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Looking back: THEGenShow2019

Wow, just wow… #THEGenShow2019 was an incredible experience! I never doubted it would be a successful, new, premier and international genealogy event. However, I never thought it would be like this and it certainly never came to my mind it would be so rewarding.

How did I get involved? I received an e-mail from Kirsty Gray in March 2018. She had “this crazy idea.” Well, you can say that! She was planning ‘THE UK Genealogy Show’ [later restyled as THE Genealogy Show or THEGenShow or TGS] and was looking for candidates to be on the organising committee. One thing she wanted from the very first beginning was to create a show as international as possible. In the end board members came from the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada and the United States.

Most of the board members became volunteers too. Being on the board for more than a year, preparing the show and taking on every task that needed to be done, all volunteers became like a family. I have been involved with a couple of Dutch events but never ever saw a commitment like this: even partners were willing to donate their time to make the event successful. The hashtag #TGSfamily has become trending with us.

When we arrived at NEC – the National Exhibition Centre – in Birmingham on Wednesday, we saw the banner of the show but we had no idea what to expect. One day later we were sure: there was still a lot of work to be done on Thursday to literally build the show. But we managed, thanks to the fantastic crew (and a few of us in particular)! Friday morning when the doors opened at 10am, we all were ready. The crowd was eager to enter the expo hall, that looked stunning with green carpet all over, professional stands, clear signs and maps, show programs at the tables and four arenas for talks and presentations.

That morning, I spoke about genealogy in the Netherlands, which is a niche topic for genealogists in the UK. For that reason I was satisfied with the turnout at my lecture. It was a very interested audience and most of them approached me afterwards with questions about Dutch relatives. Good to hear they thought my talk was very informative and they liked my voice and way of presenting.

The rest of the day I volunteered. I spent some time as a ‘doorman’, overseeing one of the arenas, checking tickets and answering questions about the talks. I also spent some time at stand #1, the place for attendees and exhibitors to drop their questions. And, THE place to buy some of the show’s merchandise: mugs, t-shirts, pens, wristbands, tote bags. You name it! Now that I am back, I am still wearing the wristband and I am drinking tea from the TGS mug.

By the end of the day we were all super tired, but we already knew: the show was a success. The first feedback came in, attendees were posting their experiences on social media or published very positive reviews on their websites. They liked the talks – high quality! – and they liked the way the hall was laid out. Enough seating, enough space around the exhibitor stands. It certainly gave us extra energy for day 2! Saturday was like Friday, volunteering. As the doorman for one of the arenas I was able to hear talks about social media (Lianne Krüger), research in Australia (Jill Ball), Spain (Daniel Smith Ramos) and the Netherlands (Yvette Hoitink). I also signed up for a talk about the future of DNA technology (Blaine Bettinger). More success stories followed. We were all tired but satisfied. A very special moment: at 5pm when the closing of the show was announced, all exhibitors applauded. Heart-warming, overwhelming, even emotional. What a feeling!

Looking back at the days in Birmingham, I can say it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about organising a genealogy event. I met wonderful people, some for the first time. Members of the crew have become friends, or – as we prefer to say – family. I already have plans to meet some of them in the (very) near future. It is true what they say: meeting genealogists and talking about genealogy is one of the best things about these kind of events. Too bad there are so few Dutch genealogists willing to travel overseas to attend conferences like this. They miss a lot!

Best news ever… THE Genealogy Show will be back next year. So save the dates: 26 and 27 June 2020, again at NEC in Birmingham. Same place, better show. I know for sure I will be there!