More Genealogy Adventures

It has been a very busy and hectic few weeks. It feels like I have barely been home since I got back from my recent visit to the US.

First up was Back To Our Past in the RDS, Dublin. Back To Our Past is the annual genealogical expo and runs alongside the Over 50’s Show. There is also a dedicated strand of DNA lectures organised by Genetic Genealogy Ireland. This year the event took place over two days, on the 18th and 19th of October. I spent most of my time sitting in on the DNA lectures because I felt this was an area where I really need to improve my knowledge. Plus they had some fascinating speakers. It was particularly great to catch up with Mags Gaulden of Grandma’s Genes and listen to the work she has done with the Canadian Casualty Identification Program. I first met Mags at the 2019 Genealogy Show in Birmingham.

Mags Gaulden presenting on the Canadian Casualty Identification Program

One of the best reasons for attending Back To Our Past is having an opportunity to connect with fellow professionals. It seems to be one of the few times we’re able to get most of Ireland’s professional genealogists in one place. I was barely in the door before I bumped into two genealogist friends in the canteen. It certainly seemed like a busy event. I was introduced to a young up and coming genealogist from North Cork who along with some other young genealogists has started a new website, The Hidden Branch, which aims to interest more children and teenagers in genealogy.

 

 

One shout out I must give is to Christine Deakin of Irish Genealogy Solutions. Christine offers a fantastic and much needed service selling materials to help you preserve your paper records and also has some really nice genealogy stationary.

Christine Deakin of Irish Genealogy Solutions

A few days after Back To Our Past I was off to London in order to attend the inaugural RootsTech London. For those unfamiliar with it, RootsTech is the premier genealogy event. It’s been running for a decade in Salt Lake City and this is the first time they have held the event outside the United States. Since a few of my friends were speaking I was very keen to attend. It took place in the Excel Arena, in the London Docklands area. I only wish there had been flights from Cork to City of London Airport nearby. Instead I had to fly into Stanstead and take a taxi out to my hotel, which at least was convenient to the venue. I was very impressed when I arrived. Finding my way around was definitely made easier by the RootsTech app. This is a great idea for such a big event and helps keep track of what’s going on, especially if there are last minute changes to the schedule. You can also download the lecture handouts through the app. I was fortunate enough while I was there to hear some great talks from Joe Buggy, David E Rencher, Dr Penny Walters and Jim Ryan.The keynote on the first day was from historian Dan Snow on his own family history.

With Dr Penny Walters

Dan Snow with a very attentive audience just after his keynote

I also spent a lot of time walking the exhibition hall. While there I met Kirsty Gray of Family Wise LTD. Kirsty is the showrunner for The Genealogy Show. There was a nice chat with Helen Tovey, editor of Family Tree Magazine. I briefly got to meet with some fellow #Ancestryhour participants from Twitter. Nice to put faces to some familiar Twitter handles. Even though I didn’t hear them speak I also got to catch up with Dutch genealogist John Boener of Antecedentia and Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of the Morton Ferrier genealogy mysteries. It was an amazing event and kudos to the organisers for putting together something on this scale.

I would have loved to stay longer but unfortunately I had something else planned for the weekend back in Cork. This involved a trip down to the scenic island of Cape Clear in West Cork for their annual storytelling workshop. I had learned about the workshop after I volunteered for the Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival. We were fortunate to have professional storyteller Claire Muireann Murphy leading us for the two and a half days. It might not have been explicitly linked to genealogy but anyone who does genealogical research will understand the need to be able to tell a good story with what you find. It’s also impossible to escape family history when on a relatively small island. A visit to the old graveyard near the pier displays a multitude of O’Driscoll and Cadigan burials. Chances are that if you have O’Driscoll ancestry you are connected to Cape Clear.

This weekend was the 2019 Virtual Genealogical Association conference. The beauty of a virtual conference is being able to watch it from almost anywhere. There was a great lineup over the three days and I learned a lot, even from the lectures that normally wouldn’t be of much use to me, such as German or Scottish records. I may never have a need to use these records but it never hurts to learn something outside of your own speciality.

The Genealogy Show 2019

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I’m just back from attending and speaking at the first ever The Genealogy Show, which was held at the NEC, Birmingham, UK on June 7th and 8th. This was my first time speaking at a UK genealogy event. I’m very appreciative to have had this opportunity. It was also great to get a chance to fly into somewhere that wasn’t London. The short flight time between Cork and Birmingham was a major advantage, plus being able to just walk into the NEC from the airport. I didn’t get to explore Birmingham itself but maybe next time.

I was speaking on the Saturday about using oral history for genealogy. I didn’t get a massive turnout for my talk and ran into some technical hiccups when the interview clips I had hoped to play didn’t work. But those who were there seemed to enjoy the talk. Given that this was my first time delivering this particular talk, it gave me the chance to figure out what worked and what didn’t. The next time I give this talk I might go for a title which is a bit more obvious and gives an audience a better idea of what to expect. But I had several interesting conversations with people on the topic of oral history afterwards.

Aside from speaking I also participated in the Personal Wizard consultations. I was most impressed with the fact that the show had laptops at each of the tables, saving the hassle of bringing our own. I don’t know if I was able to help anyone break down their Irish brick walls during the consultations but I would hope I at least pointed them in the right direction. What was of particular interest to me were the amount of Irish who seem to have been in the UK even before the Famine. This shouldn’t be a surprise but due to the increasing numbers who emigrated from the 1840s onwards, we of course tend to associate this period with Irish settlement abroad.

Everyone I talked to was very friendly, from the exhibitors, fellow speakers, to all the show volunteers. Everyone there seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was a wonderful international feel to the show, with exhibitors, speakers and volunteers from the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States and of course Ireland.

One major highlight for me was getting to meet the author Nathan Dylan Goodwin and pick up a signed copy of his book. His genealogical mystery novels are always something I look forward to. I also was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the new book ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy‘ by my friend Dr Penny Walters.

My only complaint (if you can even call it that) is that I didn’t get a chance to attend more of the talks. I was too busy chatting to people outside.

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The Genealogy Show will return next year Friday 26 and Saturday 27 June 2020. Thank you to all involved. I’m already looking forward to next year and putting together ideas for potential talks.