More Conference Musings

A full day at the conference today. Typically, a road between the site and the conference venue had been close but fortunately the detour was fairly straightforward. We made a mercy dash to Sainsbury’s for Strepsils on the way. I give Sainsbury’s full marks for retaining its apostrophe in much of its signage.

After a non-controversial AGM, Nick Barrett opened the conference with a session on the future of family history. I had heard this presentation before but this was a revised version, focusing on different issues. Nick spoke about the move from archive-based research to methods that rely largely on digital content and highlighted the impact that financial cutbacks have had on archives. The other major game changer is the rise of DNA-inspired research. He then touched on data ownership; all that information we (or you, as it happens, as I have deliberately not done this) upload to the likes of Ancestry, is now owned by them. Upload if you like but be aware of the implications. Nick went on to talk about initiatives to involve young people in non-traditional research and mentioned the Making History initiative. He encouraged us to promote links with academia and other institutions. A new #historianscollaborate movement is seeking to do this. One of Nick’s case-studies was Ryde Social Heritage Group’s cemetery project; it was good to hear the Isle of Wight getting an honourable mention. Finally, he considered family history as a vehicle for well-being, mentioning the benefits of social interaction with like-minded people.

Next was lunch. Seats were in short supply, so we nobly opted to sit on the high bar-stools, on the grounds that we were slightly less incapable of climbing on and off these than some of our fellow conference-goers. I am pleased to report that we are not still stuck in the restaurant with our feet dangling half a metre above the ground. Again, some slightly weird food combinations, or rather lack of obvious accompaniments – roast chicken but no hot potatoes for example, although to be fair, there were sweet potatoes. I can vouch for the high quality of the Eton Mess, once you worked out how to get it to fall off the serving spoon into your bowl. (Not as an accompaniment to roast chicken of course.)

Next, Dr Penny Walters gave a thought-provoking session entitled ‘The Psychology of Searching and Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’. She invited us to consider why we research and outlined the potential minefields that adoptees researching birth families might create, as well as the implications of unexpected DNA results. Penny was followed by Shirley Jones, head of conservation at West Yorkshire Archive Services, talking about her work. Finally, Paul Smith spoke on the Thomas Cook Archives. He outlined the history of the business, which sprung from Cook’s desire to further the Temperance cause. His first organised excursion, in 1841, was to a Temperance rally. Paul then described the contents of the archive, which is now held in Peterborough. I would swear that I had heard this presentation at a previous Guild conference but no one else seemed to remember it, so maybe it was at a different conference, or perhaps it was just a case of déjà vu.

By the end of the afternoon, I was feeling less than wonderful, so I was quite glad that we had decided not to attend the evening’s banquet. Time to return to the van and recharge the batteries.

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Leicester Cathedral

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3 comments on “More Conference Musings

  1. Ann Simcock says:

    Janet I found the article very interesting as usual. I did feel concern when you mentioned that Ancestry owns the information we post. When I first started out on my family history journey over 20 years ago I came into contact with another descendant of my 2x great grandfather. She was very helpful and we have continued to stay in touch. However I did share with her some details of my Dad’s family, nothing terrible, just what happened to him and his sister when their Mum died. I thought that my contact would just put it in her records. She has a tree on Ancestry where she puts everything and I discovered last week that she had put the information I gave her about my Dad. (He has passed).
    I do not want to upset her but I do not like and feel uncomfortable with such personal information on Ancestry and especially in the light of what you said about Ancestry owning the information. Do they now own this information about my Dad?
    I am glad my Ancestry tree is just names without sources or detail!
    Best wishes Ann Simcock

    • Hi Ann my understanding is that they do now have permission to use that data as they wish and certainly that is what Nick said. I’m not an Ancestry subscriber though – I guess it may be somewhere in the small print and I’m not sure there’s much you can do about those who are no longer alive, other than request that the researcher removes it but they would be under no obligation to do so.

      • Ann Simcock says:

        Thank you Janet for your thoughts. It just goes to show you have to be careful about what information you share, with however trustworthy you think the person.

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