I have returned, tired and exhilarated, from the Guild of One-Name Studies 35th Anniversary Conference and AGM. This was held this year at the Ashford International Hotel, in Kent. This was the wrong side of London for us (and probably a lot of other attendees) but we braved the journey down the M1 and round the M25. We had a diversion along the M11 and A12, because of the lack of signs at a junction and then delays on the Dartford crossing. Shattered by this experience we stopped for lunch at Emmetts – a National Trust garden near Sevenoaks. Here we found bluebells in flower and a very nice scone for lunch.
We continued the journey via the A20, having had enough of motorways, and arrived at the hotel about 4.30. There was a buffet dinner from 6.30 and then after a break (we decided not to attend the review of the Guild’s Constitution!) there was a talk on Kent in the 19th Century. This was a very entertaining talk by Bob Ogley – a writer, broadcaster and expert on everything Kentish. He introduced us to some of the characters who were born, lived or had connections with the county.
Next morning we were up early for breakfast – an almost infinite selection of different foods. My non-participating husband then left to explore Canterbury and the Conference opened with the AGM. During the AGM, awards were made to those people who had joined the Guild when it first started and had been members for all 35 years.
I should point out that most of the presentations will be available online, so I won’t go into too much detail. After Morning Coffee, the first speaker was Dick Eastman. He needs no introduction as I am sure everyone follows his Online Genealogy Newsletter . The talk was about the “Book of Icelanders” Because the population of Iceland is so interconnected, a database has been set up combining family trees, DNA and health records. People can then check whether someone they meet has the same great grandparents – there is even an App for it. Dick suggested that, eventually, this type of system will spread worldwide and one-namers will be an important part of this. Very thought provoking.
Following straight on was a talk by Dr Paul Cullen about the “Family names of the United Kingdom” (FaNUK) project at the Bristol Centre for Linguistics, University of the West of England. This has been looking into the origin of surnames, especially the relationship between names and landscape. Unfortunately the results will not be published for two years. The good new is that they have received funding to continue the research. An interesting talk.
By now it was 1.00 and time for lunch. One of the things I love about the conference is that you can sit down, on your own, and almost immediately you are joined by other people, with whom you have an interesting conversation. On this occasion, we almost missed the start of the afternoon session! It was only later that I realized I had been talking to my fellow Blogger Nicola Elsom. Perhaps we should add “Blogger” to our name labels, to recognize each other.
After lunch was a Panel Session: How I run my Study, chaired by Bob Cumberbatch. Three Guild members, Paul “He’s got a big one” Howes, Colin Spencer and Tessa Keough discussed various aspects of their One-Name Studies and how they dealt with various aspects. A good example of how every Study is different – there is no right or wrong way to do it. Tessa joined us from the USA and the technology couldn’t quite manage to cope with showing her live, but we could hear her and she could hear us.
After Afternoon tea (more food!) we had a choice of Breakout Sessions provided by Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage. I attended the Ancestry one. Afterwards, there was an unplanned gathering to announce the election of a new Chairman. Corrinne Goodenough was replacing Kirsty Gray. We returned to our rooms to prepare for the Banquet.
The Banquet this year was much better than last year. I think complaints had been made about the loud music which made it impossible to chat. This time the band was in a separate area and the talking could continue – we didn’t leave the table until 11. The food was very good. Cream of woodland mushroom soup with stilton rarebit, Duet of Lamb: slow toast shoulder and lamb medallion, tomato & herb crushed potato with seasonal vegetables, Chilled lemon souffle, raspberry sorbet, tuile biscuit (although, come to think about it, I don’t remember the biscuit – perhaps I was too busy talking!). The wine was good as well. It must have been as I was inspired to have a quick go on the dance floor
Not too much wine was had, as I had no problem getting up the next morning. There was a bit of confusion with changing times and rooms but eventually the second Breakout Sessions started. Today there was a choice of Ancestry, FamilySearch and FindMyPast. I opted for FindMyPast as there have been so many complaints about the recent changes to the site, I thought it would be entertaining.
Myko Clelland told us all about the reasons for the changes – forced on them by the increasing number of their databases. He explained how the search methods had changed and how to get to go direct to the different databases. It all seemed to make sense although some people didn’t seem satisfied – there was no violence though. I think a lot of the problem is that people (especially genealogists) don’t like change. If you’ve searched a website in a certain way and then everything changes, of course you don’t like it. Also, with a website that big, it takes time to make the changes and something is bound to not work for a while. Go away and do something else for a week or so. I’m sure everyone will get used to things eventually. We also heard about some of the new records coming soon. These included Shropshire Parish Records, WW1 service records (with a completely new index) and surviving Irish census records, 1821-1851.
During the morning, news had been received that the next speaker, Jayne Shrimpton, had been delayed, so the programme was rearranged and Bob Cumberbatch did his talk on Tools and Techniques for your one-name Study. His top ten free tools were: Evernote, Outwit Hub, Google Drive, Dropbox, Google Fusion Tables, Google+, WordPress/Blogger, Google Sites, Picasa and Flickr. I already use some of these (you are reading this on WordPress) and have been thinking about others, so this was a very useful presentation. Bob also mentioned something called LastPass which looks after all your passwords – I’ll definitely be looking at this.
Time for lunch. I should mention here that the food was good throughout the weekend, apart from the broccoli. Now I quite like broccoli but there seemed rather a lot of it. At lunch on Saturday, it was included in the mixed vegetables and was too hard. Today, there was broccoli soup, the vegetarian option was broccoli pasta and the mixed vegetable included a lot of – you’ve guessed it – broccoli. Anyway, through the broccoli, I had an interesting discussion about DNA.
After lunch there was a return to the programme. Dr Tyrone Bowes: Mapping Surnames – hints and techniques for mapping your one-name study data. Dr Bowes has set up his own business Irish Origenes to research Irish surnames and discover the place from which they originated. He uses a combination of traditional genealogy, DNA and mapping. For Ireland he uses the 1911 census, as surnames were standardized by then, but most of the population still lived on the land. For the rest of the UK (England and Scotland) he uses farmers in the 1841 census. With detailed study of maps he has discovered the area or areas, sometimes the actual townland the name came from. He has obtained some very impressive results, but I am not sure if this technique would work as well outside Ireland. He has not yet attempted Wales!
By the time it came for the final presentation, we had heard that Jayne Shrimpton was unable to attend, so Dick Eastman stood in and gave a second talk: Cloudy, with a Chance of Genealogy. The fact that he was able to give this talk was a good demonstration of the advantage of cloud computing. He had a talk that he had given before, back home on his computer, which he downloaded from the cloud, onto his tablet. He made a few changes (converting prices for dollars to pounds etc) and gave the talk from the tablet. I won’t go into details as you can download the slides yourself from here. Another fascinating and thought provoking talk. (I think I have been converted and have started backing up my documents on Google Drive already.) Inspired by all this inter-connectivity, I tweeted a picture live from the audience of the talk.
The conference was then closed, and after a cup of tea, we departed for home. It was an uneventful journey, but I was glad I had a driver. I just sat there, my head a whirl of people, names, computer programs – so much information! It had taken a couple of days to come down to earth and report on the event. Many thanks to the organizers – another fantastic event.
Just a final note. The hotel was very comfortable. The fact that our room was up two flights of stairs and along what seemed like several miles of corridors, somewhat offset the amount of food eaten (have I mentioned the food?). I am already looking forward to next years Conference – see you there!
PS. My husband would like to thank the Guild for organizing the conference, enabling him have a few days exploring Kent. I’m told the weather was very good outside the hotel.