Who Do You Think You Are? Live! (or WDYTYA, as it’s known) is the UKs biggest family history event. It’s estimated that over 10,000 visitors come each year to immerse themselves with everything that is on offer. For some, it’s pleasure, for others it’s a serious business. No visit is complete without a bag filled with handy leaflets, freebies and notes. Previously held at London’s Olympia until 2015, the show has been a staple of the family history calendar for some years now.
The show’s move this year to the NEC in Birmingham gave us a unique opportunity to take part. Sadly, for many archive services the costs of attending an event as large as WDYTYA are prohibitively expensive. With the event moving to Birmingham, we were able to team up with East Riding Archives and Local Studies, North Yorkshire County Record Office, West Yorkshire Archive Service and York Explore as the Consortium of Yorkshire Archives alongside and in partnership with the Yorkshire Group of Family History Societies.
The Consortium (as it became known) was able to offer leaflets, guides and general advice from each of the participating services. Staff from the Borthwick, East Riding and York Explore were able to come to the NEC and work on the stand - this would prove to be a fascinating experience, even if it was punishing on the feet!
If you haven’t been to WDYTYA, it’s hard to get a grasp of the size and scale of the show. Held in a vast hall in the NEC complex, it features stands from the major online family history providers; The National Archives, Imperial War Museum and countless local and family history societies, along with a multitude of other providers - anything from plastic wallets to full body massages seemed to be on offer.
|Our home for the next three days...|
I was able to be at the NEC to set up the stand and for the first two days of the event. Certainly, the setup session was unlike any other family history fair I’d seen - never have I had to dodge forklift trucks before, nor had a carpet hastily laid quite literally under my feet! After displaying our leaflets tastefully on our stand, it was time to go back to the hotel to rest up and prepare for the challenge ahead.
The walk to the hall the next morning was quite something - note to future attendees, the NEC complex really is quite large. As the speakers boomed out that the show was open I began to get an idea of how busy the show was likely to be. Firstly, eager attendees with maps searching our particular groups they wanted to speak to; followed by others scoping out what was on offer. By 10:30am we were in full flow, a rush of friendly faces, questions and comments that didn’t seem to end until the show closed at 5:30pm
The second day followed the same pattern as the first, though what really struck me was the variety of questions on offer. No two people were researching the same places and topics, though it was also fun to hear strangely similar queries - who knew Whitby had so many people wanting to research it? By the end of the three days, well over 1,000 people had visited the Consortium of Yorkshire Archives stand.
Thinking specifically about the Borthwick’s involvement, it was great to be there just to let people know about the amazing array of records we hold that can help them in their research. It was great to be able to highlight collections like our Parish records, Wills collection, and Cause Papers which could really enrich and flesh out the research that attendees were undertaking.
More to the point, it was just great to be able to meet so many people who were excited about the possibilities they could see in using our records, and who were just happy to see us there.
But, at the end of the third day, it was just great to have a sit down!