Monday, 1 March 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? Live - report

I flew back from London earlier today, having had to spend a night at Stansted Airport's Radisson Hotel - long story, for another time when the Laphroaig is flowing freely! :)

I was in London from Thursday primarily to help Bob and Liz Blatchford on their stall to help sell the latest Family and Local History Handbook. The Yorkshire based couple (not sure whether to describe them as from 'up north' or 'down south'!) have been producing the handbook for a while now, this being the 12th edition. There was a special on offer at the show - the current book for £9.99, or the current book, the last book, and the first ten in digital format, all for £15.99 and to say they were flying out of our hands would be an understatement. The show on Friday had over 4000 visitors, and on Saturday had some 5500 attendees, much busier than last year (and last year was busy, believe me). It was quieter on Sunday, but still over 3000 people were there apparently.

I didn't see a single celebrity (but then I'm not there to see celebrities!), but I was delighted that Esther Rantzen made a visit to the Jewish Genealogy Society to have a chat, it made the day for the team there including Jeanette Rosenberg (a former student like myself from Strathclyde University). What I did find, though, was an abundance of new things happening in the world of genealogy - and I met some old acquaintances.

The highlight for me was catching up with John Podpadec, who I had not seen in some 15 years. John is a broadcast television camerman based in Bristol, and a big influence in my early former career within the BBC. Prior to joining the Beeb, I studied a Time Based Media degree course at the University of the West of England, and in our final year, a few of us were given a chance to be mentored in the construction of, and eventual broadcast of, a history based documentary. As well as researching and producing the programme, which was eventually broadcast on HTV West and entitled Impressions of War (about Bristol folk's memories of WW2), we had to actually shoot the thing ourselves. The kit we used was John's, who mentored us for a couple of weeks on how to pull the whole thing together, for which I owe a huge debt, as it confirmed that that really was what I wanted to do for a living back then. Not long after, as a researcher at BBC Bristol, I had the chance to work with him on a 999 episode, filmed in Brittany, France. The man is a hugely gifted cameraman and programme maker - he recently shot one of the last ever interviews with the last Tommy, Harry Patch - and now he's seeking to teach his skills to the family history community.

John's new company, Video Heritage not only offers the chance to produce a professionally shot family history video, it differs from its competitors in that John is also running workshops to help people learn how to do it for themselves with a professional kit. So if you are involved with a family history society, community group, or just wish to do it for yourself, there is now someone out there who gets the whole family history thing, and who understands how to make a production on those lines shine. Take a look at his site, and you will see what I mean. Pure quality - and I don't say that too often these days about people in the TV industry!

I also caught up with PRONI, from Northern Ireland - check out their site at for a new PDF guide to the Church records holdings at PRONI - a major development, as at last there is a comprehencive guide as to which records exist in Ulster, and how they can be accessed at PRONI. A major achievement exceptionally well put together at some 337 pages in length.

Ancestral Atlas ( and Arcalife ( have come on in a major way since their launches last year, wth some major developments to their respective sites, and Deceased Online has added more English records to its site at, with more Scottish records on the way soon from one major new authority's participation. The English and Welsh Probate people were there - the upshot of a drink I had with them in the bar is don't hold your breath to see anything appearing on Ancestry soon on the probate front, but do keep your eyes peeled for something from the Probate Service itself in due course.

Flying the flag for Scotland as ever was the ScotlandsPeople and National Archives of Scotland teams, as well as the universities of Dundee and Strathclyde promoting their respective course. I bumped into Alasdair MacDonald, a student who did the Strathclyde course with me a couple of years back, who now works as a tutorial assistant on the courses - his big news is that he is now collaborating with Family Tree DNA as a rep in Scotland. If anyone knows about DNA in Scotland, it's Ali, and he talked me through the new autosomal tests that the company are now marketing. I also met up with Debbie Kennett, another DNA guru, who appeared to have been constantly on the go throughout!

Other notable meetings included a catch up with genealogist Sheena Tait (thanks for the CD Sheena!), a first meeting with genealogist Anthony Adolph (height is not a problem for this man), a first meeting with the lovely Lara Glasspool, Your Family Tree's recently appointed assistant editor, and another person with some decent blood in her (yup, we're talking Caledonian roots here!), and Northern Ireland's very own William Bortrick, the main man at Burkes Peerage, a director and trustee of the SOG and AGRA, with so many credentials to his name that I spent most of my time referring to him as 'my liege'! I also caught up with Penny Law (that much energy should be illegal!), Russell James (laid back), Simon Fowler (flying TNA's flag), Maureen McIntyre (flying her own!), Terry Walsh and Bob Boyd (dutifully taking my new book to the masses!), and, in the dying moments of the show, the vapour trail that was the SOG's Else Churchill, who suddenly stopped and had a quick chat also! :) A very BUSY few days!

I'll be writing up reports for Practical Family History and Discover my Past Scotland, but here's a few pics to whet the old appetite (sounding like Wogan now...! :)

Raymond searches for ScotlandsPeople...
Your Family Tree's new depidee, Lara, at her first show...
FindmyPast's Debra and Amy are definitely having a laugh!
And I'm having London's biggest ice cream...!

No comments: