RootsTechConnect – Behind the Scenes

In my previous post I talked about presenting talks at RootsTechConnect, referring to the fun and games presenters had turning their talks into video presentations. What follows reflects my own experiences.

Once we had designed and prepared the talks, the next challenge was to turn the presentations into videos. We were given instructions for recording talks using Zoom and editing the sound track – but I am afraid that was too technically challenging for me. The alternative method we could use was to make use of PowerPoint tools to create the presentation. This seemed the more straightforward option for me, but in practice not quite as simple as I had envisaged. The additional “bits and pieces” of the software was not available for a Mac unless I signed up for the beta software options. Thankfully my fellow presenters, many of whom are far more tech savvy than I, all contributed to helping speakers learn what was necessary in order to film our presentations and submit them to the organisers by the deadline of 31 December. Some of the equipment I have seen RootsTech Ambassadors use for interviews at the live events is amazing. Their technical knowledge is astounding and some of their presentations look so professional. I had neither time nor budget to aspire to those levels of video and audio skills, so followed the KISS rule, Keep It Simple Sylvia.

So, letting you into another secret – my office is usually very, very untidy. There was no sensible backdrop I could use for my presentations. As you can see from my photo, I utilised a length of strong cord, an old bedsheet and dressmaker’s pins to create a plain backdrop and used a clothes prop to raise the height of the backdrop. In itself this was a health and safety issue as it stretched across my office about five feet above the floor and I am five feet 6 inches tall. But for several days in mid December, I had numerous attempts at recording my talks until I was finally reasonably happy with the results. At which point I removed the health hazards littering my office.

Uploading our talks was another challenge, as an audio MP4 file of 20 minutes length can take a very long time to upload, anything up to an hour, but I had a bright idea.

Last year, like so many other people, Christmas was not the family affair it normally is at the Valentine household. For the first time since our marriage in 1972, my husband and I shared Christmas without any family or friends around the table. I decided that, just maybe, fewer people would be uploading their RootsTech presentations that day, and by the time we sat down to eat a light lunch on Christmas Day, I had successfully uploaded my three presentations along with all the necessary permits and permissions to the RootsTech website and each time received the magic message “Thank you for your submission” message.

I have received some lovely feedback from people who have viewed my talks. I am delighted they have found them informative and enlightening. It makes my hard work and my struggles and frustrations with the technology worthwhile. Be grateful you cannot hear the fruity language which swelled the coffers of the swear box! The presentations will remain available via the family search website until next year.


I was an Ambassador for RootsTechConnect and also a speaker. I was remunerated for my presentations.

RootsTechConnect 2021 Roundup

At the end of each Rootstech conference I have attended, I have written about the events, speakers, the expo hall and my trips to the Family History Library. This year the round up is rather different because, although the ‘live’ event is over, much of what attendees have enjoyed remains available online until next year as the presentations were pre-recorded.

Holding an event on-line presents all sorts of challenges, not least will the technology survive the demands made on it as people from across the word logged in. Yes it did, and the RootsTech I.T. boffins are to be commended as they developed the amazing website in a very short time frame. The statistics are astounding. About 1 million people from more than 200 countries and territories were able to participate.

There were twelve keynote speakers, from around the globe. Their interviews were also pre-recorded and repeated during the first two days of the conference. These were the only “timetabled” events. As the event ran for 24 hours a day, it could be a challenge, but not impossible, to work out the time difference between Mountain Standard Time (MST) in Salt Lake City and Greenwich Mean Time, (GMT). A timetable for the keynote speakers was available and also included a handy guide to the time zones.

Regular ‘In person’ conference attendees are used to a timetable or schedule which lists the times that talks will be delivered. Getting used to a system which enabled Play on Demand for the talks caused some initial confusion – and some of my fellow Ambassadors started to use the expression ‘GenFlix’ to try and reassure people that they would not be missing anything. Indeed, the eternal conference dilemma of wanting to see two presentations at the same time, is no longer a problem as you can see both. Its is also possible to create a playlist of talks you might want to view. With more than 1000 videos available to watch, either as talks or in the Expo Hall, it was not going to be possible to watch everything during the three days, making playlists a real boon, and you can still do this.

Not everything worked quite as planned. Speakers were set up with Chat Rooms, where viewers could post questions. Whilst I had some questions,  it was a slow process . I visited my chat rooms at least twice daily and responsed to questions, but I suspect the person posing the question was disappointed they had to wait for an answer.

However, for those of us who were speakers, our fun and preparations started months before RootsTechConnect. I am proud to have been one of the very many speakers. Last year I presented 2 talks on Scottish research in Salt Lake City and in 2019, when Rootstech came to London, I presented my talk on Researching English Workhouse Records. I prepared a PowerPoint, turned up in the lecture hall stood at the. podium and delivered my talk. I answered questions and chatted with class attendees. East peasy. For RootsTechConnect it was a whole new experience. I had to adapt my talk on Workhouse Records into two shorter presentations as we were given a time limit of 20 minutes. It would not have been possible to do the subject justice without making it a two-part series. I also created another 20 minute talk, Researching Children in Care in England.

To learn more about my experiences recording my talks, read my next blog on RootsTechConnect – Behind the Scenes.

Disclaimer. I was an Ambassador for RootsTechConnect and also a speaker. I was remunerated for my presentations.

Not Much Longer to Wait

RootsTechConnect will soon be upon us. The keynote speakers have been announced, the speakers’ presentations are being uploaded, the exhibitors have submitted their material for their virtual booths (or stalls as we here in the U.K. would call them) and those of us already registered are now tracking how many of our relatives might also be attending.

The Keynote Speakers reflect the international nature of the event with speakers from around the world. They are a mix of sportsmen and women, the world of theatre, music and education, each with a story to tell. Don’t let unfamiliarity with the name deter you from watching. Over the years I have heard a number of great speakers who were unknown to me.

Lorena Ochoa, a former professional golfer from Mexico.

Francesco Lotoro, Italian Musicologist.

Sharon Morgan, Founder of; writer and genealogist.

Nick Vujicic, International motivational speaker and New York Times best-selling author.

Sunetra Sarker, Award winning actress who played consultant Zoe Hanna in BBC 1 drama Casualty.

Diego Lugano, Former professional footballer and captain from Uruguay.

Astrid Tuminez, Current president of Utah Valley University and former Microsoft executive.

Erick Avary, Award-winning Indian-American actor.

Tita, (Milton Queiroz da Paixão,) Brazilian best soccer player.

bless4, a pop group formed by Kawamitsu siblings Akashi, Kanasa, Akino, and Aiki.

Bruna Beatriz Benites Soares, Brazilian female soccer player.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African male acapella group.  

Will Hopoate, Professional Rugby player.

Master of Ceremonies for the proceedings will be the UK genealogist Nick Barrett, a name many of you will be familiar with.

RootsTechConnect will be unlike any type of conference you might have experienced. The keynote speakers will be speaking on a timetable but if they are speaking when you are tucked up in bed, never fear, the talks will be recorded so you will be able to view the presentations at a time more convenient for you.

There is no specific timetable for the class presentations.  You need not worry about a timetable, or about being in two places at once. You will be able to set up a playlist of the classes you would like to watch, and the classes will remain online for the following year.

There are more than 800 classes available and will be presented in a number of languages. Each class presenter will be making themselves available on-line to engage in virtual chat with the viewers, although obviously the presenter is not able to be available 24 hours a day. So you will have the opportunity to post questions. This chat function will only be available for the 3 days of RootsTechConnect. I am presenting 3 classes (talks) and plan to be popping in and out of my chat facility during the event.

Here are justa a few of my fellow presenters:

Anyone who has attended RootsTech in person will know that it was possible to connect to relatives who were also present at the event. This year it will be possible to make connections to your relatives both close and distant by searching for Relatives at RootsTech. It only works if you have a family tree uploaded to the FamilySearch but at the time of writing personally I have 362 Relatives at RootsTech. Until the event goes live later this month, I have no idea who these relatives are, nor how they connect to me. In previous years however, I have met some of my distant cousins in person. We were able to confirm that these matches were genuine and share aspects of the branch of the family tree from which we descend.

FamilySearch has posted a video on YouTube which helps to explain how things will work in practice, but please note that this is a beta version so the final product might look a bit different.

RootsTechConnect is free to attend. It takes place on February 25th for 3 days. At the present time more than 200,000 people from around the world are registered. Almost 10,000 are based in the U.K. If you want to be part of the event you can sign up by going to the RootsTech website.

RootsTechConnect Announce the first group of Keynote Speakers for 2021

The first group of keynote speakers have just been announced, and they are a truly international group Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, a retired top female world golfer, Nick Vujicic, New York Times bestselling author and international motivational speaker from Australia, Francesco Lotoro of Italy, musician, composer and collector of music composed in captivity during the Holocaust; and from the U.S. Sharon Leslie Morgan, author and genealogist dedicated to promoting healing by providing resources for African American genealogical research.

A further eight keynote speakers will be announced in due course.

You can read more about the speakers by clicking the link below

Book your FREE place at the event by registering here

I am a RootsTechConnect Ambassador

Auction Treasures

The other day, before the second lockdown, I placed some bids at the local auction house for three lots of photographs. Two of my bids were unsuccessful but the third bid made me the owner of a packet of assorted photographs which appear to be from the period (roughly) 1900 – to 1930. Having collected the photographs I was able to look at them more closely than I had been at the auction preview day. I already knew that some of the photos, whilst appealing, had nothing written on the reverse to offer a few clues, although quite a few did and are going to provide me with some fun researching in the coming weeks. Some of the photographs are mounted on card bearing the name of the photographer’s business, but one in particular caught my attention. It is mounted on plain card and on the reverse, someone had handwritten Photo Bee Belton, 6 Wellington Place N.W.1.

Intrigued, I thought I would attempt to identify Bee Belton. Was she the subject or the photographer?

The photo (centre above) looks as if it was taken in the 1920s or early 30s, so I popped Bee/Beatrice Belton Photographer into Google which took me to Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 – 1940 where I found several photographers named Belton listed including a Miss Beatrice (Bee) Belton.[i]

Having confirmed that Bee Belton was a photographer my next stop was the British Newspaper Archive where I found numerous examples of her work. The Graphic dated 1 May 1920 included an example of her work exhibited at the Camera Academy Exhibition of work by Professional Portrait Photographers entitled ‘For of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven’ a charming study of a small child with book on her lap, gazing upwards. The narrative accompanying the photos complimented ‘the technical standard of the highest level and the artistic quality had made a great advance on exhibitions of a similar kind before the days of the world-wide conflict.’ In 1927 another of her photographs was published in The Graphic. On this occasion it was of Mr Sidney Davis, the racing motorist who had won the Grand Prix d’Endurance with his co-driver John Benjafield.[ii] Nowadays we know this as the Le Mans 24 hours race.

Her work also appeared in the Gentlewoman in 1918, 1919 and 1920. The Sketch printed her work numerous times between 1913 and 1930. I can imagine that her work might appear in magazines such as Country Life, there were plenty of “engagement” photographs and twenty first birthday portraits. Her work also included portraits of young children and although she was a London based photographer, her work appeared in newspapers across the British Isles, including in Aberdeen. The last newspaper entry I have been able to locate for her was in 1938, when she advertised a Situation Vacant in the Hendon and Finchley Times on 30 September 1938 for ‘Young Girl to learn photography. Small salary 6 Wellington Place St John’s Wood.’

The National Portrait Gallery website has a portrait of the actress Julia Emilie Neilson, taken by Bee Belton and published by Beagles Postcards c 1910.[iii] Bee Belton named on my photograph was a well known Professional Portrait Photographer, and obviously had a society clientele, it was time to try and establish more about who she was.

Turning to Ancestry, Find My Past and Free BMD, and making an assumption that Bee Belton was indeed single, as suggested by the Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 – 1940 website, I identified a number of females called Beatrice Belton. Knowing she had work published in 1913, I limited my search area for a birth in the 1870 – 1890 period, and found an entry in an Electoral Roll for 1918 for 6 Wellington Place named Beatrice Hilda Belton, qualified to vote “by occupation”. As early as 1913 Bee Belton had her business listed in the London telephone directory as a Photographer and Miniaturist, Telephone: Hampstead 5304.[iv] I had found my lady.

Beatrice Hilda Belton’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1882 in Kingston (Surrey) registration district. The General Register Office website confirmed that her mother’s maiden name was Taylor.

There were four Belton/Taylor marriages between 1873 and 1880, but the 1891 census has a Beatrice H Belton was living at 59 Upper Gloucester Place with her parents Frederick and Amelia and siblings Mabel E and Frederick H.[v] Father Frederick was a Corn dealer and employer. Both her brother Frederick and Beatrice were scholars. The marriage between Amelia Taylor and Frederick Belton took place in Wandsworth registration district in 1873. In the years following, Amelia gave birth to Beatrice’s siblings, Mabel Eliza in 1876, Frederick Harry in 1878 both births registered in Wandsworth registration district.  

By 1901, the family were living at 144 Marylebone Road, Frederick the younger was no longer living with his family and Beatrice was working as a book keeper, although Mabel does not appear to have an occupation.[vi] Young Frederick was by now married and living with his wife Alice in Hammersmith, working as a clerk to a corn dealer, perhaps in his father’s business.

By 1911, the Belton family members were still living at 144 Marylebone Road, Frederick Snr was now described as a Corn and Petrol dealer, but neither Mabel nor Beatrice are shown as having any occupation.[vii] Also living at the same address but as a separate household, were young Frederick and his wife Alice, his occupation was given as a Corn dealer and dealer in motor accessories, but although they had been married for over ten years, there were no children. When Frederick enlisted in 1916, his attestation records confirm that there were no children. Frederick died in 1924. Frederick Belton Snr died in 1922, and his wife Amelia died in Southend in 1938.

In the spring of 1935, Beatrice married Wilfred H Sharp. Later that year her sister Mabel Eliza passed away. Probate was granted to Beatrice H Sharpe, wife of Wilfred Howard Sharp on 2 March 1936.[viii]

The 1939 Register shows Wilfred and Beatrice were living at 1 Gloucester Terrace, Southend with a live in housekeeper and Beatrice’s occupation is given as Professional Portrait Photographer. They are also to be found listed on the electoral roll at 6 Wellington Place in London with their abode given as 1 Gloucester Terrace, Southend. A search using Google street view shows a rather nice large house, close to the sea.

In the 1950s, 60s and early 70s Beatrice and Wilfred were living in Wokingham in another substantial property. Wilfred died in 24 June 1971 and Beatrice on 15 April 1972. Her estate was valued at £63,711, almost £900,000 at today’s values and almost £18000 in Estate Duty was paid. Neither of Bee’s siblings had any children, and Beatrice left the residue of her estate to her nephew, the son of one of Wilfred’s siblings and her personal belongings to his wife.  

Bee Belton was a successful businesswoman. She soon adopted the technology of the day – the telephone, and was one of the first group of women enfranchised by the Representation of the People Act 1918.[ix] She was a member of the North London Centre (of professional Photographers and wrote and acted in a play entitled ForwardA Play with a Moral which was performed at the 1930 Professional Photographers Congress which was held in the New Horticultural Hall, Vincent Square, London. Bee played the character of Miss Jones, ‘a modern businesswoman who buys an old fashioned photographic studio and makes amazing changes to bring the business up to date.’[x] There are some photos of the production on the the EdinPhoto website, so perhaps Bee can be seen amongst the cast. One can hazard a guess that her play was in part autobiographical.

I have no idea who the sitter was in the photograph though.




[iv] BT Archives; London, England; British Phone Books 1880-1984

[v] The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891; Class: RG12; Piece: 101; Folio: 53; Page: 42; GSU roll: 6095211

[vi] The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901; Class: RG13; Piece: 115; Folio: 137; Page: 19

[vii] The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911; Class: RG14; Piece: 575

[viii] Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England



Epidemics, Family History and 19th Century Anti-Vaxxers

At a time when, across the world, we are anxious about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many of us who are family historians will probably have at the back of our minds, the Spanish Flu epidemic which occurred at the end of WW1. Estimates of the number of deaths vary between 24.7 million to 100 million, although more recent research argues that these figures are exaggerated and the true number was 17.4 million.[i]  This website contains some interesting scientific data about the epidemic and makes comparisons with the current outbreak of COVID-19.

Whatever the actual number of deaths, many family historians are aware of at least one death if not more happening within their own families. Whilst the epidemic is considered to have ended in 1920, my own mother in law lost her father from pneumonia in 1921, and always attributed his death to Spanish Flu. She was the eldest of 4 children and aged 11 at the time. She became the carer of her younger siblings as her mother went out cleaning to keep a roof over the heads of her children and no doubt to avoid the horrors of the workhouse.

As part of my PhD research, I traced the family tree of one of the major figures who campaigned against compulsory smallpox vaccination in both Scotland and England, Dr. Walter R. Hadwen, a Gloucester doctor. At the time his children, Una, Harral, John and Grace were born, he was a pharmacist with a business in Highbridge in Somerset. He refused to have his children vaccinated against smallpox and was prosecuted several times. In January 1882, he appeared at Axbridge Petty Sessions charged with failing to have his child Una vaccinated. When the Chairman ordered that Una should be vaccinated and Hadwen fined, an angry Hadwen responded “You can’t go by the opinion of medical men only in this matter” much to the amusement of the court.[ii] He appeared in court again on 11 August 1884 for refusing to allow his son John to be vaccinated.[iii]

Of his children, Harrel died shortly after his birth, and John, died in 1918, a victim of influenza. John qualified as a doctor at the University of London and according to the Medical Register became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians the same year.[iv] Hadwen joined the Royal Navy in 1909, and was appointed to the Royal Hospital Haslar as a surgeon on 12 August 1912.[v] His grandfather William R. Hadwen (1819 – 1903) had served in the marines, so perhaps the call of the sea was in young Hadwen’s blood. In 1911 John was serving onboard HMS Cornwallis.[vi] He arrived in New York in April, having left Liverpool on April 12th 1918.[vii] New York has been suggested as the source of the Spanish Flu epidemic as there is evidence of a pre pandemic wave of the virus in the city.[viii]

Hadwen was serving on HMS Lancaster a the time of his death. A newspaper account appeared in the Gloucester Journal dated 23 November 1918 reproduced two letters sent to his parents by Rear Admiral P.H Colomb and B Clive Deman. Rear Admiral Colomb includes the comment: Your son gave his life for others. Laying down at the moment when he had brought all the great number of influenza patients on board some 200 to 300 – back to health and safety.[ix]

He is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves as J Hadwen, Lieut – Commander Surgeon. He was laid to rest in the Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, but does not have a CWG headstone.[x] His grave, and his photograph can be seen on FindAGrave and includes the comment from Colomb’s letter.

H.M.S Lancaster

Perusing the ship’s log for October 1918 it is possible to see the numbers of officers and men on the sick list each day. It is a tribute to Hadwen’s skill that only three names appear on the Casualty list for HMS Lancaster in October 1918.[xi] Herbert Weston on October 3rd 1918 and Alfred Caleb Hallett, possibly the hospital case landed on October 5th who died on October 13th. Both men were buried in the Bellavista Old British Cemetery in Peru . The third death listed was for Hadwen himself on October 23rd.  There are 6 WW1 servicemen buried in the Bellavista Cemetery.[xii]

The ship’s logs notes that Hadwen had joined the ship in May 1918, was discharged to hospital on October 22nd and passed away the following day. A funeral party was landed at 8.30 a.m. returning to the ship at 11.15 on October 24th.[xiii]

In 1921 Dr. Walter R. Hadwen and his wife visited San Diego and were able to visit their son’s grave. Hadwen delivered lectures during his trip and was quoted in a paper that: Dr. Walter R. Hadwen, famous physician of Gloucester, England, states that before a decade has passed the whole germ theory of disease will go by the board. “Inoculation for the prevention of disease is the most ridiculous assumption ever introduced into a sane world. – ‘ he says.[xiv]

There are no living descendants of Dr. Walter R Hadwen, the Hadwens lost both of their sons, but both daughters married. Una died in 1940 and her only daughter Eulalie, died unmarried in 1995. Grace died in 1974, childless. Being an opponent to vaccination and having lost his son to Spanish Flu, I do wonder what Hadwen would think of today’s efforts in the research laboratories across the world work flat out to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

[i] P. Spreeuwenberg; et al. (1 December 2018). “Reassessing the Global Mortality Burden of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic”. American Journal of Epidemiology. 187 (12): 2561–2567. doi:10.1093/aje/kwy191. PMID 30202996

[ii] Source: Weston Mercury and Somerset Herald, 14 January 1882, British Newspaper Archive.

[iii] Source: Western Gazette 15 August 1884.

[iv] Source: Medical Register 1913  FindMyPast.

[v] Source: The Navy List, Medical Establishments, p. 554,  FindMyPast

[vi] Source: 1911 Census for England and Wales, RG14PN34973 RD640 SD4 ED21 SN9999 FindMyPast.

[vii] Source:Passenger List Leaving the UK, FindMyPast.

[viii] Source:; Olson D. R., Simonsen L., Edelson P. J., Morse S. S. (2005). Epidemiological evidence of an early wave of the 1918 influenza pandemic in New York City. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 102 11059–11063. 10.1073/pnas.0408290102

[ix] Source: Gloucester Journal, 23 November 1918, British Newspaper Archive.





[xiv] Source: Lompoc Review Volume III, Number 21, 8 July 1921, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, <;.

My RootsTech 2020 Competition Winner

I have been a bit quiet on the RootsTech front recently, partly owing to my trip to New Zealand earlier this month and recovering from my jet lag. I was presenting about my PhD research at the Australia and New Zealand Society for the History of Medicine. I had a great time and met some amazing people.

The Pohutukawa tree, commonly called the New Zealand Christmas tree , is a coastal evergreen tree that produces a brilliant display of red (or occasionally orange, yellow[6] or white[7]) flowers made up of a mass of stamens.

Having been at home for a week, I then travelled north to Edinburgh in order to undertake some research for my PhD. I made an exciting discovery which will be finding its way into my thesis in due course. During the same week, I made a quick trip to Dundee for a supervision session. I then had some family time over the Christmas holidays. I am now back home, where I intend to stay for a few weeks before I am off on my travels again, this time to Salt Lake City.

During the Christmas period, I made a start on putting together a list of things I want to do at the Family History Library. I also spent some time following up on some new DNA matches and making contact with more “cousins”.

RootsTech Ambassadors have the opportunity to give away a 4-day pass. My competition is now closed and I am happy to announce the name of the winner: Melissa Wilson. Melissa is going to be able to come to RootsTech and watch her daughter Miyamoto Jensen present at Rootstech for the first time.  Miyamoto is going to be speaking on Polynesian Family History & Genealogy: A Beginner’s Guide on Thursday February 27th at 16.30. I think both mother and daughter are going to be having a really exciting time.

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador, I get free admission to the event, and some other benefits including lunch vouchers but I pay for my own travel, and accommodation.

RootsTech 2020 Competition Update – Still time to enter.

Last month I announced my competition to win a 4 day pass to RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City. The pass is worth $299 and gives you access to the Keynote and General sessions, and to over 300 classes. It also includes admission to the Expo Hall and Evening Events.

I can now announce that it is possible to exchange the 4 day pass for a virtual pass, so for those people who would like to come but cannot, this is a perfect opportunity to be able to join in with at least some of the events in Salt Lake City from the comfort of your own home.

Maybe you were unable to come to RootsTech London, but heard the buzz about it, or have seen all about RootsTech but never been able to attend. Enter my competition, you never know, you might be a lucky winner. Details of how to enter are below.

The prize does not include travel, accommodation or other things like food! Computer labs and the paid lunches etc. are not included in the prize. Even if you have already booked, you can get a refund if you are the lucky winner!

The competition could not be easier, all you need to do is to follow me on Twitter, and to send me an email confirming you have followed me to . My Twitter name is @historylady2013

Closing date for the competition is midnight GMT December 20th .

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador, I get free admission to the event, and some other benefits including lunch vouchers but I pay for my own travel, and accommodation.

And now for a little seasonal something or other

Today, I am writing about something completely different. Sharing with you my “take” on the Christmas treat of mince pies. My husband and I love mince pies, but making them is something of a fiddly thing to do. As I am flying off to New Zealand, I thought I would make some mincemeat slice for him to enjoy whilst I am away.

If you are unfamiliar with mincemeat, it is a mixture of dried vine fruits  – raisins, sultanas currants, often includes grated apple, spices and suet. Vegetarian or beef suet is fine and it is possible to buy vegetarian mincemeat. Unlike jam, mincemeat needs to be cooked prior to eating. For anyone thinking “Yuk” at the idea of suet, once it has been cooked you can’t tell it is there. Being lazy, I buy a jar from the supermarket, and then subject it to my special treatment: Using a chopstick I make holes in the  contents of the jar and add some rum and brandy to the mix and leave it for a few hours to soak into the mincemeat.

I then make a quantity of all butter shortbread. The amount I make is dependent upon the size of the tin I am using. The proportions I use are 6:4:2 – 6 of a mixture of plain flour and a heaped tablespoon of cornflour: 4 of butter and 2 of caster sugar. (You can use sunflower margarine but is does not taste the same)

Today I used an 8 inch diameter loose bottomed cake tin, so I used all of a packet of butter (250 grams) So almost a pound of flour and cornflour mix, and almost 4 oz or 100g of caster sugar.

I start by weighing the flour and dicing the butter into small pieces. Place both in the food processor and whizz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add the sugar and whizz again to mix.  When making a small quantity of shortbread, I would tip the mixture into a bowl and knead until the mixture forms a dough. The heat of my hands helps to melt the butter and mix with the flour. When making a large quantity however, I add some beaten egg to the food processor and whizz until it starts forming clumps. Just how much beaten egg is really a case of trial and error as you do not want the resulting dough to be sticky. Add about half of the beaten egg to initially and add a little more if needed. Once there are some reasonable clumps of dough, put it in the mixing bowl and knead until I have a form ball of shortbread.

Cut the ball roughly in half, on a little bit larger than the other.  Reform the smaller portion into a ball, and using your knuckles, form the ball of dough into a round, large enough to fit in the tin. Place in the tin and ensure that the dough completely covers the base of the tin.  Take the larger portion of dough, and repeat the process, making the dough very slightly larger than the tin.

Leaving a narrow margin, cover the shortbread base with a thick layer mincemeat. Cover with the other shortbread round and pinch the edge together very firmly.  Finally prick the surface lightly with a fork and bake in an oven at about 200 degrees C . Check after about 25 minutes, it may well need between 30 – 40 minutes to achieve a nice pale golden-brown colour, it really depends on your oven. When cooked, remove from the oven and dredge with caster sugar. Let it rest it in the tin until it is just warm to the touch.

Slide the slice out of the tin still on its base and place on a cooling rack until completely cold, and you can slice into portions. 

This is a very unhealthy take on mince pies, full of butter, sugar and alcohol but eaten in moderation, is a lovely pre-Christmas treat. It also makes a nice dessert complete with cream or ice cream.

Having just quality controlled a slice I am happy to report it is up to my usual standard 😉 .

RootsTech 2020 – Win 4 Day Pass!

The snow capped mountains near Salt Lake City

During the last few months I have been reporting on events leading up to RootsTech London and sharing with you the excitement of the event itself. Now it is time to look forward to Rootstech 2020 being held in Salt Lake City in February, where I will be speaking and again acting as an Ambassador for the event, helping to publicise what is happening, who the keynote speakers are, and of course the presentations being given by experienced genealogists from around the world, and information about the Expo area too.

I will be presenting 2 talks, Scottish Research – The Basics, and Scottish Research – More Unusual Resources. So if you have discovered some Scottish ancestors in your family tree, now is the time to learn how you can research them.

RootsTech Salt Lake City will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary, and the theme for the 2020 conference is “The Story of You.” The First Keynote Speaker was announced a few days ago. David Hume Kennerly, a name which will probably be unfamiliar to many UK readers. He is a Pulitzer Prize—winning White House photographer. His photos have appeared on more than 50 major magazine covers. He has photographed 10 U.S. presidents and served as a contributing editor for Newsweek magazine and was a contributing photographer for Time and Life magazines. American Photo magazine named Kennerly “One of the 100 Most Important People in Photography,” and Washingtonian magazine called Kennerly one of the 50 most important journalists in Washington, D.C.

If you would like to attend RootsTech, but are unsure, this is a great opportunity to come along for a day, to get a flavour of what it is all about. You can buy a one-day pass for half price by using the Code GENFRIEND – a fantastic saving. This offer closes on December 9th.

Or maybe you would like to come for the whole event – well here is a great opportunity to win a 4 day pass to RootsTech by entering my competition. Even if you have already booked, you can get a refund if you are the lucky winner!

The pass is worth $299 and gives you access to the Keynote and General sessions, and to over 300 classes. It also includes admission to the Expo Hall and Evening Events.

The prize does not include travel, accommodation or other things like food! Computer labs and the paid lunches etc. are not included in the prize.

The competition could not be easier, all you need to do is to follow me on Twitter, and to send me an email confirming you have followed me to . My Twitter name is @historylady2013

Closing date for the competition is midnight GMT December 20th .

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador, I get free admission to the event, and some other benefits including lunch vouchers but I pay for my own travel, and accommodation.