Feb 272012

I heartily recommend going to WDYTYA? Live for all three days if you can spare the time,  I focused on the workshops again yesterday, and got something out of every single one I attended.


Dr Paul Carter

An excellent presentation on Workhouse Inmates and Local Poor in 19th Century England and Wales.  Paul focused on the Poor Law Union Correspondence, held in MH 12 at the National Archives in Kew.

I attended the presentation as I had ancestors that were in the workhouse, but one of the things that I took away from the talk was that you didn’t have to be an inmate to feature in these records.   Peter showed us details of employees of the workhouse, which you might have expected to appear, but there was much more detail than I would have imagined.  In addition there were examples of local people who had written to the Poor Law Commissioners.  As for the inmates, they were often mentioned by name, so well worth a look if you know your ancestors spent time in the workhouse.  Even if you don’t find mention of your ancestors you will gain a greater understanding of the conditions and society in which they lived.

The potential of these records for family and local historians has been highlighted by the Living the Poor Life project.  The project involved the records of 22 selected poor law unions being digitized and catalogued, enabling name and place searches via the National archives catalogue.  The digitised images are free to download from TNA.

Paul Carter has written a booklet with Natalie Whistance, Living the Poor Life, published by the British Association for Local History.  I can’t have been the only one impressed by these records as a potential source, as when I went straight downstairs to the BALH stand to buy the book after the lecture, others had beaten me there!


Peter Turvey

As MD of probate genealogy company Anglia Research, Peter’s topic was Heir Hunters the Real Story.  This workshop attracted a large audience, no doubt because we have all seen the Heir Hunters TV show.  Peter explained that Anglia Research have chosen not to be involved with the show, for a number of reasons, including client confidentiality.  It was very interesting to hear about the aspects of working as an heir hunter that don’t make the cut for the TV show.

There were a few warnings to would-be heir hunters regarding the pitfalls in the profession, not least cashflow.  For the speculative work that is showcased in the TV program, fees are received when the case is completed and the estate distributed, which might typically take a year to eighteen months, but can be three years or more.  Fortunately not all work is the highly competitive, time pressured, speculative work that we see on TV, much work also comes direct from probate solicitors who need help tracking down beneficiaries.


Janet Few (Handout)

To be honest I hadn’t planned on attending Harnessing the Facebook Generation, but went to it as I had some free time.  I’m glad I did.  Janet is an excellent presenter and made a good case for why we should rethink our established ways of doing things to capture the interest of the younger generation.  My favourite suggestion from the presentation was “Put your family tree on You Tube”.  I might just try that.


Celia Heritage (Handout)

Celia’s presentation I’ve Lost My Ancestor Before 1837 was my favourite workshop out of all those I attended over the three days.  I would go as far as to say that attendance should be compulsory for anyone making the transition from post 1837 BMD and census records, to pre 1837 Parish Registers and other records!

Celia is an excellent presenter.  Her lecture was well thought out, packed with information, but very clear.  Her use of examples contributed much to its success.  I can’t begin to summarise her advice in a few sentences, but will be trying to put it into practise in the coming weeks, when I revisit some parish records that I havn’t looked at in while.


Nick Barratt

Nick’s presentation The Future of Family History looked at the big picture.  The way the genealogy community can collaborate on projects, how we bring family history into our schools and inspire the next generation of family historians, how family history can broaden its horizons and earn its keep as part of “ancestral tourism”.  Read Nick’s blog about the day.

Lots to think about and I’m sure we will be hearing more on these topics. In particular I shall be following the progress of the US 1940 census project with interest.


I have also written about WDYTYA Live-Day One, and WDYTYA-Live Day Two .


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  2 Responses to “WDYTYA Live – Day Three”

Comments (2)
  1. I was very impressed with Celia’s presentation – I just wish it had gone on for another hour (or three). It really fired me up for my own research – Celia made me realise just how much I don’t know.

  2. Agreed. I aspire to carry out my own research to her professional standard.

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