Like many other family historians I am in ‘recovering from ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Live’ mode. This year for the first time I was involved in set-up Wednesday. What magic to see an empty, cavernous space transformed with the fastest blue carpet laying team in the world. Can you believe that every show has its own carpet, which is thrown away afterwards? I did try to think of a use for many square metres of very thin blue carpet but failed. This year I spent a short time on the Pharos Tutors stand. I am really looking forward to tutoring my forthcoming courses, first Maps and Mapping and later in the year a Writing up Your Family History course. In preparation for this I am a Pharos student and I chose to participate in Chris Paton’s Scottish Research Online course. That would work well if I had any Scottish ancestry. I have borrowed the ancestors of my children and grandchildren for this and it was great fun starting from scratch, in one case with a birth in the 1980s. On Saturday I was helping on the Methodist Heritage stand. Do check out their family of websites if you have Methodist ancestry (or even if you don’t).
There was debate this year about the wisdom of charging for the talks on the day. Previously, you could pay in advance if you wanted to ensure a seat but spare seats were available at no charge on the day. A number of the speakers I spoke to (who are not paid to speak) were concerned about the impact on their audiences and many sessions did seem to have depleted numbers. Several said they would not offer to speak again but I suspect that when the call for papers comes out they will have forgotten their indignation. I was pleased to have a healthy turn out, despite being scheduled at the end of the day. My (or rather Mistress Agnes’) Life of the Tudor Housewife session was very well received. Thanks to Debbie Kennett for the photographic evidence. Master Christopher was also operating this year.
Along with others, I somehow felt that this year’s show lacked its usual buzz, maybe because I was worn out before I started, pictures taken on the weekend certainly make me look every year of my newly achieved decadal landmark age. Even my sessions on the ‘experts’ desk failed to lead to any eureka moments, with most of my enquiries resulting in ‘you’ve tried all the right things’ type comments – maybe this is because this year’s punters were better informed.
As always, the best part of the event was meeting friends and networking. Lovely to catch up with John Reid, his was one talk I might have paid to hear but annoyingly it was scheduled at the same time as mine, although I did catch most of his Richard III DNA talk, I don’t know what I did to deserve it but this year I had a coveted (well maybe) invitation to the FindmyPast reception – I did honest – I have the email to prove it. So off I went to the champagne reception on the Thursday. A slightly embarrassing moment when my name didn’t appear on the magic list – maybe my acceptance didn’t reach them. Fortunately I was recognised by Myko Clelland (it isn’t what you know) and I was in. Was it wise to consume champagne when I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I rarely drink? Probably not. I wasn’t much tempted to soak it up with the seriously strange ‘canapés’. Still, very pleased to have been invited and please can I come again next year? Announcements about forthcoming additions to FindmyPast suggested that there would soon be a significant Australian record set online.
I was chuffed to find that Remember Then: women’s memories of 1946-1969 and how to write your own had been made book of the month by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies. I also acquired a copy of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, where it was the lead review and very complimentary it was too. I promise no money changed hands. I also delivered my first talk of the book to a small but very appreciate audience at one of my favourite nearby local history groups and nearly 50% of the audience bought copies.
As a legacy from last year’s car accident, I underwent what is know as a ‘procedure’ this week. I will spare you the gory details but it began something like this. ‘I am afraid your last blood test was 11 days too long ago, we need to take blood.’ The nurse then had to go off duty with a back spasm. Her parting shot to her colleague – ‘Can you take blood?’ ‘Err, well I haven’t done for years.’ I don’t think he was joking. Not exactly inspiring confidence!
Must just mention the fascinating outings to The Black Country Living Museum and Sarehole Mill which bridged the gap between the Guild of One Name Studies conference and Who Do You Think You Are? Live. Every family historian should visit living history museums. I am just compiling a short worldwide list for a forthcoming booklet – suggestions welcome. At my newly acquired great age no wonder I am shattered, although I did manage loose 4lb (to add to the 6 I’d already lost this month) over the course of the proceedings.