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.

RootsTech London Final Round Up

It has been a couple of weeks since I posted my RootsTech Day 3 Round Up, and since then I have been busy working on a presentation I will be delivering in Auckland at the Australia and New Zealand Society for the History of Medicine. I have also been updating some family history talks I will also be presenting in Auckland Library at the end of the month. Meaning I have not had much time to reflect on RootsTech London.

I have spoken to numerous friends and acquaintances with no experience of RootsTech who made it to London to ask them for their thoughts. The overwhelming reaction was favourable. Some of the issues predominantly concerned the venue in particular not having access to the food outlets on the upper floor Friday and the lack of sufficient places to replenish water bottles. £1.99 for a can, yes a 330ml can, of water was broadly described as “outrageous”.

On the plus side, people loved the variety of talks on offer and the Expo Hall. Several were able to make use of the bargains on offer from the vendors. Whilst some friends had reservations about having Donny Osmond as a Keynote speaker, virtually everyone happily admitted to having been wrong, and enjoyed his speech, the songs and family photographs.

For me the outstanding Keynote speaker was Dan Snow. His enthusiasm for history came across strongly. His knowledge of family history research is first rate. His message that we need to understand and accept that our ancestors may have feet of clay is a message worth repeating. We cannot change history.

No decision has been made about a further RootsTech taking place in London, but if they decide to return at some stage, I am sure they will have an audience ready and waiting.

Now that RootsTech London has been and gone, my current to do list includes preparing handouts for the sessions I will be presenting at RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City at the end of February on Scottish Research. These are entitled Scottish Research – the Basics and Scottish Research – More Unusual Resources.

I will also be fulfilling to role of Ambassador again and will shortly be announcing my competition to win a pass to RootsTech. Keep your eyes peeled!

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my travel, accommodation and meals to enable me to attend.

RootsTech Round Up Day 3

The final day of RootsTech London meant another early start. Out of bed at 6.45 a.m., a quick cup of tea and browse of my emails before hitting the shower and “putting on my slap” before breakfast and off to the ExCel Centre in time for my “tech check” scheduled for 8.30 a.m. I also needed to pop into the Speaker’s Lounge, thoughtfully provided by the organisers, to pick up my gift and card from Heidi Ertel and Tara Bergeson before getting ready for my talk at 9.00 a.m. Thank you very much, it was much appreciated.

Arriving in the classroom, I discovered I was not the only one, already 4 people were sitting in the audience, so it gave me a great opportunity to chat, and help calm my nerves. In view of my competition on Saturday morning as England were playing New Zealand in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup, I have to say I was delighted by the size of the audience who came to hear me speak about Researching English and Welsh Workhouse Records. This seemed to go well and I was asked lots of questions. Several people spotted me in the Expo Hall later in the day and asked even more questions.

Photo courtsey of Jill Ball, Geniaus.

Saturday was also the day when families came along with their children and there were numerous activities provided by the organisers to keep the younger visitors engaged with lots of family history related activities.

Once the talk was over, it was down to the main hall for the Saturday keynote. Nick Barrett, the M.C. spoke briefly before introducing Donny Osmond to the large audience. Donny is the custodian of the family history archive which his late mother originally researched and which Donny has added to over the years. He has been involved with showbusiness since he was 5 years old and accordingly his family story has been well documented, but he encouraged us all to write down our experiences, amusing anecdotes and describe personalities for posterity.

He told us the family story of the discovery of the Osmond Brothers and their many appearances on the Andy Williams Show. When growing up, I was a great Andy Williams fan and had several vinyl records in my collection. When Donny sang Moon River in tribute to Andy I was delighted.

Many of you will be aware that I am researching a PhD, as it happens one off my supervisors is a real Donny fan.  Being in Australia at the time of RootsTech she was unable to attend, but I took several photos and posted them to her – obviously to make her jealous.  I am sure she would have been in the queue waiting to have a meet and greet with Donny later. Ambassadors were then able to conduct group interviews with Donny. We were all able to ask one question, and mine was to ask “What is the  most exciting family history discovery which made you do the genealogist’s Happy Dance?” His answer: discovering he was related to Andy Williams!

You can watch the general keynote sessions by clicking here

Part of the queue waiting to meet Donny Osmond

For the remainder of the day I was busy meeting and greeting friends and colleagues, and discovering a DNA distant cousin had left a message for me, wanting to chat. We are now connected and planning to try and work out who our common ancestors are.

Towards the end of the day, I finally found time to meet Alex Cox of FindMyPast. Alex is on Facebook hosting FindMyPast Live on Friday afternoons, which I try to watch most Fridays.  He and I first met in person a couple of years ago in Salt Lake City, so it was fun to catch up again. Thankfully Alex has longer arms than me, but we managed a selfie!

RootsTech London has been an amazing experience. Having attended events in Salt Lake City, I had an idea of what to expect of course. It was a very enjoyable experience, the organisation was excellent and the whole crew were very friendly and helpful. I hope they are able to return in the future and maybe you too will have the opportunity to attend RootsTech London.

RootsTech Roundup Day 2

My plans for day 2 included attending several talks, helping out my fellow directors on the Register of Qualified Genealogists on their exhibition stand and generally familiarising myself with the exhibitors.

Whilst the exhibition area (The Expo Hall) is not as large as that in Salt Lake City, nevertheless there were plenty of stands to visit and lots of tempting offers, and of course, lots of friends and acquaintances to greet. I have not been hugged by so many people for a long time! 

As the Expo Hall admission was free, I was able to persuade a family friend to come along to get a taste of what RootsTech is all about. My earlier efforts to get her to attend had failed, as she thought “it was not for her”. Being busy we did not have much time for a chat, but I suggested she sit in on some of the talks provided by the exhibitors. One of my RQG friends later said she had met my friend over lunch and had discovered how we became friends. I subsequently learned that she had won an annual subscription to FindMyPast. Should RootsTech decide to return to London, I hope she will now feel RootsTech is for her!

The general Keynote was delivered by Kadeena Cox. Kadeena is an Olympic Paralympian medal winner. Now I have to confess I am not a sports fan, and athletics leave me cold, however Kadeena’s story of her struggle to succeed at two separate sports following a stroke and a multiple sclerosis diagnosis was both heart- warming and inspiring. Coming from a family which is part of the Windrush generation which settled in Leeds, she also emphasised the importance of her extended family.

Friday Keynote Kadeena Cox

You can watch the general keynote sessions by clicking here

My best laid plans to attend as many DNA classes as I possibly could soon fell by the wayside. I was too busy chatting to exhibitors, friends and fellow RootsTech Ambassadors. I was also interviewed by the RootsTech team, so who knows, one day I might end up in some of their promotional videos! So I have decided to buy the Virtual Pass, which enables me to have 9 months to watch 20 of the sessions which were filmed.

On most Tuesdays between 7 and 8 p.m. GMT I can be found moderating the weekly AncestryHour chat. On all three days at 3 p.m. we assembled in the meet and greet area in the Expo Hall. Each day I handed out AncestryHour ribbons and group photos were taken. Here are a few of the Friday gang.

By 5 o’clock I was exhausted and retired to my room for a brief rest and run through of my presentation before meeting up again with friends for a meal and some liquid refreshment.  We also caught up with several of the delegates attending the Comicon event which was also taking place at the ExCel Centre. Earlier that morning I had seen a few amazing sights and that evening, even more of the creative costumes were on display.

So a relatively early night, as I had an early start on Saturday. More about that in my Day 3 Roundup.