Looking back at WDYTYA Live 2017

Well, that is my WDYTYA Live trip over for another year. To be fair, it has been over for more than 24 hours now, but it has taken me that long to muster the energy to open my laptop again. As always, it was utterly exhausting: two long(ish) train journeys split by three days of presentations and talking. It will take me a few days (or maybe weeks) to fully digest everything that I got from attending the event, but I had a blast.

So... what were the highlights?

The main takeaway is always meeting up with old friends and making new contacts: this year was no exception. It was great to catch up with my old coursemates from Strathclyde Uni, John Burt and Kathryn Burtinshaw. They were there to talk about their newly published book, Luncatics, Imbeciles & Idiots. Their talk was fascinating (if a little graphic in places!) and it is clearly a topic both are passionate about. And, of course, a copy of the book is now on my (massive) 'to be read' pile.

I also got the chance to meet face-to-face with lots of people I only ever see in the virtual world though the RQG and APG networks. Genealogy can be a lonely job sometimes - you work on your own a lot - so it is great to put faces to the names of people that you chat to in the virtual world. It was also great to see the amount of interest that both the networks got at the show, in particular, RQG. APG is a well-established organisation, while RQG is something of the new kid on the block (although it has many established names behind it). They had some mini-talks on the stand (including an outstanding one on adoption). They are making these available on their website in the coming days and I'll post details of the links on my social media feeds when they become available.

I didn't attend a whole lot of talks this year, but I always make a point of taking in some of the DNA presentations (sponsored by Family Tree DNA), for two reasons: 1/ there are always new developments as the science is constantly progressing and 2/ I know I still don't understand it as well as I could. I saw several great talks, but the one that made the biggest impact was the one by Michelle Leonard. Full disclosure, I know Michelle pretty well, but I can honestly say that every time she speaks about DNA, I learn new things and it all becomes a little clearer for me. I believe that all the DNA workshop talks were filmed and will be available on YouTube in the coming days/weeks. Previous years talks are there just now. If you are interested at all, I can recommend them. I'll also be blogging in the coming weeks/months about my own adventures in genetic genealogy and DNA testing.

Amid the general exhaustion and being cooped up in what basically amounts to an aircraft hangar on some of the nicest days of the year so far, it was just wonderful to be around so many like-minded people. If you are anything like me, you find that 'non-genie' friends and family nod politely and smile sympathetically at you when you start waxing lyrical about the latest record availability, or the odd change of name you found for 3 x great Auntie Betty. But at WDYTYA, we can all 'geek out' with each other, safe in the knowledge that everyone else there will just 'get it'. And that is a truly wonderful experience, even if you utterly exhausted by the whole process.



My WDYTYA 'survival guide'

I've been a little quiet for the past few weeks - getting over a horrible cold/flu-type thing and building up my energy reserves for the coming weekend. For those unaware, this weekend sees the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live event, where genealogists of all persuasions gather to meet, give/listen to talks and advice, and generally catch up with what is happening in the genealogical world. I haven't attended for the last few years, but I've been to enough of these things to know that without a solid plan, it is easy to come away from it feeling like you didn't get what you wanted out of it. So here is my five-point plan to both 'survive' and enjoy WDYTYA.

1. Do your background research

Read up on the event website (or the current issue of the WDYTYA magazine) to see what talks are of most interest and note the ones you defiitely do not want to miss. I did this weeks ago, but as long as you are aware of your personal 'can't miss' sessions before you get there, it's good. As ever, I'll be catching a few DNA talks (I'm still on a learning curve on that!), and making sure I am there to see a couple of talks some colleagues from my time as a student (Kathryn Burtinshaw & John Burt, and Michelle Leonard).

2. Make a schedule.

I can't stress enough how much this helps. Whether it is in a diary or a spreadsheet (I do love a spreadsheet!), or whatever device you favour for such tasks, it doesn't matter - just block out the hourly slots for the day you are attending. Then I fill in the 'can't miss' sessions' and see how it looks. I think it is important to make sure that there is at least a couple of hours free each day without talks. This makes sure that you have time to wander around the stands, meet people, eat(!), and give your brain a wee rest. Otherwise, I just collapse with information overload.

3. Remember to eat and drink!

Keep those energy levels up and keep hydrated. I'm there for all three days and that is a marathon, not a sprint. I tend to always have a bottle of water and a cereal bar or two with me, just in case.

4. Check what's in my bag

Before hitting the show, I always make sure I have the following in my bag (besides my usual handbag contents!)

  • Notebook and pencil - so I can take notes from talks, workshops and conversations that I have.
  • Money - it might seem obvious, but I make sure I am carrying enough cash to take advantage of some of the exclusive show offers on books, accessories, or the like. Not all stands can accept card payments.
  • Hand sanitiser - 'conference lurgy' is a real thing, honest! You put that many people in one large 'aircraft hanger' with a few coughs and colds going round... only one thing is going to happen.
  • Canvas bag - to put all the leaflets, and bits and pieces that I will inevitably collect into.
  • My bottle of water and cereal bars!

5. Talk to people

At events like this, I always think it is important to talk to as many people as you can. Genealogy can be a lonely pastime/profession at times. It tends to be something that you work on alone. So when you have hundreds of like-minded people in the same place at the same time - take advantage of it. Meet old friends and contacts, but also make new friends and contacts.

And that's it! All my planning and organising is done. I'm finishing this sitting on a train whizzing through the north of England on my way to Birmingham, ready to take on WDYTYA and get the most out of it. If you are reading this and are going, I hope some of the above rings true for you and you get everything out of it that you are looking for. And I'll let you all know how I get on when it is all over.

Where there's a will...

Where there's a will...

Isabella Aitchison was my 5 x great grandmother. The only information I had on her was from her son's death record: she was a domestic servant, deceased and William was illegitimate. Searches for her death turned up a few candidates, but nothing definitive. In spite of her occupation, I chanced a search to see if she had left a will - and she had.

The last of a line

I have no children and no siblings, and I am the only grandchild on both sides. I don’t think that this changes my motivation for research, or indeed my methods. However, it has meant that there are fewer people to whom I can direct questions. When my maternal grandmother died, my mother and I struggled to identify people in some of the photographs we found – and we have precious few people we can ask for help.

Christmas and New Year in Scotland

All the best for this festive season from a somewhat cold and windy Edinburgh (nothing remarkable about that though, to be honest!) We're now into one of my favourite parts of the year - that lazy time between Christmas and New Year where all the rush of the preparations and visiting family is over, and I can sit back with a big pot of tea and relax. It's also a time of year I associate with genealogy. Back when I used to work full-time in IT, it was one of the few times of the year where I could get a few days uninterrupted to get really stuck into research.

I was reminded by a Facebook post by the National Library of Scotland on Christmas Eve that this wasn't always a holiday in Scotland: not until 1958. My mum remembers her father having to work on Christmas Day when she was a child, and her delight on the first one that he got as a holiday.

I've always found this interesting with respect to research in Scotland, as I have found quite a few marriages in my own tree from around this time. My grandmother said that she knew many people who got married around New Year as it was more likely that people would have the time off for it. I have no stats to back this up other than what I see in my own tree and, although it somewhat romanticises the past, there is something nice about the idea of starting the New Year with a wedding celebration. So on Friday 30th December, I will raise a glass to mark my great-grandparents' (John and Margaret) anniversary, and on the 31st to mark my 3 x great-grandparents' (Daniel and Agnes) too.

And with that, I once again wish you all the best for the season and for 2017.

Lang may yer lum reek. Slàinte!

Questioning your sources

How do we know that the information in a record is correct? I mean, we all go online or to archives and look up records. We celebrate when we find something that appears relevant our research. We copy it down and enter it into whatever mechanism we use to manage our research, and we go on to the next one. But what if some of the information contained is incorrect?

Organisation and the Family Group Sheet

You know those adages that chefs never cook at home, and tradesmen tend to have a backlog of jobs needing to be done on their own home, and the like? Well... I fall into one of those kinds of categories. While my client research is scrupulously filed and organised, my own research is somewhat in disarray! Now I am intent on fixing that and my weapon of choice is the Family Group Sheet.