Friday, 21 February 2014

WDYTYA?Live 2014 – Show report

WDYTYA?Live spreads out under the barrel-vaulted
roof of Olympia's National Hall
WDYTYA?Live got underway yesterday at the National Hall at Olympia in London's West End.

For an opening day, it was noticeably less busy in terms of visitors than in the last few years, probably due to its shift to a Thursday to Saturday pattern (previously it was always Friday to Sunday). I spent four hours on the stand of the Irish Genealogical Research Society and while there were periods when the table was thronged with people looking for help with their research, there were short lulls between.

Several other exhibitors commented on this pattern. I don't remember those lulls being a feature of earlier years, and I don't remember the visitor numbers dropping off quite so early in the day, either.

Even so, the typical WDYTYA?Live buzz filled the Hall and I'm sure all visitors were getting a lot from their trip. There were, as always, plenty of opportunities to ask and receive guidance on family history, delve into new areas of research and discover different branches of the genealogy industry. The genetic genealogy 'corner', for example, was pretty packed whenever I waltzed by, and its DNA workshops were crammed.

Being the centenary of the start of the World War One, there was a strong military presence this year. While they seemed busy, I wouldn't say they were swamped. I even managed to get some information about a medal awarded to one of my ancestors.

Ancestry are the show's main sponsors
Usually, you expect at least one big records launch to coincide with WDYTYA?Live. This year there was none, or if there was one, it can't have been shouted very loudly because I certainly didn't hear it!

The Big Story, from the Irish perspective, was the first ever attendance of a team from the General Register Office of Northern Ireland who brought with them a working sample of their soon-to-be-launched online facility.

It's neat. A perfectly unfussy interface shows they decided not to make the mistakes of others and instead just opted for simplicity and focus. As a result, researchers won't have to spend time finding out how the site works or losing money due to lack of clarity. I applaud this (and I hope the GRO in the south are watching carefully).

One of the quirks of the facility is that the researcher has to always have 1credit in their account, otherwise their account will be closed and they'll have to start again. This is a technical issue and it can't be altered. I'm sure this will catch a few people out, but it will soon become second nature to check the balance before spending. One credit is only 40p, so there's no danger of bankruptcy.

A free search returns a 'basic' list of matching results. You then have the option of viewing either the 'enhanced' transcription of the results at 1 credit each or going straight to an image of the relevant certificate £2. Here's the information available for each search:

Basic return – Registration district, year, first name and surname, sex, and maiden name of the mother.
Enhanced transcription – As Basic plus: place and date of birth, any second name, mother`s first name and maiden name, and father`s name and surname.

Basic return – Registration district, year, name and surname.
Enhanced transcription – As Basic plus: place and date of marriage, names and surnames of bride and groom and their ages (or dates of birth)

Basic return – Registration district, year, first name and surname, sex.
Enhanced transcription – Registration district of death, date of death, any second forename, age (or date of birth), marital status.

Alison McQueen, GRONI's Deputy Registrar General, demonstrated the process to me and suggested that for births and deaths, most researchers will need to see only the enhanced transcription in order to gather all the information they need, but with marriages, she considers that many researchers will typically find they can save themselves the 1 credit cost of the Enhanced transcription by jumping straight from Basic result to viewing the image, which holds the additional information – occupation and addresses – you'd expect on a marriage certificate.

She said the prices quoted above still need to be confirmed but should be approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly later this month. Only then will GRONI be able to announce a launch date; at this stage, an early April launch is anticipated.

Due to family commitments, I couldn't spend the entire day at the show, nor attend the FindMyPast evening bash, so I didn't get around to all the Irish themed stands (apologies to those I missed). However, I had a good chat with the lovely lads and lassies from the North of Ireland Family History Society and picked up a copy of their hot-from-the-press Researching your Ancestors in County Cavan (a 42-page must for anyone with connections to the area, and only £5). The NIFHS, like the Irish Genealogical Research Society, have special membership discounts available for the duration of the show.

Great savings on offer from FindMyPast –
just visit the stand to find out more
I also managed to catch Niall from – unlike his colleagues from FindMyPast's London offices, he was not dressed to the nines in Victorian costume and uniform – who'd been extremely busy all day introducing visitors to the Irish collections on the ever-growing database.

He told me that visitors to the show can take advantage of a good number of very attractive offers including a free one-month subscription to (no credit card details required, just your email address), a 50 free credits voucher for brand-new researchers, a three-month subscription for just £20, and 10% savings on all annual subscriptions.

I also dropped by on show regulars Ancestor Network and Flyleaf Press. John Hancock of Ancestor Network showed me the consultancy's smart new brochure, which gives an overview of its four main services, while Jim Ryan of Flyleaf brought me up to date with its publishing plans. Coming off the press next month will be Tracing Your Kildare Ancestors by Karel Kiely, James Durney and Mario Corrigan, and the series will see additions for Cavan, Kerry and Wexford during the course of this year.

So there you go. An overview of what the show offers to those involved in Irish genealogy researchers. There's also the lecture programme, of course, details of which you can find in my post from earlier in the week.