The following article was written by and is copyright by Alice Josephs. It cannot be republished elsewhere without permission of the author.
Close on four hundred family tree enthusiasts descend on the British town of Loughborough in Leicestershire to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS).
And what a birthday party! Extending over five days, with main sponsors Ancestry.co.uk and 1837online.com, “A Flight of Yesterdays” was a heady mix of celebrities, archivists and academics, alongside family history society speakers.
Proving the internet is a welcome aid rather than substitute for face-to-face gatherings, Australian, New Zealand, US and, nearer to home, Irish contingents made the trip to join a unique genealogy jamboree.
The diversity of events with more than 50 speakers including hands-on workshops and separate strands on local and family history, surname projects and getting the best out of national and LDS archives.
Celebrity archaeologist Dr Carenza Lewis revealed her grandfather’s pursuit of his family tree paved the way for the passion for archaeology she shares in the popular TV program “Time Team”. The first evening also saw the eagerly awaited launch of the second edition National Burial Index incorporating 13 million entries in a four CD set, an invaluable helpmate to finding burial records in England and Wales.
While computers and the internet have revolutionized research, Sarah Tyacke, England and Wales National Archives’ chief (and keen family historian) stressed the bricks and mortar archive experience which she is keen to preserve.
“The exchange between staff and researcher, the pleasure of walking through the census reading rooms, listening to the muttered explosions of ‘Yes’ issuing from thrilled researchers who have found their man or woman.”
The need for across-the-board internet and educational standards emerged as themes during a debate on the implications of the net revolution chaired by the FFHS’s Paul Blake with distinguished panel of Brian Edwards and Colin Miller from the sponsors, London-based professional researcher Helen Osborn, Martyn Killiion of the Society of Australian Genealogists, and US genealogist John Konvalinka.
At the time of going to press, a Fair hosted by Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society assembling an impressive team of speakers catering for genealogy newcomers, side by side with more specialized lectures, was yet to come. The final address by best-selling genealogy author Professor David Hey, “What family and local history means to me” may well come to characterize a grassroots conference valuing contributions from every level of researcher who takes up the serious pursuit of family history.
National Burial Index Four CD-set £45 (£25 upgrade). FFHS Publications Ltd, Units 15-16 Chesham Industrial Centre, Oram Street, Bury, Lancashire BL9 6EN telephone +44 (0)161 797 3843 email firstname.lastname@example.org