A Report and Pictures from Who Do You Think You Are? Live! in Birmingham, England

NOTE: Photos are available at http://eogn.com/images/newsletter/albums/Birmingham-2016/album/index.html

Who Do You Think You Are? Live! turned out to be almost exactly as expected. The hallways and aisles in the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), in Birmingham, England, were crowded with thousands of genealogists. I know it must have been a great event simply because I was so tired at the end of each day!


The annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live! event is the largest genealogy conference in the UK and I believe it is the second-largest in the world. (RootsTech in Salt Lake City appears to be the largest.) I never obtained a headcount of visitors to the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! but it obviously was in the many of thousands of family historians and others with an interest in history and in researching their family trees.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I have the equivalent of about 72,000 words available at http://eogn.com/images/newsletter/albums/Birmingham-2016/album/index.html. That is an online photo album containing many of the photos I took at the conference. It should give you a feel of the exhibits hall and “theatres” at the conference.

IMG_20160408_140638_smallerUnlike many other genealogy conferences I attend, the primary focus of Who Do You Think You Are? Live! is the exhibits hall. When attendees enter the conference center, they first enter the exhibits hall with dozens and dozens of genealogy societies and commercial vendors showing their products and services. You can find a list of all of this year’s exhibitors at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com/about-show/our-exhibitors.

The entire conference is held in one huge room. The larger presentations and workshops were all held in areas along the outer periphery of the exhibits hall with a few of the smaller theaters actually embedded in exhibitors’ displays.


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 completely fill one hall. There was room for 19 more conferences of similar or even larger size to be held simultaneously in the other halls!

The halls vary in size with some of them being several times larger than the one where Who Do You Think You Are? Live! was held. When was the last time that you saw a speed limit sign for travel INSIDE a building?


Yes, this picture was taken at the entrance to one of the loading areas in the National Exhibition Centre. 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 conference included 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-on-one guidance on their family history research questions and problems. It was a perfect opportunity 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/workshop-timetable, http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com/workshop-timetable-dna, and at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com/workshop-timetable-the-genealogist. If you would like to know what went on this week, I would suggest you start at those addresses.

The National Exhibition Centre is also a great location for travelers. While it is well outside the city at 8 miles east of Birmingham city centre, it is at the heart of the UK motorway network, only a few hundred yards from the M42 motorway.

The NEC is only a few hundred yards from Birmingham’s international airport. The airport and the NEC are connected by a monorail system. Anyone arriving at the airport can travel on the (free) monorail without going outside. That’s convenient in England’s weather! I flew directly from the US to the Birmingham International Airport and stayed at one of the several hotels within walking distance of the NEC and the airport.

Likewise, the railroad station is directly connected to the National Exhibition Centre. Again, those who arrive by train can walk into the NEC without going outside although this time there is no need to use the monorail.

Numerous restaurants are located inside the National Exhibition Centre and many more are available at Resorts World, a movie theater and casino located a short walk away.

During my entire stay in Birmingham, I don’t believe I ever went more than a half mile away from the airport! There was no need to do so unless I wanted to do more than attend the conference. “Getting around” was a non-issue.

WW-I_soldierI decided to take lots of pictures to provide an idea of what the conference looked like. I wrote at the end of Day #1, “I took a lot of pictures today. As I write these words, my camera is struggling to upload all the pictures to the eogn.com web site over a very, very slow wi-fi connection in the hotel. I don’t believe it will finish until after I fall asleep tonight.

After a bit of detective work, I discovered the hotel’s wi-fi network either blocked or throttled ALL file uploads. That explains why I was unable to upload more than 3 or 4 photos! However, upon returning home, I was able to quickly upload 72 photos to the eogn.com web site and they are now visible to everyone at http://eogn.com/images/newsletter/albums/Birmingham-2016/album/index.html.

You might want to take a look at my photos at http://eogn.com/images/newsletter/albums/Birmingham-2016/album/index.html and also look at photos from other attendees at https://www.facebook.com/Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are-LIVE-7-9-April-2016-140737404670/.

I plan to be back next year. Will I see you there?


They let you sit in a real Spitfire? 😉


    It was a mock up, built for the RAF as a Gate Guardian in the 1980s, with some real cockpit fittings added by the re-enactors


Do we have the dates yet for 2017?


    I haven’t heard the dates although I am sure they must be set by now. Does anyone else know? If so, please reply to this comment.


    It was a replica Spitfire but still really impressive. Dates for next year 6 to 8 April 2017 I believe so same week again. Like Dick I was exhausted at the end of three days and my voice had gone due to all the talking but I think most people who attended went away re-invigorated ready to follow up new research avenues. Unlike Dick however who I know spent most of the day standing (I was on the APG stand opposite My Heritage) I took every opportunity to sit down and there were plenty of places to do that – findmypast for instance had sofas! Again they were opposite us so we suffered a little from sofa envy. There were in total 8 theatres or other areas offering talks so while these were taking place the gangways between the stalls were relatively empty only for the workshops to end on the hour and suddenly they were crowded again but without that feeling of claustrophobia which the show had at Olympia in London. The hall is like some vast aircraft hangar and on this occasion it was literally that with the Spitfire looking quite small in one corner.
    Yes I shall be back again next year. I did my first stint on SoG Ask the Expert this year so will volunteer for that again. Someone asked me if we got paid and no most of the folk you see on the stands are doing it for free. It is good to meet up again with friends from previous years and the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. This year the weather outside was decidedly chilly so it never got too hot although the aircon on Thursday was a little fierce particularly in the corners of the hall and I had table 13 in the experts area which was decidedly draughty!

    See you next year Dick.


A great day out, and nice meeting you, Dick!


April 6-8 for 2017 is listed on the website http://geneva.weald.org.uk/ which is run by Genuki and FFHS


Difficult to describe this as a conference! More of an exhibition with a few talks thrown in.
I thought the exhibition very poor, Yes the two or three big boys were there, but very little else. The talks were all marred by the ambient noise in the exhibition hall, and were all at a very basic, beginner level. I thought the size was down from last year as was the number of visitors. When you add the cost of parking (£12.00) and travel to the entry ticket, I felt it was very expensive.
The organisers could really do so much better, Family History is so much more than a list of names with their BMD, so where was the industrial and social history explored, Railways, Mining, Schools & Education, Farming, Medicine, Religion and Law, etc. Why were so few local Family History Societies in attendance?
I came for the day and had seen all there was to see and spoken to all that I wanted to speak to by lunch time. I came to the show to have questions answered and to have new questions posed to me. I came to the show to be encouraged and enthused. And all I got was the same old same old.
No, I won’t be going next year! Not until it becomes a British RootsTech


    There were quite a lot of local Family History Societies at the event > Hampshire, Devon, Northampton, Berkshire, a few from Birmingham, a few from Yorkshire, some from Scotland, Wales, Ireland & Northern Ireland, a few from surrey, Sheffield, Shropshire etc


    I think a ‘British RootsTech’ would just be way to much for people to take in.


    Have to say you do make a very good point regard the history side of things (Occuptions, Leisure, Health, Religion, Crime etc)

    Sorry admin, for the multiple comments.


The dates for next year were displayed on a board opposite the exit of the hall – something like 6-8 April 2017 I think, in the same venue I presume.


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