Archive for March, 2011


The Society of Genealogists 1911-2011: A century of family history

 After some three years of wBookcopverppt thumb The Society of Genealogists 1911 2011: A century of family historyork the Society of Genealogists is delighted to publish its history.  From the very beginning it was hoped that the work would reflect not only the history of the Society of Genealogists over the last century as seen by the personal recollections of the various authors, but also the community in which the Society found itself; social and genealogical. The Society has been at the forefront of changing family history in the United Kingdom. It has been a vocal advocate of the family historian and has pioneered a very democratic revolution in the study of ancestry. Everyone has roots and it became the Society’s ambition that everyone has the same opportunity and ability to discover their ancestors.

At the time of the Society of Genealogists’ foundation J. Horace Round had just published his masterly work Peerage and Pedigree: Studies in Peerage Law and Family History (1910) and would shortly finish his work on The King’s Serjeants and Officers of State, with their Coronation Services (1911). The series of genealogical pocket guides written by Charles Bernau included a small volume entitled Some Special Studies in Genealogy, published in 1908, in which the chapter on poor law records is called The Genealogy of the Submerged. This was the genealogical world into which the Society of Genealogists was born. But, by championing the genealogy of the common man and fighting for the preservation of and access to records that included everyone, the Society has overseen a century in which millions now enjoy tracing their family history. The Google Generation of armchair genealogists may be surprised at what their predecessors managed to achieve before the computer age.

This history gives an account of the Society’s campaigns written by Else Churchill. Michael Sharp assesses the influence of the media on family history. It contains personal memories of former chairmen and members who remember with affection monumental decisions as well as the little everyday struggles. Nicholas Newington-Irving tells tales from the members’ room. Peter Spufford relates the inside story of a group of “young Turks” who took the Society by the scruff of the neck in the middle of the century and changed its whole outlook. Sue Gibbons covers the people and the collections that are the backbone of the Society’s remarkable library and many of the Library’s treasures are shown for the first time in colour illustrations. Our Chief Executive, June Perrin tells of the period of change in the last ten years. The book explains the background to the foundation of the Society in 1911. The gripping tale of how the Heralds tried to contain what they saw as the threat from the “irresponsible” new Society of Genealogists is outlined for the first time by Patric Dickinson. Of course any genealogical book needs names and there are indexed lists of Officers, Senior Staff, Trustees, Fellows and Founding Members along with an up to date list of all the obituaries covered in the Genealogists’ Magazine.

Naturally, the editors of the work are immensely grateful to contributors for their individual chapters. They did indeed volunteer to celebrate the achievements of the Society and this history is the story they wanted to tell. However, it must also be said that the book could not have been made without the considerable effort of the designers Graham Collet and Sybil Spence and the photographs of many of the SoG treasures taken by Ed Templeman. If, in the rush to print we didn’t thank them formally, then I must take this opportunity to do so now. It was great fun exploring the history of the Society of Genealogists and the people who influenced the century of family history. Many care passionately about the Society. I’m grateful to Roy Stockdill for his editorial guidance and sub-editing. It was a delight to check facts with Nicholas Newington Irving, though some still eluded us till the bitter end and if we have missed more than I apologise.  I still wish we knew the names of the two lady typists who were engaged in the 1920s to create the Apprentices of Great Britain index. Any errors, omissions or oversights will no doubt be brought to our attention. I leave it to others to review. However in working on the book we became immensely proud of the Society of Genealogists and look forward to the next century of family history.

The Society of Genealogists 1911-2011: A century of family history, 2011, 216pp is published by the Society and available from our bookshop at £25 (£22.50 for members). It may be possible to arrange for a special hard-bound presentation copy to be ordered according to demand. If anyone is interested in this then they should contact the bookshop on sales@sog.org.uk

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The Society of Genealogists again celebrated a successful weekend at Olympia as Who Do You Think You Are? Live reached its fifth year. 

The Society’s centenary celebrations were launched in style at a reception hosted by the Society’s centenary sponsors findmypast.co.uk and we were delighted that our new book The Society of Genealogists: A Hundred Years of Family History arrived just in time to take to the show. An interview with Debra Chatfield from FMP talking  to Chris Paton about the Society of Genealogists Data online is available on Youtube

As usual the membership team and volunteers manned the SoG’s stand (newly designed for this year) to sign up new members and tell everyone about the Society. I don’t think we broke last year’s record for sign ups but we came pretty close which, considering the economy, was a considerable achievement. So a big thank-you to all at the stand and of course to those who were kept busy selling on the bookstall. The new titles (the SoG History and Jayne Shrimpton’s Getting the Most from Family Pictures) seemed to be well appreciated and sold well. I hear SoG Librarian Tim Lawrence was quietly pleased with the quality of books available on his second hand books stall and he and his team raised a nice sum for the Library.

Away from the SoG stand the new space for the Society’s Ask the Experts Area in the upper gallery was well appreciated. We managed the queues well and helped as many people as ever before. Every time I rushed by I saw a huge numbers at the tables with all our expert volunteers so thanks to everyone who helped Lori and her team in that area. However, I do hope we can arrange for that big new space to be a little warmer next year.

The SoG workshops were well attended with many selling out and lots of people standing outside listening in. Some of the handouts and slides from the speakers at WDYTYA?Live 2011 are available on the Family History Show Pages of the Society of Genealogists’ website

Spreading the workshops out in the Upper Gallery was good for the audience and speakers but did mean I had to sprint from one to the other during the handover breaks between talks to thank all my speakers and make sure everyone was happy. I think they were and as usual all the talks were of an excellent quality. I am particularly grateful to the overseas speakers from New Zealand, Israel and America who travelled to take part and it was great to meet so many eminently knowledgeable speakers. However if you missed me in the blur as I strode purposefully past you know where I was heading.

The Society of Genealogists’ Family History show remains an integral part of WDYTYA?Live and the stall holders seemed as busy as ever. It struck me that a few voices disappeared as the stall holders talked to thousands of visitors. We were delighted to see the return of some societies who haven’t been able to attend in past years.

So what news did we hear at the show? Brand Events,who organised the event for the last 5 years, has sold its major share of the show to BBC Magazines Bristol who will be managing the event from now on and who have lots of new plans to take the event further. I didn’t have time to enquire on what’s new on all the stands so I am grateful to fellow bloggers and inveterate news hounds Dick Eastman and Chris Paton for posting show news round ups so early. The British Library announced its digitisation of the India Collections. The Genealogists is adding war memorials and Deceased Online has added Scottish MIs. Findmypast will be adding transcriptions of Scottish census records only. The trends for the future look to be technology and its potential for enhancing the family history experience so look out for new workshop content and more social network elements for next year’s WDYTYA?Live 2012. See you there.

 We will be posting some of our own pictures  from the show in due course but here are a few pictures taken by our friend Chris Paton and Pictures from Dick Eastman posted on their blogs

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