I spent the day up in London, attending the Society of Genealogists Centenary Conference, and had an illuminating day!

There were two streams of presentations, so you never know if you’ve picked the right one, but mostly I was very happy with the talks I heard.  First up was Dr Nick Barratt (of WDYTYA? fame) – fantastic speaker and a thought provoking topic – From Memory to Digital Record: Personal Heritage, Family History and Archives in the 21st Century.   Some of the issues he covered were the importance of local archives and how cutbacks are affecting opening hours and the threat of closure in some cases, the work being done in schools to make history personal and getting the kids excited about it, how WDYTYA really got people interested in genealogy (and the unrealistic expectations generated by the programme!), and preserving your own family archive for future generations.  There was a lot more he talked about, but these stood out for me.  One of the questions asked afterwards was:  where can you put family history information online, without having to build your own website?  According to Barratt, there are a couple of companies that are offering a service like this (and I didn’t catch the names).  But it’s still early days on that front – an interesting space to watch, I think.

The next presentation I saw was Dr Bruce Durie on The Future of Geneaology Education. He runs the postgrad Genealogical Studies programme at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.  Awesome speaker!  Fascinating talk  about genealogy both as an academic discipline and a profession.

At this point we had lunch – which was a rather underwhelming and disappointing affair consisting of sandwiches, a few crisps, and sliced fruit.

After lunch were presentations on parish registers, records pre 1700s, and census substitutes 1688-1837.  This last talk was given by Else Churchill, who I’ve heard speak before, and who is so easy to listen to.  I skipped the presentation on blogging and social networking, but hope to read the lecture notes on the SOG website when they’re made available.  (As I seemed to be one of the few attendees under 60, I was a bit concerned about the level the talk would be pitched at, though perhaps I shall be proven wrong!)

The final session was Juliet Nicolson discussing The Perfect Summer: Dancing into the Shadow in 1911, her book of the same name.  The talk was so good I just had to buy a (signed) copy of the book afterwards.

All in all it was an enjoyable day, though it would have been nice to have had some kind of open forum/discussion session, and other opportunities that would encourage discussion amongst fellow attendees.  And slightly better lunch options to keep us going till 6.30pm.