As family history events go the Sussex and South London Family History Fair held at the K2 Leisure Centre, Crawley, West Sussex was pretty low-key. It is one of several small regional fairs held mainly across the south of England by Family History Fairs.
Compared to previous events this year’s seemed a bit smaller, there were probably about 15 to 20 stalls, although not all were occupied and it was not easy to tell where one table ended and another started (or continued around the corner). It was quite busy, there appeared to be a lot of people milling about, but it was rather cramped, not much space in the aisles, which probably made it seem busier.
The stall holders were pretty much the same mix as previous years, five or six family/local history societies, a few software and data suppliers, three postcard dealers, a couple of booksellers and one archive (the West Sussex Record Office). In other words none of the major names such as ancestry or findmypast, but it was a local fair so that didn’t really matter too much.
I was somewhat disappointed by my visit, I got what I went for (some organisational supplies) and a few postcards as well, but I didn’t really find anything different or anything new this year. It was almost as if nothing had happened over the last twelve months, nothing seemed to have changed, there may have been a new data CD here and there, but nothing really stood out.
It seemed to me that the UK family history scene, at least at a local level, has become pretty stagnant, perhaps the wealth of online data available has sucked the life out of local societies and suppliers. I know I was looking at some data CDs (that I don’t recall seeing before) and thinking that I could probably find all this stuff online in no time at all, and if not online then at the local library.
I was getting quite disillusioned already, but when I spotted a stall selling data on 3½” floppy disks my heart sank. I seriously hope they were just trying to shift some old stock, and I wondered if they had actually sold any in the last few years and whether they actually still worked now, if you could still find a drive to use them in (I know I still have one but that’s because I like old technology).
It didn’t help that the weather was pretty miserable, but the morning was really only saved by the three postcards that I bought. The only other positive thing was the discovery that the Sussex Family History Group are going to be holding a “Family and Local History Day” in Worthing, West Sussex on the 17th April 2011. Hopefully this will restore my faith in the local family history scene.