Posted by: sommecourt | 02/03/2009

WDYTYA Live 2009

Just got back from this annual event, which is an off-shoot of the BBC programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. The WDYTYA Live event encompasses a Genealogy Fair, along with talks, experts to ask questions and trade stands. The 2008 event was heavily military biased, and was well sported; the military theme attracted a much wider public, and brought in the curious as well as die-hard family historians. For a reason that is not entirely clear, the show organisers decided to play down the military aspect of the show this year and the former ‘military zone’ that was evident last year (with re-enactors, a repro MkI tank, an AA gun, wargamers and associated companies) was relegated to a small corner and looked quite sad in some respects. Perhaps those involved in family history resent the high status military history gets in the media? Whatever the reason, it was a mistake in my opinion, and a large number of the people who stopped to talk on the stand I was working on mentioned they were disappointed at the lack of military content.

Despite the lack of  a true ‘military zone’ the show was certainly very busy; the busiest of them since the event became WDYTYA Live and moved to Olympia. The Saturday in particular, when the show was featured on BBC News, was very busy. There was also no sign of the credit crunch, with people signing up for magazine subscriptions and franctically buying books and CDs.

Working there as a military historian is a challenging time, as in a typical hour you can cover every period from the Peninsular War to post-WW2. This year we had some interesting case studies to help with, some great photographs and documents to look at, and some intruiging soldiers who didn’t want to be found. One lady got very upset when we finally found her man, buried in a cemetery on the shores of Gallipoli. It was a man she had never met, and never seen a photo of. But seeing his name in black and white, finally after so long searching for him, she broke down. Voices from the past proved as strong as ever in Olympia this weekend.

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