Who Do You Think You Are? Live! Show for 2017 is a Success

I just returned from the 2017 edition of the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show, held in Birmingham, England. I know it must have been a good show; I am so exhausted I can barely move! That’s my indiction of how successful a genealogy event was: measuring the exhaustion levels of myself and other show attendees.

One small example of the crowds at Who Do You Think You Are? Live! 2017

The Who Do You Think You Are? Live! conference was held for three days, April 6, 7, and 8, at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), in Birmingham, England. The NEC is an ideal venue for genealogy events as well as for many other shows and conferences. It is huge, modern, and is easy to access. The NEC is located near junction 6 of the M42 motorway, and has huge car parks. It is also adjacent to Birmingham Airport. Attendees arriving by commercial airlines, such as myself, can ride a free shuttle train connecting the airport terminal directly with the Exhibition Centre. A very active railway station and a bus station are also located at the Exhibition Centre. Finally, several hotels are located either at the National Exhibition Centre or within walking distance.

I have never been to any other genealogy conference that has as many easy access options as the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) just outside of Birmingham.

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! The NEC is not only larger than the other facilities I have visited, it is also more modern and is better equipped to handle handicapped attendees and also has more food options available. I even found multiple vegan options in the many restaurants in and near the Exhibition Centre.

The Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show attracts a lot of international visitors. I met vendors and attendees from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Ukraine, Sweden, Canada, and the United States. I am sure there must have been others as well.

I took “the long way around” on the trip to the show. I left my home in the United States about a week early and made stops in Iceland and in Denmark in order to do some sightseeing before proceeding to Birmingham. Most of my travels were uneventful until my return trip home: flights were delayed, U.S. Customs and Immigration was mobbed with thousands of travelers waiting in line for more than an hour in order to be asked two questions each, and then United Airlines lost my luggage. Luckily, the luggage did appear on a later flight and was delivered to my home by taxi the following morning.

Sir Tony Robinson makes a point during his presentation

Typically, the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show draws 12,000 to 15,000 attendees every year. I never heard any final attendance numbers for this year’s event but my “guesstimate” is that attendance was a bit lower than in previous years, Thursday and Friday both seemed to have lower than normal attendance but things certainly picked up on Saturday. Reports from the vendors were mixed; some reported lower sales than in previous years while others reported they had the best sales ever.

The show was not radically different from past year’s shows held that the same venue. It is primarily a vendors’ event. That is, the exhibits hall was front and center and was busy most all of the time. In addition, there were seminars and presentations made all day long every day at a number of locations around the periphery of the exhibits hall.

The MyHeritage stand looked quiet before the doors opened!

But the same stand got much busier after the doors opened!

DNA continues to be the growing topic of interest. It draws more presentations and more interested attendees every year. This year also saw vendors with newly-announced DNA products: MyHeritage sold a lot of DNA kits for the company’s new DNA service (see my earlier articles at http://bit.ly/2oisJUc, http://bit.ly/2oXE6Cd, and at http://bit.ly/2oXwzDt for the details).

(American) Lila Davis Takes a MyHeritage DNA Test

(American) Lila Davis Takes a MyHeritage DNA Test

Living DNA was a new (to me) vendor that had a huge display. Their booth seemed to be busy all three days and lots of show attendees were seen making “cheek swabs” with the Living DNA kits. Family Tree DNA and Ancestry DNA also seemed to be busy all day every day selling DNA test kits.

One thing I like about the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! is the strong emphasis on military history. Dozens of vendors were supporting military history products and services. I saw lots of men and women dressed in period military uniforms as well.

British Army Reenactors

I have attended every past Who Do You Think You Are? Live! event except for one when I had a conflict and could not be in two places at once. I will say I enjoyed this year’s event as least as much as I did the previous events. In fact, I had a blast!

I did learn a few things at the conference. For one, the doors opened promptly at 9:30 AM every day. That’s a much more “civilized” start time than the U.S. shows, most of which start at 8 AM!

I am including some of my photographs taken at this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show. A few are in this article but you can find many, many more at: http://eogn.com/WDYTYALive-2017.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

If you were unable to attend the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show, held in Birmingham, at least the photos will give you a “flavor” of what this year’s event was like. You can also find lots of information about the presentations, workshops, and vendors present at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com. In fact, you might want to plan to attend next year’s event, to be held in the same location. I’ll be writing more about it as the date approaches.


I was at the show on Friday and was a little disappointed by it. Firstly it is expensive, expensive to enter, expensive to park your car, expensive to attend the lectures. Then it was poorly attended (understandable in view of my first point). Then apart from the big boys, I felt the range of exhibitors was limited, many of the County family history societies and the County Archives were conspicuous by their absence, good to see the GRO there but where was The National Archives? Finally the emphasis this year on the new toy, DNA, was too much.
I think the Federation on Family History Societies needs to look closely at its association with WDYTYA and whether its objectives of supporting its member societies and basic family history research would not be better served by going back to holding its own separate meeting.


    I do not think that the Federation has ever organised such an event, but the Society of Genealogists ran smaller fairs in Westminster before Brand Events started this one in Kensington.


My perception was that the day that I attended, Friday, was busier than last year. My ticket was £10 which I consider to be good value in this day and age. The lectures at £2 each were reasonably priced (or free if earwigging for those not enclosed). Car parking at £12 is quite steep although the frequent free shuttle bus from the car park to the hall meant that there were only a few steps to walk. The good choice of food although more expensive than in towns was acceptable. All in all I consider WDYTYA to be an enjoyable very good inexpensive day out. What would make it expensive would be attending for more than one day, with hotel charges and/or multiple car park charges of £12 per day.

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I exhibited at this show; it was the third time I’d done so, but the first two had been in London. Thursday was so busy at my little booth (note: *not* a DNA product!) that I didn’t have a chance to eat my lunch until 4:30! I expected Friday and Saturday would be even busier, but interestingly, they were not.

My mother came up by train from London on Friday, and that worked well for her. (With her Freedom Pass [for seniors in the UK], it probably cost her less than the carpark fees.)

I said to some that this was the largest genealogy conference in the world, but I do wonder if RootsTech is now bigger. I suppose that with their free family days at RootsTech, they probably do have more attendees.

Attending this conference from the US gets to be pretty expensive, but I was able to combine it with another, unrelated, conference over the next few days, and so split my costs. I haven’t decided if I’ll return next year, but I might.


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