Yes, Yes, I know it is the end of Day 2 – give me a break, it’s pretty full on all this networking lark. For once no trolleys were harmed in the process of our Who Do You Think You Are? Live experiences (see previous blog post for links to further details). Today (that’s of course now yesterday) was my busy day. On arrival we were guided to a car park that was as far as possible from the hall as the NEC complex allowed and took the shuttle bus down the hill amidst many folk who looked like they were in for a fun day at some form of transport convention or what appeared to be an OFSTED conference.
I hastened to get my presentations uploaded ready for later in the day (Miss Efficiency me) and was flattered to be remembered from last year by one of the technicians. Then it was off to the experts’ advice tables. Always a good plan to offer to be an ‘expert’ as it does at least ensure that you are able to sit down. I did have one of those ‘arrgggh’ moments. My appointment sat down early for their twenty minute slot, as my previous satisfied customer had gone away early. ‘I don’t know anything about my great grandfather Joe Brown’ (the name has been changed to protect the guilty but it was an equally common name). A large sheaf of typescript, which appears to have been taken from Ancestry is proffered. This contains dates of birth, marriage and death, entries in every applicable census, parentage, spouse and offspring of the ancestor about which the enquirer ‘knows nothing.’ ‘It says here he was born on 6th January 1870’, say I, ‘where did you find this information, was it from the family?’ ‘Oh that’s definitely right.’ says the enquirer. I pursue the named parents, finding their marriage index entry. I explain how to get a marriage certificate and how that should hopefully give Joe Brown’s grandfathers’ names. I find Joe Brown’s father in more than one census. I find Joe’s spouse’s line back to grandparents. ‘You haven’t told me anything about Joe,’ is the response. I point out what we had discovered. ‘Oh but I knew all that already.’ I gritted my teeth and resisted the temptation to point out that I had not only answered the question he had asked but also the question he should have asked – what more could be expected, great granddad’s shoe size? Well that was thirty minutes of my life wasted then.
It was then time for my first talk, twenty minutes on inspiring young children to take an interest in history and heritage. This session was the best kept secret of the convention, somehow having been left off the website and display boards. Nonetheless it did attract an audience of more than one and led to a very interesting contact. Then it was pretty much straight off to my full length presentation in the main studio. Mustering ‘rent a crowd’ is no longer possible now these sessions are charged for. Nor can you rely on acquiring an audience from those who need to rest their bunions after a long day on their feet, so I was worried about speaking to an empty hall.
In the end, this was a sell out session with over two hundred people who had parted with real cash in order to hear me talk about finding elusive ancestors. This included several friends who had turned out to support me – thank you. My worries that the audience would demand their money back if they couldn’t find their elusive ancestors by the end of the session were unfounded. I did explain that I had left my magic wand at home. Despite something very weird happening to the formatting of my slides as they translated to the double screen, the talk did seem to go done well and I had a large queue of questioners outside the studio afterwards.
On the strength of the book sales after my talk, I then invested in the most expensive bottle of water in the world, in the form of a ‘free’ gift as a recompense for purchasing a Living DNA kit. This involved a charming young man watched me scraping the surface off the inside of my cheek, all in the name of discovering where my geographical origins might be. At the end of a long day we joined in a world record attempt for how many people you can cram into a shuttle bus and then crawled along the motorway back to the caravan to collapse in preparation for doing it all again tomorrow.