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RootsTech London 2019

RootsTech London 2019 is the first family history conference I have attended.

It also coincided with Comicon so that made for an entertaining DLR ride to ExCel and in ExCel itself. Lots of interesting costumes…

On the way to Comicon

It was very slickly organized with dozens of volunteer helpers in turquoise tee shirts, many of whom spoke several languages as it attracted visitors from many different countries.

When I arrived I received a RootsTech rucksack with flyers and booklets, some with very useful discounts and offers.

The main exhibition hall was full of people….and with lots of genealogy resources to choose from. Ancestry, Find My Past and Family Tree Maker were all running free seminars at their stands. The Ministry of Defence had sessions where you could find out about an ancestor’s service record. Several stands offered DNA tests at a discount. And if you have your own archive of information the British Library offers Digitisation Services.

RootsTech London 2019 exhibition hall

Genealogy Books

One of my first stops was Pen and Sword books. They do a wide selection of genealogy books. I invested in 3 for £25, a bargain when they normally range from £12-15 each. Some of these are also available as e-books on their website. Some of my own ancestors worked for the East India Company and I found a book “Tracing your British Indian Ancestors” which contains information about this. Others were in the British Army in India (including one of my great grandfathers Henry Bennett Edwards) and I’d like to find out more about them.

Some of the books available at Pen and Sword

French genealogy

There were several foreign organisations there and Filae stood out immediately for me. They hold the French national archives. They had a stand where you could search for your ancestors and I put in Fonblanque and immediately found a baptism entry from 1727 for one of mine. This information is not available on the ‘usual’ websites like Ancestry or FindMyPast. Filae offer monthly, six monthly or annual subscriptions starting from around €9 a month. I have signed up for a month to see what else I can find out… The site initially loads in French but you can see an English version by clicking on this link.

Baptism record of Antoine Fonblanque from 1727 from

London Poverty Map

Who do You Think You Are Magazine were giving away a free paper copy of Booth’s Poverty Map of London from 1898-9. This covers south and east London and is useful as it also shows the parishes at the time so making record finding potentially easier. It makes for very interesting reading. There were a lot of churches in London at the time, many of which no longer exist.

The whole poverty map is available online here.

Workshop Sessions

Alongside the main exhibition hall there were workshop sessions to help you with your research covering areas such as “Beyond Scotland’s People: Breaking down brick walls in Scottish research” and “Tracing your ancestors through death records” and many more.

Donny Osmond – keynote speaker

The main keynote speaker on Saturday (the day I visited) was Donny Osmond. For anyone who doesn’t know who he is, Donny was a child star back in the 1960s and 70s and has been in music/showbusiness for 58 years. He is a consummate entertainer and a keen family historian. He told us tales of his career, interspersed with singing and showing videos of him in action and shared his family history.

The main things I took from this was “Stories Matter” and that saving your own story is of great importance.

How many of us have actually written down the things they want to be known for? I know I haven’t (yet!)

He also talked about what he had inherited from his parents and ancestors (a sense of determination and a hard work ethic amongst other things). And he has English and Welsh ancestry and said he was probably related to some of us in the audience.

Linking up with Comicon

On the way out I noticed several “family trees” including The Simpsons and the Skywalker family tree. A clever way to link the two conferences together.

Altogether a very worthwhile conference and if they run it in 2020 I will be back again. Thank you RootsTech! You’ve helped me with my own research and given me information I can use with my clients.

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