2021 Conference Speaker Profiles

We know you're wondering who you'll be hearing from at our 2021 online conference, so here you go... (Look out for the schedule coming soon!)

Alex Briggs

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At 31, Alex has now been studying his personal genealogy since he was 15. Yorkshire born and bred his background is in theatre and entertainment both on the stage and behind. A Freeman of York, he comes from a long line of Yorkshire ancestors and looks to develop his skills professionally over the next year.

Join Alex as he takes you on a genealogical guided tour of the historic City of York. With eyes and boots on the ground, he will be delving into his ancestry and will explore just how to utilise everything a city has to offer for genealogists.

Bob Coret

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Bob Coret is the founder of the websites Genealogy Online and Open Archives, among others. These websites provide genealogists with a means to publish their genealogical data and images, and to find sources at archives. Based in the Netherlands, but as the websites are available in Dutch, English, French and German, and open data is becoming available in more and more countries, an international audience can be served.

Bob will give a presentation about Open Archives, which is largely made up of open data from archives in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and increasingly by historical societies and individual researchers. Selling the idea of 'open' is showing the strength of 'open'. With a background in computer science, Bob will show what we can do with open data and what services can grow out of this.

Else Churchill

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Else Churchill is the Genealogist at the Society of Genealogists (SoG) in London and a member of the Lords Chancellor’s Advisory Council on National Records and Archives. She has over 30 years of experience as a genealogist.

Formerly a professional genealogical librarian and researcher, Else has worked for the SoG since 1994. She now leads on external liaison, representation and communications; the Society's education and publishing programmes as well as being the Society's subject specialist.

Else will discuss the online digital collections of the Society of Genealogists Library at the conference. In addition to providing a library and research facility for family history, the Society holds some unique records and archives. While not a public archive per se the SoG is often an archive of last resort, providing a home for records that might otherwise have been destroyed. Many of the SoG's digital collections are produced as a result of volunteer projects, which have been powering away at home during lockdown.

Guy Solomon & Joshua Rhodes

Guy Solomon
Joshua Rhodes

Josh Rhodes and Guy Solomon are economic and social historians of nineteenth-century Britain. At the Alan Turing Institute, Josh and Guy work on the Living with Machines project, using large-scale digitised historical datasets to take a fresh look at how the Industrial Revolution impacted ordinary peoples' lives.

Join Josh and Guy as they introduce you to the Living with Machines project and their work on large-scale nineteenth-century census data to examine the human impact of the British Industrial Revolution. 

Discover the possibilities that these new, large datasets offer, the challenges of working with commercial historical datasets, and the importance of open data for the future of historical research.

Lee Oliver

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Lee Oliver has worked at The National Archives (TNA), and its predecessor, the Public Record Office, for over 30 years. Fulfilling a variety of roles at Kew, Chancery Lane, and the Family Records Centre, the common thread has been services to archive users. Lee has been involved in delivering, managing, and developing, reading room services for most of his career. Notable highlights include the introduction of bring-your-own digital cameras, the deployment at scale of computers in reading rooms for research and access to digitised archival material, and several large redesigns of the reading rooms. More recently, attention has been focussed on providing support and facilities to encourage a broader spectrum of visitors to TNA, and in April this year, Lee was appointed the first Head of Visitor Experience for TNA. For the last 15 months, Lee has been a member of TNA’s COVID Response Group, responsible for ensuring that a COVID-Secure environment is achieved and maintained for staff and visitors.

Lee will talk to us about "Providing access to archives during lockdown", or to put it another way, "the trials and tribulations of delivering an archive service during a global pandemic". This presentation will highlight the challenges The National Archives has faced in attempting to maintain a service to archive users during the most unprecedented of times, and illustrate that access to archives is now far more than just opening the reading rooms.

Michelle Leonard

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Michelle is a Scottish professional genealogist, DNA detective, author and historian. She is an expert in the genealogical use of DNA and runs her own genealogy and DNA consultancy business, Genes & Genealogy, specializing in solving unknown parentage and all manner of unknown ancestor mysteries using a combination of DNA and conventional research methods. She also undertakes traditional family history research, living relative tracing, historical and television research, podcasts, tutoring, lecturing, course creation, bespoke family history books, webinars, speaking engagements and article, blog and book writing commissions. Additionally, Michelle is the official genetic genealogist of #AncestryHour on Twitter (ancestryhour.co.uk) and is known for her work on WWI soldiers, particularly with The Fromelles Genealogy Project. She is a regular speaker at major genealogy events. You can find out more about Michelle on her Facebook pageAPG profile and follow her on Twitter.

Send in your DNA research questions now, for the chance to have Michelle answer them in her live Q&A session in part one of the conference (22nd May).

Nick Barratt

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Dr Nick Barratt is an author, broadcaster and historian best known for his work on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? He is the Director of Learner and Discovery Services at the Open University, a teaching fellow at the University of Dundee and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is currently the President of the Family History Federation, sits on the Executive Committee of the Community Archives and Heritage Group and is part of the Midlands 4 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership Advisory Group. You can find out more about Nick and his research services here: www.sticks.org.uk.

Nick will talk us through the search for his grandmother’s parentage that was resolved via a paper trail, but then upended by DNA, leading to a transatlantic research journey.

Richard Light

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Free UK Genealogy Chair of Trustees, Richard has a background in cultural heritage information systems (primarily museums), markup languages and Linked Data.

Richard will give an overview of genealogical file formats in his presentation: "Making Open Data a reality: file formats for exchange of genealogical data".

Sarah Callis

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Sarah's interest in genealogy started with her grandmother who had conducted research before the days of computers; her passion was sparked when she received her grandmother's research. Sarah has been doing genealogy for about ten years and has been active within the genealogy community. A team member of WikiTree, The Free Family Tree, Sarah is in charge of their social media and hosts weekly livecasts that feature different aspects of genealogy and WikiTree.

Sarah's presentation is:

"WikiTree: The Free Family Tree"
WikiTree is a free online, collaborative one-world tree where members work together to create accurate, sourced profiles that not only compile the basic facts, but also biographies and photos. WikiTree's platform also enables its members to create non-person related pages to gather other information, such as those pertaining to a One Place Study. WikiTree is a community of genealogists where we all come together in different ways to grow our shared tree.

Register to attend now, and join us on 22nd May (4-7pm BST) and 29th May (8-11am) 2021