One of the largest family history events held every year is the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show, often abbreviated as WDYTYAL. It is held at the huge National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England. The location is near junction 6 of the M42 motorway and is adjacent to Birmingham Airport and Birmingham International railway station. While it is not in the middle of a city, the confluence of highways, railroad, and airport makes this location ideal for holding large conferences. Several modern hotels are also within walking distance of the National Exhibition Centre although I might describe the distances as “a healthy walk.”
More than 10,000 visitors are expected at this year’s event, to be held on 7 to 9 April 2016. This year, Who Do You Think You Are? Live will continue to be sponsored by Ancestry.co.uk.
Inspired by the very popular Who Do You Think You Are? television series, the show will offer expert advice to help you uncover more information about your ancestors. While the focus obviously is on UK ancestry, genealogy records and advice can be found for many other countries as well. For instance, the Families In British India Society (FIBIS) always has a large and active exhibit. In the past, I have also seen exhibits from genealogy organizations devoted to German, Polish, Italian, and other ethnic origins and even one exhibit by the British Deaf History Society (BDHS). The aim of the BDHS is to research, preserve, and promote the histories of deaf people in the UK. You can learn more about this worthwhile organization at http://www.bdhs.org.uk.
If you can be in Birmingham on any of the three days of this conference, I would strongly invite you to attend. You won’t want to miss it!
I have attended eight of the past nine Who Do You Think You Are? Live! shows and have always met other attendees from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and from quite a few European countries as well. Indeed, WDYTYAL is an international event. I plan to be at this year’s event as well.
The show will be packed with more than 120 exhibitors showing their products and services. Attendees also will have access to leading genealogical experts, informative workshops, archives and museums, major online resources, and the largest gathering anywhere of family history societies. Some of the highlights include:
Society of Genealogists Workshop Programme
Four separate workshop theatres will be available at the show:
1. The Society of Genealogists Theatre 1 sponsored by Ancestry
2. The Society of Genealogists Theatre 2 in partnership with Family Tree DNA
3. The Society of Genealogists Theatre 3
4. The Education Zone in partnership with Findmypast. The Education Zone is a brand new feature for the show that will host short presentations on a first-come, first-served basis as tickets are not required for this zone.
You can see a detailed schedule of all the workshops at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com/workshop-timetable. Note the warning on that page: “We advise you to book your workshop tickets in advance for the best value for money as workshops in the three theatres will all be at £3 on the day (£2 in advance).”
Many other events are scheduled, including:
1. Exhibits from more than 100 exhibitors. See http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com/about-show/our-exhibitors for a complete list.
2. Ask the Experts – Brought to you by the Society of Genealogists, the Ask the Experts area provides an opportunity to get some one-to-one guidance on your family history research. Whether you are stuck finding an elusive ancestor or just need help to start, this is a perfect chance to pose specific questions to an expert who can provide invaluable advice. Twenty-minute appointments can be booked on the day by simply visiting the reception desk in the Ask the Experts area. You will be asked to fill in a pre-booking form so that you can be matched to the appropriate expert. Please note that research will not be done for you, but you will be given advice on how to further your research.
3. Military History – All the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! shows have included a large military area which includes military exhibitors and experts who are there to help you find your ancestors in the military. The Military Checkpoint has allowed visitors to bring all manner of military artefacts for identification. The 2016 show will continue to host some of Britain’s largest museums and military organisations and commemorate our ancestors involved in conflict. Specialists from a host of military museums will be on hand all weekend to help you with your military queries. The experts will help you identify military heirlooms, artefacts, documents and medical records.
One of the things I enjoy at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! shows but do not see at many other genealogy events is the display of military uniforms by re-enactors who take great efforts to re-create military uniforms of past wars.
4. Photograph Daters – Experts are on hand to help you investigate your precious photos and will be looking at the styling, dress, and backgrounds to give clues to identify the subjects and tell you more about them.
5. The Heirloom Detectives – Eric Knowles returns to Who Do You Think You Are? Live! as the resident Heirloom Detective. Eric will be appearing on Friday and Saturday only and will help date any family treasures important to your family and place them in their social context.
Eric is a familiar face in the world of antiques and has fronted and participated in many a programme on the subject. He started his career as a porter at Bonhams auction rooms in the 1970s, working his way up to head of the ceramics department in 1981. Most widely known as the ceramics expert on the Antiques Roadshow on which he has now been working for twenty eight years, he has also presented the BBC’s Restoration Roadshow and appeared in Going for a Song, The Great Antiques Hunt, and The Antique Inspectors, to name but a few.
Please note, on Thursday, Marc Allum will become the Heirloom Detective. Marc is a freelance art and antiques journalist, writer and broadcaster based in Wiltshire. He has been a miscellaneous specialist on the BBC Antiques Roadshow since 1998 and has appeared on numerous television and radio programmes. Marc regularly writes for mainstream magazines and is an author, antiques consultant, and lecturer.
6. Since I am a private pilot, my favorite display is the WW2 Spitfire that will be shown in partnership with Forces War Records. Their replica RAF Hut will be right next to the Spitfire; inside there will be a variety of captioned Airforce photographs to enjoy and a terminal to demonstrate their website, where you will also be able to enjoy a consultation with a member of their staff. Outside there will be another terminal to help with quick questions, military memorabilia for people to look at, and information to take away., People also can chat with the Spitfire Crew who will be in costume and character throughout the 3 days.
7. And more!
Will it be a good event? I certainly think so. I have enjoyed the previous eight Who Do You Think You Are? Live! shows that I have been able to attend, and I fully expect this year’s event will be even bigger and probably better than the past ones.
If you are looking for me at this event, check the MyHeritage stand. I won’t be there all the time as I will be circulating, talking to vendors, and taking lots of pictures of the events to be published in a future newsletter. However, the MyHeritage stand will serve as my “base of operations.” Besides, I previously met Laurence Harris, Head of Genealogy (UK) for MyHeritage, and his staff, and I found them to be delightful people. I look forward to spending time with them and with visitors to the MyHeritage stand. Please drop by!
To see some of my photos from last year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live! event, look at my pictures 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.