Reflecting on Family Tree Live UK / by Katy Barbier-Greenland

Family Tree Live UK was a fantastic family history conference held at the beautiful Alexandra Palace in London at the end of April 2019. It brought together a mix of professional genealogists and people interested in their own family history, as well as some researchers.

My talk ‘Inheriting the unexpected: dealing with unforeseen family secret discoveries arising from genealogical research’ was in the final timeslot on day one of the event, and one of my favourite parts was actually speaking with people afterwards. Due to the personal nature of my topic I think it struck a chord with some of those in the audience, and it was a privilege to hear their stories on the day. It was also fantastic to meet many of the wonderful genealogists from the lively family history community on Twitter. I placed some of the recommendations coming out of my talk on the Outcomes page of this website, so please check them out and let me know what you think.

My highlight in terms of talks was Dr Larissa Allwork and Dr Nigel Hunt’s talk on ‘Shell shock stories and beyond: trauma and the First World War’ that explored the impacts of shellshock on people and society, with a focus on WWI. Larissa is a public historian with expertise in a number of areas including the ways in which states and societies deal with difficult, provocative and traumatic histories. This talk arises from some of the work Larissa and Nigel have been doing via the ‘trauma’ stream of a major collaboration between universities in the UK called The Centre for Hidden Histories: Community, Commemoration and the First World War, shining a light on shellshock stories at the intersection of psychiatry and history. Really interesting and important work and I was lucky to have a great chat with Larissa throughout the day.

Another highlight was a talk called ‘To DNA or not to DNA - that is the question’ by Katherine Borges, the cofounder and director of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). Katherine discussed the ways in which different DNA tests work and invited us to reflect on whether they are always the answer. A third talk I unfortunately missed, although I have seen Dr Penny Walters speak before: she gave a talk on the ethics of DNA testing and I have no doubt it would have been fascinating, as all her talks are.