We set off early to beat both rain and traffic and accomplish this successfully. In the absence of shuttle buses from South Car Park we walk down to Hall 2 at the NEC. There was a happy, gentle atmosphere with a real international vibe. It was lovely to meet several world-renowned genealogists who had only been virtual friends until now. Unfortunately, I had places to be and people to see, so I was unable to spend more than a few minutes in the ever-widening circle of heavyweight genealogical chat that continued in the meeting area throughout the two days of the show.
As a show speaker, I was given two tickets to talks of my choice and I had opted for those by genealogical crime writer, Nathan Dylan Goodwin. His first session described how he researches and writes his books. Very interesting and I appropriated a few ideas. Next, I was acting as a ‘wizard’ attempting to help show-goers with their problems and brick walls. Unfortunately, I was not provided with the required magic wand but I hope I that most people left with a few things they could try. There did seem to be a preponderance of people with Suffolk queries. I coped with foundlings and German ancestry but was a little bemused by the client who spent the twenty minute slot showing me forty or so documents but despite my repeated ‘how can I help?’ comments, didn’t actually appear to have a question or problem. I was reduced to ‘mmm lovely’, as yet another document was whisked past my nose. If you plan to take the opportunity of seeking expert advice in the genealogical equivalent of speed dating, please do come prepared and come with a succinct limited question, or indeed I’d settle for any sort of question!!
Then my allocated two hours on the stall of the Society for One-place Studies, to which I drifted back and forth throughout the day. We had a steady stream of enquiries and a pleasing number of people decided to take up the one-place challenge. The thought of taking on a new, tiny, place did cross my brain, like I have so much spare time! I sold almost all my stock of Putting your Ancestors in their Place and a few other books, despite having issues with the credit card machine. On the downside, my voice was beginning to disappear – cue the Strepsil overdose.
Day two and this time there was no avoiding the rain. Be-decked in waterproof trousers, wielding an umbrella and with spare socks and shoes in my bag, we set forth into the downpour. On arrival, we advise the security staff on tracing ancestry in India. This was more along the lines of ‘we know a man/woman who does.’ My talk was up first. Let us just say the audience was more noted for its quality than quantity. Judging by the ‘I wanted to hear your talk but …’ comments that I received later in the day, a significant reason for this was because I was scheduled half an hour after the show began. At this point, folk were still shaking raindrops from coats and getting their bearings. The real shame was not for me but for the missed opportunity. I was speaking about ideas for engaging young people in history and heritage. This is a crucial topic. On an almost daily basis, I hear people moan that younger generations are not interested in their genealogical research, yet often they are not willing to make any efforts to spark that interest.
A quick gap and then I was part of a three-woman panel chatting about surname studies, to a larger audience this time. At least my voice held out. Then back to more wizardry, fielding questions about dancing masters and apprentices amongst other things. The event ended as it had begun, with another talk from Nathan Dylan Goodwin, this time a fascinating account of his own family history research. All too soon, it seemed to be over. I really wish I had had more time to network with people. I had brief chats with so many friends. It is great to be at an event like this, when you know almost every other person. There were evening get-togethers but evenings and I do not get on. Next year and there is to be a next year, I will make more effort to stay awake beyond 6pm and join the fun. The next big genealogical event is Rootstech, of which more later.
The job we must not mention is about to hit the fan so there may be radio silence for a few weeks but I will do my best to keep in touch.