The Advantages of Visiting
Guild of One Name Studies Conference 2016
I have divide this post into 4 types of trips undertaken by genealogists. There may be some overlap but I will discuss the subtle differences between them.
The first rule of genealogy is to talk to the older relatives whilst you can, as they often know things that cannot be found in the official documents.
- Visits to Relatives
They also may have photographs that you have never seen or be able to identify people in any photographs you have inherited.
My latest visit uncovered unseen photographs and letters in the collections of an aunt and uncle and discovered by my sister when clearing my parents house. So even when you think you may have exhausted the family collections it pays to revisit.
- Visits to Archives
We will never be short of records in our local archive our main challenge here will be access to them. The popular collections like parish registers are gradually being digitized by the big companies but there are many more records being preserved that may never make it to the internet.
During my latest visit to Hampshire I was fortunate to be able to view some Poor Law records. They did not answer my research question but do contain interesting information.
Catholic records have been difficult to access as, in the main, they have not been deposited with local archives. Find My Past have added some records to their collections but only a limited number. When I perused the shelves in the Hampshire Record Office whilst awaiting some documents I had ordered I came across 3 books of particular interest to me. These books contained transcriptions of Catholic registers for Southampton. These books had only been published in 2015. They have helped me with one of my research conflicts and helped to confirm an uncertain birthplace.
If you can possibly get to the archive, do visit, prepare well before you go, especially if you may not get back for another visit. Consider what to prioritise and make full use of catalogues and the staff knowledge so that you can maximise your research time. Check out what devices they allow for copying records as this can vary.
- Genealogy Conferences
I will clarify what I would class as a conference as I wish to discuss different ways of imparting information.
In the UK we may have a day conference sometimes called a seminar where the participants attend for a single day of classes. The recent Guild of One Name Studies conference I attended was over a weekend starting on the Friday afternoon and finishing late afternoon on the Sunday. At this weekend conference most attendees were staying over although a few were day attendees as they lived nearby.
Conferences are a way to educate oneself about particular topics which may be of interest but they are also a great way to network with individuals who share your interest. Face to face discussions outside of the formal classes can be as important as the classes themselves.
Tackling a new research challenge can be made easier by discussion with others who may have encountered a similar challenge.
I would say that, personally, I wonder if some of the local family history societies would attract new members, if they could organise an annual conference, for their members, with topics of local and general interest. Those living further afield might be attracted to visit the area for such an event and if interest was poor it could be opened up to the public.
- Genealogy Shows
In the UK Who Do You Think You Are Live is held in April. It is billed as the world’s largest family history show. This show started life as the Society of Genealogists event and was rebranded when the television programme hit our screens. Many long term genealogists will tell you it has changed format over the years. Some of the changes may be due to the venue which moved from London to Birmingham a few years ago.
However the audience for these events has also changed.
The main thing to distinguish a show from a conference is that, at least here in the UK, much of the venue is occupied by vendors and genealogy related societies. There is also a section of related stands to assist with understanding records that we use such as military or photo or artefact dating. There also appears to have been a move to include other charities within the hall (some attendees have queried why they are there).
Like the US Rootstech event there are also educational talks on offer both free (usually sponsored) and paid for (mostly in advance). However the events in the US tend to span several days and attendees will stay over the same as conferences in the UK whereas shows attract, in the main, day visitors.
Vendors offers will attract visitors to shows and/or conferences as will educational talks.
However I get the impression that the family history societies are struggling to attract new members and the work that volunteers have put in to creating indexes over the years is now being superseded by the appearance of records in online datasets. Some are updating websites but many do not have the resources or expertise to do this.
What can our local societies do to continue being relevant to both existing and new members?
Is attendance at a national event worthwhile?
I enjoy catching up with friends at these events but why do others attend and are the costs involved worth it?
Who Do You Think You Are Live 2917 Celebrity