The third and final day of the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE! (WDYTYAL) conference came to an end this afternoon. As I walked out of the building, a tired but smiling group of exhibitors were in the process of tearing down their booths and packing up. Most of them were smiling because they reported the highest sales of any of the previous WDYTYAL events.
I did not take any more pictures today as the events were simply a continuation of Friday and Saturday's events. However, the crowds were as big as yesterday, seminars were held all day long on a wide variety of topics, and the vendors seemed as busy as ever. I did record several interviews for Roots Television, and those videos will be released in the coming weeks as they are edited and become available. Keep an eye on http://www.RootsTelevision.com for the latest releases.
Most attendees go to one day of this fair, not to all three days. Therefore, today's attendees were mostly newcomers, arriving for the first time, and were just as enthusiastic as the attendees at days one and two. Vendors' sales remained brisk all day long.
Oh yes, I was smiling today because I found the Cadbury chocolate booth! I wrote a couple of days go that I missed them. It turns out they were there all the time, but on the far end of the Exhibition Hall, where I had not seen them until this morning. My day was complete!
I did not see very many new products and services, but few that I did see included some eye-openers. One that really caught my eye was AncestralAtlas.com. This new web site was demonstrated publicly for the first time this weekend. AncestralAtlas.com is a genealogy and history mapping site. It's basic premise is simple although it does start to become more complex as you start to study the details. In this case, "complex" is a good thing as it means "more features." You can start out simple and then become more and more sophisticated as you become more and more familiar with the offerings on the site.
AncestralAtlas.com allows anyone with an Internet connection to present ancestral and historical data directly on a modern web based mapping system in real time. The person adding the data has the option of making their information visible globally as soon as it has been uploaded and others have the opportunity of finding and adding to that data (but not changing it). Subscribers can also communicate with each other via a secure email service. AncestralAtlas.com combines the best attributes of wiki websites, social networking, and online mapping to create a flexible environment for genealogical discovery. In other words, it is fun to use.
Events to be mapped could range from the tombstone location for a single ancestor to major events, such as the sites of significant military battles or most anything in between. You might think of it as your genealogy database displayed on Google Maps.
You can enter your data and keep it private or share it with others, as you wish. You can also look at data contributed by others, assuming they allow their contributed data to be viewed by others. This becomes interesting as the amount of data increases. If your family lived in a particular village for some time, you can look for surname-based events that occurred within a specified distance of that village. You might specify a search for SMITHS within ten miles of Downton. Such a search would be a great way of identifying family events that occurred in that village and yet simultaneously filtering out all the occurrences of that name in more distant locations. When compared to text-based search engines, AncestralAtlas.com allows you to quickly zoom in on the families of interest.
AncestralAtlas.com has a two-tiered pricing structure. Registration is required, but basic usage of the site is free. Modest fees are involved if you would like to add optional features, such as access to fellow subscribers via the company's email message service (only subscribers can contact one another), early access to updates and improvements and sole access to historical maps and historical boundary change information (to be added shortly), removal of advertising from your page, or search templates for proactive email alert service that monitors newly-added data for you.
AncestralAtlas.com also has a system whereby you can make money when others join the paid version of the service because of data you provided. In short, AncestralAtlas.com pays you a commission when someone else joins because of your contributed data.
The big drawback, as I see it, is that the web site needs a critical mass of user-contributed data. Obviously, that huge amount of data does not exist just yet, but it will if enough people become enthusiastic about the site and start adding their data.
I am impressed with AncestralAtlas.com and will write a more in-depth review of it within a few weeks. I'll wait a bit as the site presently is in a late beta test with a few minor features not yet implemented. I'll write the review once the site is 100% operational with all features available. I can tell you now, however, that I am so impressed with AncestralAtlas.com that I tried to sign up today for a lifetime paid membership, only to find that the payment piece of the software is one of the pieces not yet completed. I do plan to really sign up and pay for the service as soon as possible. I'll also point out that a lifetime membership is really cheap at this time, but the price will increase before long.
If you would like to experience the features in AncestralAtlas.com that have already been implemented, go to http://www.AncestralAtlas.com.
You can sign up now to become a FREE member; only the paid membership has the sign-up issue.
The Genealogist.co.uk and www.GenealogySupplies.com companies are two divisions of the same company and had large booths just inside the main entrance of this year's show. The GenealogySupplies booth was selling RootsMagic version 4 software for Windows, which was just released this weekend for limited distribution. In other words, the only places you can buy Roots 4 have been at this show in London and at the Family History Fair in St. George, Utah. I believe general sales of RootsMagic version 4 will happen as soon as more boxes and manuals get printed.
FindMyPast.com showed off the newly-released 1911 U.K. census. This online database contains color images of the actual census records, filled out in your ancestor's handwriting and also containing marks and various entries added by the census enumerators and other census employees. Because of its high accuracy, this release was praised by several experts at the show whose opinions I respect. Nothing is ever perfect, but this product is receiving praise because of its accuracy compared to other efforts.
Ancestry.co.uk had a large booth plus a "theatre" with presentations made all day long. Dr. Nick Barratt of Who Do You Think You Are television show, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, and other notables were in or near the Ancestry.co.uk booth and theatre for much of the day, giving lectures and answering questions.
The National Archives (often called TNA) and the Times Archives both had large exhibits at the show as well as many staff members available to answer questions.
ArcaLife.com is a brand-new web site that was exhibiting at the U.K. show for the first time. This Canadian-based company produces a rather unique web offering that provides a publishing platform for your life experiences and/or those of your family members. As I watched the demo and talked with company representatives, I got the impression that ArcaLife.com is not so much a platform for publishing your ancestry back for many generations (although it can do that) as it is a tool for tying together today's families. It is a tool for sharing information amongst living family members, although some of that information might refer to ancestors who are now deceased. It seemed to me that it was aimed at current and even future family members. You can record and pass on to family members biographies, images, sound files, and even full motion video. Your family's stories are a part of you and make you who you are. ArcaLife provides a platform to share those stories.
Eneclann always has a display at the WDYTYAL conference, and this year was no exception. The company continues as the largest provider of Irish historical and genealogical information, both online and on CD-ROM disks.
Family Tree DNA sent employees from Houston to man a very busy booth. DNA interest was high at this year's event, and every time I walked by the Family Tree DNA booth, it seemed crowded. I saw numerous people swabbing the inside of their cheeks, taking DNA samples.
DeceasedOnline.com is a web site that I had not seen before. It provides U.K. and Irish burial and cremation records via a centralized database. Details may be found at http://www.DeceasedOnline.com.
ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk seems to be a mandatory stop for anyone researching Scottish ancestry. The site provides (mostly) detailed images of original records. I talked with Raymond Evans for some time, and he talked much too fast for me to write everything down. In short, the site has added a lot of new material in recent weeks and is planning even more in the coming months. Luckily, Roots Television recorded our talk, so I didn't have to write everything down. Watch for that conversation to be released before long at http://www.RootsTelevision.com.
I was also impressed by the large number of societies that exhibited at this year's event. Most societies in the U.K. publish books or CD-ROM disks of local records extracted by society members, and sales were brisk for all three days. I suspect that many societies earned more revenue over this three-day-weekend than they did for the rest of the 362 days in the year!
The above is a small sample of the vendors and exhibitors at this year's WDYTYAL event. They are the ones where I stopped and talked for a while. There were many others, too many to visit and spend time with each.
I didn't hear the final attendance figures, but it looked like 10,000 to 15,000 people to me.
All in all, this year's event has to be judged as a success. There was concern after last year's event when the organizers announced a change in dates to mid-winter. However, after this weekend's success, all doubts were removed. The weather was perfect all three days. The attendees seemed to like the seminars and presentations, and the majority of the seminars had standing-room-only crowds. The new focus on genealogy, eliminating the military re-enactors and related exhibitors, seemed well received. Individual societies' booths were crowded all weekend, and most of the vendors reported their highest sales ever.
In fact, the conference organizers have already announced that next year's event will be held the same weekend in February in a hope to repeat or exceed this year's successes. I hope to be at next year's event. I had a lot of fun in London this year and would love to repeat the experience.
I now face only one problem: I have a ticket to fly home tomorrow. I am flying to Boston. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Boston's Logan airport is for ten to fifteen inches of new snow tomorrow. I suspect the airport will be forced to close. If so, the Virgin Atlantic flight may never take off from London. I could be “marooned” in London for two or three days, waiting for the weather to clear and then waiting for additional seats on future flights. Almost all flights are fully booked these days, so any flight cancellation could mean being on standby for days. “Marooned” in London? What a fate!