Well that’s another year done and dusted at the largest family history fair in the UK. As I mentioned previously, I didn’t plan on attending any talks this year as (a) I was only there on Saturday and (b) none of them really appealed to me.
The day was more about getting everything on my shopping list, catching up with people I don’t usually see during the year and making new connections.
As far as the shopping list went. I picked up two FtDNA test FamilyFinder kits at a nicely reduced show price and a couple of AncestryDNA kits, also a nicely reduced price. My certificate binder is waiting to be filled with certificates and (not on the list, but purchased) new Pen and Sword books to be placed on the bookshelf.
I was quite irked that I couldn’t renew my subscription with Ancestry. This is something I’ve been doing at Who Do You Think You Are? Live since I started attending the shows some six or seven years ago, and is always on the top of the ‘To Do’ list. This time I was told that it couldn’t be done because of ‘security reasons’. Instead I was given a 0800 number to call and a discount code to tell them about. Well, that evening I called them, and I was told they’d have to cancel my current sub (which didn’t expire until May), in order to apply the 25% discount. Subscription cancelled they then tried to take payment … once, twice, three times… Finally after around 30 mins on the phone and a supervisor being brought in it was done, but I still don’t understand why I couldn’t have just done it at the show like EVERY OTHER YEAR!
The show itself seemed a lot quieter this year, whether it was because I was used to seeing three days worth of people or not I’m not sure, but I didn’t have to queue for entry, for cuppas or even the loo for very long. It was also noticed that a few vendors were missing this year, most notably The National Archives, The British Newspaper Archive and Your Family Tree Magazine. MyHeritage and FamilySearch also seemed to have smaller booths, with MyHeritage concentrating on their new DNA venture, rather than their record sets. I don’t know whether this was due to cost or not but something has made it less viable for these big names to reduce their square-footage at the Show. Another bug bear was the increase in Chuggers [charity-muggers] that were in attendance. There was WWF, DogsTrust, Blind Dogs for the Blind, Cats Protection, RSPB, Cancer Research UK, and they’re just the one’s I can remember. The veteran charities have always been in attendance and don’t bug so much (mostly because they are relevant and don’t try to bully you into donating). *for the record I do donate to Cats Protection & a couple of others, but it was my choice and I didn’t feel obligated to talk to them.*
The lecture theatres appeared busy, and a lot of the stands had their own areas to give talks, which were also well attended and busy, with many talks being sold out prior to the show begining so there is still a desire to learn new things which is heartening to see.
The best part of WDYTYALive for me was the social aspect. It was really good to catch up with so many people, and the #AncestryHour organised Tweet-ups were a useful tool to find people in the same location for more than five minutes! I was able to say quick hellos so some, have in-depth conversations with others and then there were the people I wanted to catch up with but didn’t spot at all! One person I did manage to bump into and snap a photo with was fellow Welshie Hilary Gadsby (@Genemeet) and Jean-Marc Bazzoni (although no photo’s were taken as we were too busy chatting about PROB 10s and his coursework).
It was also really nice to put faces to twitter names, including @Springhill_OPS (Janet Barrie) and @JaneElRoberts (Jane Roberts). I made myself easy to spot by wearing my RootsTech Ribbons and describing myself as ‘the crazy ribbon lady’ on Twitter which I think helped people notice me!
So all in all it was a good day but I missed the after-social aspect of previous years. I think the organisers need to do something to put the spark back into the show and attract more Family History Societies to attend, after all it’s supposed to be about them is it? The fact the lectures and talks appeared busy at all times, and the fact many were sold out prior to the event would surely lend itself to an expansion of the lecture schedule, and with that hopefully some more advanced themes. Live streaming / sessions being recorded is becoming a huge part of the industry now, and personally I’d like to see this done at WDYTYA Live in the future; yes the handouts are made available but not all handouts give a good indication of what the talk was about, and not all lectures had handouts.