The show(s) must go on

The sad demise of Who Do You Think You Are? Live in 2017 left a huge hole in the UK’s calendar of genealogy events. In 2019 however, no less than three new shows have come along to fill that gap. Unfortunately I had to miss the first one, Family Tree Live at Alexandra Palace, London, on 26 and 27 April. What a joy it was then to be able to attend both days of THE Genealogy Show at the NEC, Birmingham, on 7 and 8 June!

While Family Tree Live was staged by the UK’s Family Tree Magazine and sponsored by the Family History Federation, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, the Society of Genealogists and FamilySearch, the driving force behind The Genealogy Show was the indefatigable Kirsty Gray, MD of Family Wise Ltd. From a standing start, and with the support of an international Board of genealogists, Kirsty pulled together a great programme of speakers from around the globe and tempted more than 50 exhibitors to take stands.

The Genealogy Show occupied the same hall that WDYTYA? Live had done previously. While it was not on the same scale as its predecessor, there was plenty to keep me occupied throughout both days of the event – including, of course, some of the aforementioned speakers and many of the exhibitors.

Talks and presentations

I attended five talks in all. There was a wide range of topics to choose from and those with overseas research interests were particularly well catered for. My own choices centred largely on the subject of DNA. On Friday one of the show’s keynote speakers, genetic genealogy guru Blaine Bettinger, gave an excellent presentation (“Embracing a New Era of Genealogy”) in which he set out the pros and cons for genealogists working with the new tools now available to us. Amongst other things, Blaine explained that DNA doesn’t lie – but the results of DNA tests can be misinterpreted and it is all too easy to fall into the confirmation bias trap.

On Saturday, Michelle Leonard described in detail “How to Make the Most of Your Autosomal DNA Test”. This included what I described on Twitter as “A masterclass […] on using the tools at Ancestry, Family Tree DNA and 23 and Me, working with matches and shared matches, using a chromosome browser (at FTDNA) & building out the collateral lines on your tree.” Another Saturday speaker who I loved listening to was Jonny Perl on the subject of “Chromosome Mapping for Absolute Beginners”. Jonny created and maintains the excellent DNA Painter tool, which I have now got to grips with – it is fascinating to be able to identify visually some of the segments on DNA on my chromosomes and know which ancestors I inherited them from!

DNA even featured in one of the two talks given by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, another of the keynote speakers and author the popular series of genealogical crime mysteries featuring forensic genealogist Morton Farrier. “Finding Henry: The Search for the Father of an Illegitimate Wartime Child” was an engrossing and educational real-life story which showed how a combination of traditional and genetic genealogy can yield results (especially when combined with a degree of resourcefulness worthy of Morton Farrier himself!).

Nathan’s other presentation was “Novelising Intrigues in Genealogy: The Journey and Process of Writing Genealogical Crime Mystery Stories.” As one of Nathan’s many fans, I really enjoyed finding out about the research and writing processes his work involves – and it’s good to know that not only is the next helping of historical intrigue being written, the next two stories after that are also in the works!


Although the major players in the world of commercial genealogy, Ancestry and Findmypast, were noticeable by their absence from this event (they did not attend Family Tree Live either). I feel this says more about them than about the shows they missed, but at least they gave the many smaller organisation who did make an effort, the chance to shine!

Amongst the various local family history society stands at The Genealogy Show, that of the Shropshire Family History Society was naturally my first port of call. Last year I managed, once again, to let my membership of SFHS lapse (smacked wrists for Steve) so I made a point, when re-joining this time, to complete a standing order! The newly-renamed Family History Federation, representing local societies across the country, was there too – and through their website you can track down details of the society for your local area, or for the area(s) where your ancestors lived, if different.

Two other stands where I stumped up cash (or my credit card) to become a member were those of the Family and Community Historical Society (FACHRS) and the Society for One-Place Studies. These choices reflect my growing interest in researching the people of the past (Atcherleys in particular, of course) not just as family members but also as members of their local communities. I already have a small one-place study for Waters Upton in Shropshire (a parish adjoining Ercall Magna, which means there were Atcherleys there!), although I have not added to it for quite some time (something that will hopefully change as a result of my early retirement). FACHRS meanwhile, as part of its gardeners mini-project for 2019, has given me a gardener to study who was working at Fawsley Hall – just ‘down the road’ from me – in 1881. His story is looking like a really interesting one already, I’ve enjoyed digging up information on him and I’m finding it in, erm, spades.

I spent some time at the Ministry of Defence stand at the last ever WDYTYA? Live, and was glad to get the opportunity to do the same at The Genealogy Show. The reason for this is that the MOD has an index of service records which can be accessed on their stand at these events, and that gives me the chance to look up a few Atcherleys to see what records might be available for those who may have served during World War 2.

The individuals in the index about whom I made quick notes this time were R P (Roger Philip) Atcherley (1904-1978; RAF), F S (Frederick Samuel) Atcherley (1984-2008; Army), R E (Robert Edward) Atcherley (1929-1968; Army), R (Rhoda) Atcherley (née Skelton; 1924-1947; Women’s Royal Army Corps / ATS), V G (Violet Cynthia?) Atcherley (1918-2012; Women’s Royal Army Corps / ATS); J D (John Denison) Atcherley (1916-2012; RAF), and E M (Ethel May) Atcherley (née Hall, 1907-1986, RAF). My next step, in respect of the four of those listed who passed away more than 25 years ago, is to order copies of their service records using the forms available through the GOV.UK website.

Other exhibitors who caught my eye included The Photo Alchemist, Families in British India Society, MyHeritage, Friends of Key Hill & Warstone Lane Cemeteries, CAIS (Centre for Archive and Information Studies), the Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Strathclyde, the Railway Life, Work and Death project, Living DNA, and of course The Surname Society and the Guild of One-Name Studies.

Genie-friends – and what comes next?

As well as the serious business of expanding my genealogy knowledge, joining organisations, and gathering info to help with my Atcherley family history research, I also got to meet up with many like-minded genie-friends from around the world. So I spent plenty of time nattering (sorry, I do of course mean networking) with lots of lovely people, which for me is one of the big plus points of shows like this.

Overall then, attending THE Genealogy Show was a very enjoyable experience. The good news is, it is an experience I will be able to repeat next year as it was announced at the end of the show that it will return to the NEC in June 2020 (Friday 26 and Saturday 27 to be precise). Keep an eye on THE Genealogy Show website, and the show’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, for details of speakers, exhibitors and how to book tickets as this information becomes available.

Further good news is that Family Tree Live will also be back at Alexandra Palace next year, on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 April 2020 – tickets can be booked now at the ticket factory.

Next up though is the third new show of 2019, RootsTech London, which takes place over three days from Thursday 24 to Saturday 26 October at London’s ExCel convention centre. There’s a packed programme of presentations covering a huge range of topics, and the exhibition hall will be full of genealogical goodness from organisations and vendors large and small. I’ve long since booked my 3-day pass – maybe I’ll see you there?

Update: The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has of course caused the cancellation of Family Tree Live and THE Genealogy Show, but both shows will be back in 2021.

For other takes on The Genealogy Show 2019 see blog posts by:

History Repeating (Andrew Martin, England)

Ryan Genealogical Research (David Ryan, Ireland)

Antecedentia (John Boeren, the Netherlands)

GeniAus (Jill Ball, Australia – who also gives us The People’s Show, a photographic round-up of the show’s exhibitors)

French ancestors (Sophie Boudarel, France)

iFamily History (Lianne Kruger, Canada)

Railway Work, Life and Death Project (Mike Esbester, England)

Picture credits. All photos © Steve Jackson.