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I’m very glad I went … now for the next time!

General view of the Exhibition Hall (during the late afternoon talk)

As the exhibition hall wasn’t going to open until 9.45 I had worked out that either I needed to go at sparrow’s crack, get a lift to the station, brave the rush hour and be able to get to a 9 a.m. session or leave later and have to pay for a taxi. Early start won. Since my clock radio had packed up the week before, I was relying on the TV to wake me at 5 a.m. which it duly did, so once I had done my chores on FTF, had breakfast and been driven to Barnham for the 6.17 train I started what proved to be a very long, very tiring but very worthwhile day.

The unfamiliar journey I was worried about was straightforward, nobody was protesting at Canning Town this week and there were plenty of people to direct anyone heading for the Excel. I’d never been to the Excel but other RootsTech visitors were easily spotted from their backpacks, and the strangely dressed were heading for another event, so I could follow them in.

Once I’d collected my badge I headed for a cup of coffee which was not as easy as I had expected as most of the food outlets had been closed off and were only available for Comic Con visitors – I was pleased later on that I had taken a sandwich with me for lunch – even if I did have to eat it sitting on the floor! I happened to spot one of the few people I knew from Family Tree Forum who were attending, Paulc, at the same coffee stop. I didn’t recognise him from his forum avatar of Yoda but from his Twitter profile. During the day I was accosting people and looking at their badges and others were doing the same to me. I wonder who the person from Northampton who looks just like me actually is – two different people thought I was her!!

Family Tree Forum members

My first session was A sense of place: Land records and maps with Myko Clelland of Findmypast. In a very short time he gave an overview for beginners of what exists in the way of Land Records, maps and where to find them. I was reminded of a couple of sites I had forgotten all about which will come in handy for writing up the stories about my ancestors..

Then I hit the exhibition hall and worked my way round the stands. I hadn’t realised at first how many demos were going on in the hall itself. I shall know another time to look there first and plan my day round them as I missed some interesting talks. I stopped at the stand for Calico Pie‘s Family Historian which is the software I use and was told that a demo for the new version was about to begin. It was delayed in the end by the previous one over running and I made a decision to stay with it and to miss the Keynote Speeches. After Simon’s talk I went back to the stand and was able to join in the demo again but with a smaller group so was able to ask questions. I thought of many more questions afterwards of course.

As I mentioned, I was glad I had taken a sandwich. There was a coffee stall with a few sandwiches and snacks but nowhere to sit as all the tables nearby were taken up by people meeting. So, lunch was spent chatting with other people also sitting on the floor. In fact, the catering and lack of seats was generally pretty bad although I gather that this was much improved the next day.

Selfie with a Belgian cyber friend © HistoiresdeFamilles

I was able to ask about recent Freemason records, talked to people on the Indian Diaspora and fIBIS stand about Indian records, stopped by the Hampshire FHS and Family History Federation, met a Belgian cyber acquaintance, investigated the online learning courses and generally looked around. I also stopped to chat about DNA by the Jelly Tots machine, a brilliant practical way of showing how your DNA gets mixed up, and then found later that the person, Angie Bush, I was talking to was actually the speaker for my 2 o’clock session.

I was disappointed by how few Family History Societies were there in the hall, but it was probably too expensive for them to warrant it. The larger groups and subscription sites were well represented and DNA featured heavily of course. There were areas to get help with your family history and these were being well used as far as I could tell. I realised afterwards that I had forgotten to go back to the Society of Genealogists’ stand – I am actually a member although I’ve never been to the Library yet.

After lunch, I headed for Debbie Kennett‘s talk about The joy of surnames. I came away with lots of pointers and ideas for my own surname study into the Lewcocks, even though I’m not with the Guild of One Name Studies, but the Surname Society at the moment.

Angie Bush‘s talk about Using DNA and Historical Research to Extend Your Family Tree, was very interesting and showed how DNA can help to confirm your research (or the opposite!) and help in breaking down long standing brick walls based on her own research. She gave a clear explanation of how DNA is inherited and how the testing companies present this and then going about using the information as part of a research plan.

My head spinning with ideas, I went to find the meetup organised by Paulc @chiddickstree. I was surrounded by people who I had followed on Twitter #AncestryHour, where I “lurk” more than contribute, as they get together on an Tuesday evening. Paul must have been very pleased with how many people went along and pictures were taken of course.

I finished my day trying to get my head round Examining your DNA matches with DNA Painter with Jonny Perl. While I listening it all made sense, but I need to dip my toe in the water of chromosome painting now and see if I really understood!

For each session I was spoiled for choice and would happily have gone to two or three in each slot. My final choice had I stayed until the end would have been either DNA Testing Panel Discussion or Save and share online information : 5 tools for the connected genealogist. I can access the handouts for the latter to see what I missed.

I was pleasantly surprised through the day by how much I already knew, had reminders of what I had forgotten, learned about new resources, got ideas for things to try, talked to total strangers and put faces and voices to cyber acquaintances. I probably missed a lot by only going for one day – if and when they return I shall make sure to spend more of the three days there. I’ve now downloaded the handouts from all the sessions that interested me, not just those I went to, and am looking forward to working my way through them all. I now need to catch up with the Keynote speech I missed as it was recorded.

By 5 o’clock I was talked and walked out and wanted to get the direct train back from London Bridge so missed the final sessions and headed off along with some Stormtroopers to the DLR. Again a smooth journey and was only a few minutes late back to Barnham, arriving home at 8 p.m.

Now I am looking forward to April when the Family Tree Live show takes place at Alexandra Palace. The journey from Barnham via East Croydon and Finsbury Park looks a lot less daunting than this one and takes about the same time with a later start … so ….. …

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