eogn.com/2015/04/16/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-in-birmingham-england-day-1/
- Dick Eastman on Day 2 of WDYTYA: http://blog.eogn.com/2015/04/17/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-in-birmingham-england-day-2/
- Dick Eastman on Day 3 of WDYTYA: http://blog.eogn.com/2015/04/18/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-in-birmingham-england-day-3/
- Janet Few on Thursday at WDYTYA: https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/a-day-at-who-do-you-think-you-are-live
- Janet Few on Friday at WDYTYA: https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/friday-at-who-do-you-think-you-are-live
- Janet Few on Day 3 at WDYTYA: https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/mistress-agnes-gets-dated-day-three-at-who-do-you-think-you-are
In addition Hilary Gadsby shared her experiences at WDYTYA with Dear Myrt on Mondays with Myrt on 20th April. Hilary's segment is right at the beginning of the programme.