It was during the Who Do You Think You Are? show back in February that I first became aware of the Exodus 2013 conference, thanks to the relentless plugging by organiser Alec Tritton of The Halsted Trust!
Subtitled “Movement Of The People”, this was the second conference organised by The Halsted Trust, this time themed around British migration, from, to and within the British Isles. I looked into the list of speakers and talks and signed up straight away. We have a lack of good quality genealogy conferences in the UK and maybe it is now the case that there’s one or two a year but this one looked to be one not to miss. Equally I knew a number of genealogists had signed up for it and the networking aspects of such events cannot be underestimated.
The venue was the Hinckley Island Hotel near Leicester, a short car journey from Hinckley Station. I let the train take the strain with an easy route out of St Pancras to Leicester and a local train to Hinckley.
The hotel is clearly designed for hosting such conferences; there’s little other reason to stay there but it became increasingly obvious over the course of the weekend that they are very good at what they do and that is hosting large numbers.
Registration for the conference was held in the Triumph Bar; named in tribute to the Triumph factory which is nearby and a beautiful Triumph motorbike is a main feature in the bar. We were each issued with our conference pack which included a really good bag. I have to mention the bag as conference ones can be somewhat hit and miss but this was a particular good one which not only lasted the weekend but also has been used regularly since. Presentations were included on a CD as was a detailed conference programme, notebook and mug. The latter was used as a prop for the requisite “mug shot” (get the pun?) where each delegate was photographed and the mug shots put onto Facebook!
After a short welcome from Alec we were straight into the first talk; Dr Andrew Millard describing prehistoric migration to Britain from, well, the year dot until 1066! I must confess to having little interest in early history but Andrew’s talk, in just one hour, completely turn that view on its head. I found the talk fascinating, illustrating how our ancestors followed the ice age to walk from western Europe into this country.
A good dinner followed; the first indication of how efficient the hotel was at mass catering, with a delicious range of meals from a buffet. After dinner Michelle Patient, an Australian New Zealander who gave a different spin on the implications of transportation and how British convicts became the new population and how they affected the indigenous population.
The accommodation was very comfortable and after a good night’s sleep was ready for the first full day. This being my first experience of a residential genealogy conference, I enjoyed the general mingling which started with a good breakfast.
The first talk of the day was with Kent genealogist and my IHGS tutor, Celia Heritage. Her lecture was entitled How Far Did Your Ancestor Travel? Migration within the UK before the advent of the railways. It’s a traditional view that, apart from the privileged few, that our ancestors rarely strayed far from the place of their birth. Celia blew this preconception apart, describing how our ancestors travelled across country, often not once but many times in their lives. Indeed, Celia challenged that this fact was the reason for many brick walls rather than any inadequacies in parish registers.
A short break for refreshments and then I went to hear Paul Blake speak about transportation to America and the West Indies. Mirroring much of Michelle’s talk from the previous evening, Paul talked of the movement of criminals to our colonies and how to find records of these movements.
With several people I needed to speak to, I skipped the afternoon sessions, returning to hear a real highlight for me, Dr Turi King of Leicester University. Turi has come to prominence over the last year with her involvement in the DNA research into the remains of King Richard III. Her talk was about her day to day work; The Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain. Turi demonstrated how many disciplines are involved in this fascinating topic. She is carrying out further work on the link between surnames and their Y (male) chromosomes. Fascinating stuff.
With the main work for the day done, it was time to get ready for the main conference banquet, preceded by drinks hosted by Find My Past. Our after dinner speaker was Dr Janina Ramirez, a presenter, lecturer and researcher. Her specialism is Anglo-Saxon England and while much like Andrew’s lecture the previous day, it wasn’t a topic that particularly thrilled me. However as Janina started to speak, I was hooked. Her sheer enthusiasm in describing Anglo-Saxon digs and discoveries and highlighting the stunning detail of some of the finds was enough for me. I was enthralled. Janina took time to come round every table and to meet most of the delegates personally.
I was struggling with illness through the whole weekend, so while I had an early night I understand the dancing went on until the small hours!
Sunday morning after breakfast, I attended a talk by Peter Park with an interesting case study on migration from the countryside to the city, something many of our ancestors would have experienced.
With more people I needed to speak to I skipped another session but heard Society of Genealogists’ Else Churchill describe research methods for discovering the poor Irish in Victorian London.
After lunch, all delegates reconvened to hear John Titford in a fascinating closing talk, about migrants who travelled but still returned home. John used a number of examples from his own research showing how generations of the same family kept relocating between the same places. A fascinating end to a fascinating, educational conference.
It was left to chairman Alec Tritton to close the conference and for the small group of organisers to receive the deserved congratulations for an excellent weekend. I have to reiterate how few people there were running this conference, worsened by illness to a couple of the Halsted Trust committee. It never showed over the course of the weekend and the whole conference was smoothly run.
The Halsted Trust was born out of a one-name study of the Halsted name but the Trust is dedicated to not for profit education for “advancing the education of the public in the study of and research into family history, genealogy, heraldry and local history”. Without a doubt this weekend at Hinckley achieved those goals.
Running concurrently with the conference was a trade show with various stands from groups and companies. CAB Search of Surrey had some excellent books and maps for sale which I couldn’t resist! The newly formed Society of One-Place Studies was officially launched at the conference, more of that in another post.
The networking opportunities were as good if not better than those at the Who Do You Think You Are show. With decent food and accommodation and excellent talks, I’m convinced that attending a genealogy conference of this calibre is definitely worth the time and cost.