Judging by the smiles and nice comments I think everyone who attended the Society of Genealogists’ Centenary celebrations over the weekend of 6-7th May had a very good time. On a beautiful spring evening SoG members, staff, friends and guests attended the Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Royal Overseas League in Picadilly. The Society’s Patron HRH Prince Michael of Kent welcomed everyone and congratulated the Society on reaching its anniversary and, in addition, awarded the Society of Genealogists’ prestigious Prince Michael Award to Alex Graham of Wall to Wall Television. The award is made for distinguished and outstanding services to genealogy
Attendees at the Gala Dinner included our President Patric Dickinson, Clarenceux King of Arms; Vice Presidents Dr Peter Spufford and Dr Elizabeth Hallam Smith; Centenary Sponsors Findmypast (along with parent company Bright Solid and sister company GenesReunited); SoG Chairman Colin Allen and fellow Trustees; SoG Chief Executive June Perin and staff and ,of course, SoG Fellows and Members. Guests included Sara Rapson (General Registrar and CEO Identity and Passport Office); Alan and Terri Packer and Patrick and Jennifer Kearon (from the Church of the Latter Day Saints), various representatives of the genealogical online community and websites, and editors of the genealogical press.
Our President offered the Loyal Toast and cut the Society’s birthday cake. Colin Chapman, Chairman of the Fellows, toasted the Society; congratulating it on its past and wishing it well in the future. An after dinner auction of gifts and prizes generously donated by various suppliers raised funds for the Society. Everyone looked very grand either in black tie or party frock though I am sure many of the ladies, like me, welcomed the opportunity to ease out of heels and relax with a drink afterwards !! The Royal Overseas League was a lovely venue and made us very welcome.
The conference the following day was equally enjoyable (especially as there was no need to wear high heels). After being formally welcomed by Colin Allen and Debra Chatfield from Findmypast the delegates were eager to hear the Society’s programme of talks. Along with the centenary sponsorship from Findmypast, that, amongst other things, provided for the venue and many of the gifts for the conference bags for each delegate; the Society of Genealogists was able to provide many of the conference speakers with the support of the Halstead Trust.
The speakers were varied and interesting. Dr Nick Barrat challenged family historians to preserve and make use of their own personal family stories and archives for the future of genealogy. Schelly Dardashti showed how DNA can help solve genealogical questions using the Iberian Ashkanaz DNA project as an example and throwing in a tremendous amount of history of Jewish and European migration for good measure. Dr Colin Chapman made sure everyone had a good understanding of the history of the Society of Genealogists and his chairman Dr Peter Spufford encouraged everyone present to buy the recently published History of the Society of Genealogists . Dr Bruce Durie spoke on the future of genealogy education. Despite becoming a father only the night before, Jeremy Goldsmith came to explain problems and challenges of using parish registers in the 21st century. Sharon Hintzte gave a thought provoking outline of the preservation of genealogies in older cultures and suggested that the future genealogy memories will be recorded on our mobile phones and in digital web archives no bigger than a freight container. Dr Gill Draper warned of over reliance on the technology of genealogy though acknowledged that it has made innovations in family reconstruction before the 18th century. Alex Tritton showed the future of genealogical communication with blogs and other media to record and promote family stories. Else Churchill outlined some lesser used, but name – rich resources, for researching in the Long 18th Century while Beverley Charles Rowe explained the technical intricacies of automated name linkage within genealogical databases.
Everyone came together at the end of the conference to hear Juliet Nicolson’s evocation of the events in the long hot summer of 1911 in which the Society of Genealogists was founded. She spoke eloquently and was very amusing and unsurprisingly there was a long queue to have copies of her books signed. Colin Allen presented gifts to Lori Weinstein, June Perrin and Else Churchill for their hard work as organisers of the weekend’s events. While some delegates called it a day, most stayed on for the conference banquet afterwards. After dinner we heard David Fletcher’s wry and very amusing tales about two diarists and their experiences as Mormon genealogists in England in 1889 and in the 1940s. Later we sat back, drank some more wine and ended the day being serenaded by one of Roy Stockdill’s favourite singers Catherine Howe who left us all feeling very mellow indeed.
We do hope everyone enjoyed the weekend. We did. We have posted albums of photographs from the Gala Dinner and Centenary conference onto the Society’s Facebook page.
Please let us know if you like them and do take the opportunity to like the SoG Facebook fan page too – we need more friends. If anyone who attended the event would like larger copies of these pictures they can either be found along with many others on the official photographer’s website details of which you have.