Tag Archives: wdytya

Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC TV Blog

14 Aug

I still haven’t got around to watching the first episode of the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring June Brown, so I will withhold judgement on that, but if you want to found out more about the making of the series then check out the following post on the BBC TV blog.

In the post Tom McDonald, the executive producer for this series, describes some of the work that goes into making the series and discusses some of the issues faced when dealing with some of the more difficult topics covered in the this and past series.

What really comes across in this blog post is the amount of work that goes into producing each series, with 30 celebrities being researched to produce a series of just ten episodes. It sounds to me as if a programme about the making of each episode would be just as interesting, documenting the research process and sharing the breakthroughs that are made along the way, many of which I am sure that we never see on the finished episode.

Thanks to Gary Andrews of the BBC TV Blog for bringing this to my attention.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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Who Do You Think You Are? is back for another series – but am I really bothered?

4 Aug

I noticed yesterday that J.K. Rowling was on the front cover of the Radio Times, heralding the start of the latest series of Who Do You Think You Are? in the UK. Of course I have seen various announcements prior to this, but to be honest I haven’t really taken much interest in the upcoming series.

I suppose I should be getting excited about the new series, after all it is bringing genealogy to the small screen, but really is it going to be worth the effort to watch it? A couple of years ago I would have been getting excited about the prospect of a new series, but this year I couldn’t really care less.

What are the reasons for this?

  1. Quality – the last couple of series have on the whole been rather disappointing, most of what I can remember about the last couple of series is how annoying/uninteresting/dull I found a lot of it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some high points, but I am struggling to remember them.
  2. Time – I don’t have a lot of spare time, so taking sixty minutes out to watch television is not something that I do lightly. There are probably much more enjoyable and productive things I can do with my time.
  3. Past my bedtime – I know it starts at nine o’clock only lasts an hour, but I have to be up at 5:15am the following morning (and every weekday morning) so I like to be in bed by 9:30pm. I know I could also watch it on the BBC iPlayer, but I know that I am never going to get around to actually watching it.

Having said all that, it is my “reviews” of WDYTYA? that attract the most visitors to my blog (which sometimes annoys me because they are not coming to read about my ancestors but to read about celebrities), but they are visitors nevertheless. So I really ought to be writing about the series, in fact no self-respecting genealogy blogger should be missing out on it.

So I really ought to give it a try, but if I find myself shouting angrily at the television in the first episode or starting to nod off then that will be it.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011: BBC Magazines wants your feedback

4 Mar

It is week on from Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 and BBC Magazines (the new folks in charge of the show) want to hear your feedback on the show.

The following paragraph is taken from the Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine website:

If you visited this year’s show, we hope that you had a fantastic time. The Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine team were there the whole weekend, and it was great to be able to meet so many of you – but now we want to know what you think. What was your favourite part of the event? What could the organisers do better next year? Let us know by emailing your thoughts to Matt Elton at mattelton@bbcmagazines.com.

I will be sending Matt an email, but I thought I would share some of my thoughts here first. Overall I thought it was an excellent show, but it could be improved.

My favourite part of the show sounds a bit odd now I come to write it down, but standing upstairs on the gallery and looking down on to the ground floor and all the stands with hundreds of people wandering about. I have never thought of myself as a people watcher but it was great to see people exploring the show, wandering from stand to stand or purposefully darting to their next talk. It was reassuring to see so many people engaged enough in genealogy to make the effort to visit the show.

However, it wasn’t all good, but most of my negative points are pretty minor, such as a shortage of tables and chairs and a lack of choice from the food vendors (from a vegetarian point of view). It appeared that the only cash machine in the building was out of order for the entire three days, although it didn’t really bother me because I was there for three days and could get more cash before coming the next day.

My only real concern would be the content of the talks, there was a good mix of subjects but in my opinion the experience level seemed to be very much targeted towards the beginner. The time alloted for each talk (45 mins in most cases I think) was not really enough to go into much depth in any case. Whilst there are still aspects of genealogy where I am a beginner, I am sure there are plenty of others like me that would appreciate a few more advanced topics being covered.

The line up of talks also seemed short on technology related subjects, such as file management and of course blogging and other social media. Back to more traditional methods I would like to see some talks covering best practices like citing sources, organising paper files and making backups.

Having said all that, the talks are only one part of the whole experience and I will of course be back next year, hopefully for all three days but if not then for the whole weekend at the very least.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011: handouts on the SoG website

2 Mar

Those of you who missed the fun and excitement of Who Do You Think You Are? Live last weekend will be pleased to hear that whilst you may not be able to recreate the fun and excitement, you can experience some of the learning opportunities that were available at show.

The Society of Genealogists have uploaded a selection of handouts from presentations and workshops to their website.

To be honest the learning opportunities are quite varied, some are quite detailed whilst other are just a few pages. Some of them are just slides from the presentations and without the rest of the presentation don’t make a lot of sense. Some are lists of websites and other sources mentioned in the presentations.

In other words it is quite a mixed bag of material, but well worth checking out to see what you might have missed.


Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 – Day Three

27 Feb

Day three of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 and fatigue was starting to take its toll. Fortunately it was a much shorter day for me, due to the deficiencies of public transport on a Sunday (don’t get me started on that).

The show was also a lot quieter than the previous two days which pleased me, there were still plenty of people about but it seemed a lot calmer and relaxed, or was that just me. I took the chance to take advantage of the Society of Genealogist’s Ask the Experts service, I spent twenty minutes or so discussing the missing 1841 census entry for Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT. I have one or two things to try out which might help solve the mystery, but it is just great to be able to discuss a problem with someone else, you know what they say “two heads are better than one”.

I deliberately didn’t go crazy with the talks/workshops today, although there were several I would have liked to see, but I really wanted to spend a bit more time visiting the stands, taking advantage of the fact that there were fewer people about. Time seemed to fly by and I had a fascinating discussion with a representative from the Science Museum Library and Archives about one of their exhibits and what records they might have relevant to my family history (there is another story in there that I need to research and write about). I learnt so much in those few minutes and not just about the museum but also about research beyond the museum itself.

I also had a fascinating discussion with a lady from the Isle of Man Post Office, about their new genealogy stamps and genealogy in general. It turns out that as well as working for the Post Office she is also a genealogist herself. The stamps themselves have even more depth than I first realised (I will tell you more later). I could quite easily have stood and chatted for hours, but I had to move on.

The first of the talks I attended was given by Dr. Chris Watts and entitled “From census entry to Google Maps”. This was an unusual one, I had heard the talk before because it had been made available as a podcast by The National Archives, but it was a very visual talk about taking addresses from census returns and using different types of maps to learn further details, so seeing it in person was a much better experience.

My final talk of the show was by Celia Heritage and was entitled “Do You Know Who You Are Yet?”. To be honest I chose this talk because the title intrigued me and I didn’t really know what it was going to be about. It turned out to be about the reasons why people research their family history, largely based on the speaker’s own motivations and genealogy research. It was definitely thought provoking, I am not quite sure about my motivations, but it has made me think that it would be interesting to look back and see how and why I got started on my family tree and whether those motivations are still the same now.

I then spent a bit longer wandering around the stands, the show was beginning to wind down and I was able to pick up a couple of bargains on my way out, but on the whole I don’t think I spent so much money this year, which is probably just as well. Then began the marathon journey home and I think I actually spent longer getting home than I actually spent at the show today! It was sad to say goodbye to Olympia for another year (hopefully there will be another one next year) as it was starting to feel a bit like a second home after three days.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 – Day Two

26 Feb

Refreshed after a good night’s sleep (I could have done with a couple more hours sleep, but you can’t have everything) I was soon back up to Olympia again today for day two of Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011. The queue was about the same as yesterday, but running down the other side of the building this time, beginning near the railway station, again it moved pretty quickly, but once I stepped inside it appeared that there were already more people than yesterday.

Again I headed upstairs to collect tickets for the days talks (tickets are free, but on a first come first served basis). Like yesterday many of the talks were soon sold out. I skipped the celebrity talk with Hugh Quarshie and spent the first hour or so on the ground floor.

I sought the assistance of the good folks at the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society, hoping to identify the birth place of my 4x great-grandmother, I am pleased to say that they were just as puzzled as I was over the bizarre place name on her 1881 census entry. Her parents could be a big stumbling block in trying to find all my 5x great-grandparents.

I had booked an appointment with the Ancestry.co.uk scanning team, and got my few documents scanned. They were mostly original certificates and all bigger than A4, so that saved me a lot of cutting and pasting if I was to try and do it myself at home. This a great free service provided by Ancestry and I just wish I could take their equipment home or to the archives with me.

Then I was into a succession of talks. First up was Jayne Shrimpton “Looking at family portraits: artworks and photographs, 1780-1920”. This was an excellent talk, with some great illustrations. It provided a really good overview of the evolution of family portraits from oil paintings to amateur snaps. She has a new book out, which I picked up yesterday and can’t wait to explore deeper, I really need to be making more of my family photos.

Following on from that I headed to The Genealogist stand and a talk by Mark Bayley about the website entitled “The Genealogist: unique tools and data”. The presentation was a useful run-down of the contents of the website and it’s search tools. It has been a while since I looked at The Genealogist website but it seems to have improved a great deal in both content and appearance from what I remember. I was particularly impressed with their search tools, there is a lot of flexibility there, probably more than the two main providers. I need to remember that when I draw a blank on Ancestry and Findmypast.

I then headed upstairs for the talk by Ian Waller about “Farming Folk? Researching agricultural labourers and country ways”. Much of his content was from his book “My Ancestor Was An Ancestral Labourer”, but it was still good to hear it again and got me thinking about so many of my ancestor who were farmers or farm labourers. I really ought to dig a lot deeper on some of them to see what other records I can find.

Then came the highlight of the day, lunch. Taking a break for lunch enabled me to sit down and check my emails. I was surprised to find an email from a probable distant relation in New Zealand, from a branch of the GASSON family I have been hoping to get back in touch with. He had found my mention of James William GASSON in this blog. More proof (if it were ever needed) of the power of blogging.

After my break for lunch I returned to the WDYTYA Theatre for a talk by Dr Geoff Swinfield entitled “Smart genealogy solving genealogical brick walls”. This was more a lesson (based on a particular case study) on how to use web resources effectively and some strategies for overcoming their deficiencies. I don’t think I actually learnt anything new, but was re-assured that the process described was pretty much the same as I would have followed.

My last talk of the day was by Schelly Talalay Dardashti, the title was a bit vague “Online ancestral communities: recreating roots, preserving memories” and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The audience was quite small but the talk was excellent, describing several online projects that aim to preserve particular communities that no longer exist (with the focus being on Jewish heritage).

After a quick stroll around the stands again and buying a few more Alan Godfrey Maps for my collection, it was time to head back to the station and make my way home, the only disappointment was the delayed train which made me miss my bus and forced me to hang around for nearly an hour waiting for the next one. At least it wasn’t raining.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 – Day One

25 Feb

It is good to be home, the train and bus ride home have rested my aching legs and feet but my brain is still a little fried from day one of Who Do You Think You Are? Live.

Travel up to Olympia was pretty straight-forward, one bus and three trains (it could have been two trains, but I jumped off at Gatwick Airport for breakfast!), in reasonable comfort without any delays. I actually arrived slightly earlier than I had planned and had to join the queue running along the side of the hall. It had already started filing in through the doors so it didn’t take long for me to reach the entrance.

The good thing about the event being in the same place every year is that I know my way around the building quite well, so I headed upstairs straight away to go and get tickets for the talks and workshops. When I joined the queue for tickets I still hadn’t decided which talks I was going to attended, again the queue moved quickly and forced me to make my choices.

In the end I decided my first stop would be to go and see the celebrity interview with Monty Don and it turned out to be a good choice. He was very easy to listen to and described with enthusiasm the process of making the show and the bit of filming that were left out. It was a very gentle and relaxing way to start the day.

After that it was time for a bit of Latin with a talk by Dr Bruce Durie. I have always been meaning to learn latin, but it has always seemed rather daunting and I remember nothing from the few lessons I took whilst at school (except for one of the display boards falling off the wall and hitting me on the head). The talk made it seem a lot less daunting, although still pretty confusing.

The talk by John Hurley on The Parish Clerk concerned the parish official whose role was seemingly varied and ill-defined. Unfortunately the talk didn’t really add any clarity to the description, although there were some entertaining descriptions of parish clerks, both good and bad.

The last talk of the day for me was Preserving Family Treasures presented by Maureen Taylor. For me this talk was the highlight of the day, I wanted to go to the same (or similar) talk last year but all the seats had been taken so this I made sure I got a ticket first thing. I didn’t have many family treasures to worry about until a couple of months ago when I was given a bundle of photos, certificates and cuttings so now I really need to know how best to look after them.

The time in between talks was spent wandering around the stands. Asking a few questions and spending some money (although I fear I might be spending more tomorrow) although not as much as I expected. The range of stands was very much the same as last year (and previous years), there were a few new faces this year and a couple missing this time around. As well as spending some more time exploring the stands I will try to take advantage of the Ancestry scanning service and try to get dates for a couple of photographs.

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