Who Do You Think You Are? Live! in Birmingham, England – Day #1

The newly-relocated Who Do You Think You Are? Live! conference opened at 9:30 this morning in the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), in Birmingham, England. I think every one of the several thousand people who attended would agree that the first day’s events were successful.

The Who Do You Think You Are? Live! annual events have always been held in London in the past although a “special edition” was held in Glasgow, Scotland last year as a second event of 2014. (You can read my reports from last year’s Glasgow event by starting at http://goo.gl/kEPcei.)

This year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live! Event was moved to a very modern convention center in Birmingham, England. The 2015 event is being held this week in an industrial area well outside the city but very close to the airport and a train station and also easily accessible by motorways. In short, it is an excellent location for attendees who must travel some distance to attend. While I traveled a considerable distance from Orlando, Florida, to Birmingham, I was not even close to having traveled the furthest to attend. I met a number of attendees at today’s event who were from Australia, California, Texas, Germany, and a number of other places.

The National Exhibition Centre, or NEC., is an ideal place for a conference with several thousand attendees. I believe there are 20 exhibition halls inside the cavernous NEC facility. Yes, twenty! All the several thousand genealogists and the vendors combined did not fill one hall. There was room for 19 more conferences of similar or even larger size to be held simultaneously!

I had to smile when I walked past a large access door where trucks may be driven inside the building to deliver exhibits and other materials. A sign beside the door stated, “Speed limit inside the building: 5 mph.” I don’t remember ever seeing a sign before that stated a speed limit INSIDE a building! However, a quick peek inside the door did show that there was plenty of room for speeders. That one exhibition hall alone had room for perhaps 40 or 50 tractor-trailer units to be unloading inside simultaneously and, again, that was only one of the 20 available exhibition halls.

The doors opened promptly at 9:30 AM and a long queue of genealogists filed in. The place soon filled up with family history enthusiasts. The total attendance undoubtedly was lower than the past few years when the event was held in London but that was expected by the organizers. This year’s event was moved to a new city with a smaller population and to a city not as well connected by rail and highways as London is.

In England, all roads may lead to London but not all of the roads lead to Birmingham. However, traveling from North America, as I did, demonstrated to me that travel to the NEC in Birmingham was easier than my previous travels to the Olympia Centre in the middle of London. Having Birmingham’s international airport very close to the convention center was much more convenient for me and for many other long-distance travelers than having to fly to Heathrow or Gatwick and then taking transportation into the center of London. However, I am sure many of the Brits who live in or near London would disagree with me.

The NEC is not only larger than the previous facility, it is also more modern and is better equipped to handle handicapped attendees and also has more food options available. I must admit, however, there were no vegan options. Oh well, I may have been the only vegan in attendance so perhaps no one else noticed.

One thing that many people commented on was the much wider aisle space between stands in the exhibitors’ area this year. Unlike past years, it was no longer necessary to walk sideways through the crowds. There was plenty of room for everyone.

The conference continued until 5:30 PM today and there were workshops, presentations, exhibitors, military re-enactors and more. One of the most popular services that was carried over from previous years was the Society of Genealogists’ “Ask the Experts” area. Show attendees had an opportunity to get some one-to-one guidance on their family history research problems. It was a perfect chance to pose specific questions to an expert who usually could provide an invaluable advice.

I could go on and list all the other services available but that list has already been created elsewhere. The complete list of events is listed on the conference’s web start beginning at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com. If you would like to know what when on today, I would suggest you start there.

I know at the end of the day I was exhausted. It must have been a good day! I’ll be back tomorrow and again on Saturday to see what happens on Day #2 and Day #3. Admittedly, I expect more of the same things that I saw today. I did make one presentation in a keynote talk today and will give two more presentations about different topics in the next two days. Maybe that contributed to my exhaustion by the 5:30 PM closing time.

I also snapped a lot of pictures today. if you would like to see what happened, you can get a rather good idea by looking at my photo album at http://eogn.com/images/videos/WDYTYAL-Birmingham-2015/index.html. You can view the pictures in two different ways: (1.) one at one picture at a time, looking at larger versions of any images by clicking on any one image or (2.) by clicking on the slide show icon (it is a tiny triangle) and then sitting back and watching the slide show.

Yes, I had fun today. I am glad I was able to attend. I am looking forward to going back tomorrow and again on Saturday. I expect to take more pictures as well.

Again, my pictures made today may be found at http://eogn.com/images/videos/WDYTYAL-Birmingham-2015/index.html. Also take a look at the event’s web site at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com.


Was your keynote address video taped? It would be nice for those of us unable to attend the show, to be able to see your presentation.

I had hoped to visit the show this year, but it was not possible.

John in Oz


Jennifeer Metcalfe April 17, 2015 at 1:52 am

I greatly enjoyed your presentation, as cloud technology is looking like the way forward for storing and sharing our family histories – until something else comes along in a few years!
It’s great to have this event in the Midlands, the NEC is so much easier to access than Olympia.


David (from the North!) April 19, 2015 at 5:49 am

Having Birmingham’s international airport very close to the convention center was much more convenient for me and for many other long-distance travelers than having to fly to Heathrow or Gatwick and then taking transportation into the center of London. However, I am sure many of the Brits who live in or near London would disagree with me.

But most “Brits” do not live in or near London! Birmingham is about a quarter of the way up the country and there is a greater variety of types and prices of accommodation within 10-15 miles of the NEC.

This year’s event was moved to a new city … not as well connected by rail and highways as London is.

Not sure that I agree other than for international links – but Birmingham International Airport with national and international services seemed OK for you. And I bet the smaller airport experience was better than Heathrow!

Bus and Rail services to Birmingham (or the NEC) are often direct from many parts of the country (the extra hop – if required – to the NEC being via a good rail link from the centre of Birmingham – far easier than a cross London transfer). So for public transport NEC is good for everyone except those SE of London.

The Birmingham motorway box (M5, M6, M42) is one of three major motorway loops in England (others being M25 to avoid London, and M60 around Manchester). The NEC is on the M6/M42 corner of this box with links NW, NE, SW, and SE (two). So apart from the inevitable (?) congestion in and out of the car parks (the last mile seems to be a problem for so many networks!), the NEC is so much better than central London for car drivers.

And as you say the venue itself is modern and airy.


Your photos are so much better than mine. I think I need a camera shake reduction feature and in the afternoon the sunlight was a problem. I was inside the hall by 9am so had no idea of the queues outside after then. Of course I don’t usually take photos of people only documents and they don’t move!


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