Friday 10 October 2014

Seven days to BTOP: Focus on free research advice!

Back To Our Past returns to the RDS, 17-19 October
Back To Our Past will be alive and buzzing this time next week, so it seems a good time to start a series of blogposts focussing on what's on offer to the visitor.

Call it what you will – an exhibition, a fair, a show, a conference – Back To Our Past is THE place for helping yourself to free Irish genealogy advice. Whether you're not sure where to start, or if you've got stuck with a particular branch of the family or have encountered a specific ancestor who isn't playing ball with revealing the details of his life, this is where you are guaranteed to get some help with your research.

Family historians, both professional and amateur, will be practically tripping over one another to help answer queries and discuss suitable new lines of enquiry for your research. For a start, all the island's societies – the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS), the North of Ireland Family History Society (NIFHS), the Irish Family History Society (IFHS) and the Genealogical Society of Ireland (GSI) – will be in attendance and their volunteers will be happy to assist.

So, too, will the main commercial database providers, Ancestry and FindMyPast, who will guide you in finding relevant records in their online collections. Access to their databases is free of charge on their respective stands.

This year will also see the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) making its first visit to BTOP. GRONI's online database includes all registered births in Antrim, Armagh, Derry-Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone up to 1914, all marriages to 1935, and all deaths to 1954, and for a small fee, you can view a copy of individual register entries. At this stage, I don't know if GRONI will be offering free access to this wonderful collection during the show, but they'll certainly be able to answer any queries you may have about civil registration in the Northern counties.

BTOP is also the place to be if you're looking for free, independent advice from an accredited professional genealogist because members of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI), are offering 20-minute one-to-one sessions to visitors (you'll need an entry ticket) and these consultations have to be booked. APGI monitors the standard of work of its members to ensure they are maintained at the highest possible level; as you can imagine, these free sessions with expert genealogists are highly prized.

All the Friday and Saturday sessions are already booked. However, if you'll be attending on one of those days and were hoping for a free consultation, pop along to the APGI stand on the day. You may just find there's been a cancellation or a 'no-show'.

There are still a few Sunday sessions available, but I'd urge you to book quickly.
Download half-price voucher to BTOP
I've mentioned here just some of the opportunities for receiving free research advice at Back To Our Past. As the World's biggest annual gathering of Irish family historians, there will be plenty more, not least from the many professional service providers who'll be exhibiting. And then there's the extensive lecture programmes, too... you may well find your questions answered in the great line-up that's been put together by APGI for this year's show.

One thing that won't be free, unless you've been lucky enough to be passed a complimentary free ticket by one of the exhibitors, is getting in to BTOP.

While Irish Genealogy News can't run to free tickets, you can keep your costs to a minimum by downloading a 50% discount voucher which will reduce your full-day entrance costs to just €5. Once you're in the doors, it's all free. Make sure to take a big helping!