Sunday, 8 September 2013

National Family History Fair in Newcastle

I'm back in Largs just now after two days away to Newcastle for the National Family History Fair, which was once again a great event. I travelled down on Friday, stopping off for a few hours en route in Edinburgh to do some client research (see for details of an interesting find amidst that!), and made it to the Premier Inn in Newcastle, the venue for the fair, for 6pm. I caught up with the fair's organiser Bob Blatchford and others for a meal, then had an early night!

The event itself started at 10am on Saturday morning, with various vendors in attendance. Many of the great and the good were there, including Bryony and team from Ancestry, FamilySearch, Anguline Research Archives, Australia's Unlock the Past (exhibiting for the first time in Britain), Family History Partnership, the University of Strathclyde's Genealogical Studies team, the Federation of Family History Societies, Society of Genealogists, the Ulster Historical Foundation, My History, and many, many others.

I had a chance to browse a few stalls, with some interesting finds - Pen and Sword were selling their new magazine Discover Your History, and had two great new books from Emma Jolly (Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census) and Sue Wilkes (Tracing Your Ancestors' Childhood). Elsewhere I found a great wee buy, a book published in 1964 by the Ulster Folk Museum called "Ulster Dialects", which is slowly explaining why my accent is so dodgy/brilliant (that's subjective - your call!). I caught up with Ian and Sharon Hartas who explained some forthcoming developments on their UKBMD project ( - keep an eye out, it's all being announced soon!

William Roulston on Irish records
At 12pm and 2pm I chaired the two talks sessions, with the first yet another excellent presentation from Dr William Roulston of the Ulster Historical Foundation, on Irish genealogical resources (and successfully flying the flag for Tyrone!). Mike Hall then gave an interesting overview of the Society of Genealogists website, and its programme to catalogue and digitise materials, some useful materials on the site (particularly, but not exclusively, for English and Welsh research).

The show was over at 4pm, and after the hall was cleared I managed to catch up with Alan Phillips from Unlock the Past, not only to receive copies of my new book just published under his imprint in Australia (Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records), but also to discuss the forthcoming cruise and talks tour we'll be doing in Australia next February. Alan moved into organising genealogy cruises about three years ago, and without giving anything away, things are about to take off in a big way - keep an eye on his new cruises site at! Remember, still time to book if ye fancy a conference at sea with lots of great speakers, including a few from the UK! (For more see

Another great event, and a huge thanks once again to Bob and Liz!


My wife Claire is planning to swim from the Scottish island of Cumbrae to the town of Largs on September 14th to raise money for local charity Gillian's Saltire Appeal, providing respite for families affected by cancer (Claire's mum and sister in Ireland have previously come through cancer, whilst my mum, based in England, currently has bladder cancer). Her Just Giving sponsorship page, with further details, is at If you can help to sponsor her, even by a wee amount, we'd be very grateful - many thanks!

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