The 2012 Who Do You Think You Are? Live show at Olympia is now becoming a bit of a distant memory but it is worth reviewing this year’s show and previous years. We have now been at several of the shows and have seen how it has developed into biggest fixture in the genealogy and family history world. JGSGB went to the first ever show and we were quite astounded by the level of interest in Jewish Genealogy. People came to us with details of an ancestor who was or might have been Jewish, anxious to find out if they were. Others came with detailed family trees wanting to know how to take things backwards into Europe. The level of interest in Jewish genealogy at the show did not diminish after the first show. We have found more and more people visiting our stand each year, with the queries mainly being of the same type.
After the first show, we decided to have tables rather than a big stand, making it easier to afford to attend. We also now have a set location at the show, which on the face of it doesn’t seem that promising – in a corner away from the majority of other societies and the away from the entrance – however, it is right next to the entrance of one of the main toilets and next to the Pizza Express outlet. This guarantees a lot of passing traffic!
The JGSGB approach to being at WDYTYA? Live has always been proactive. We don’t wait for the people visiting our stand to initiate contact, we ask open questions like “do you have any Jewish ancestors?”, “is there any specific area you are looking for ancestors in?”, or simply “can we help you?”. This approach means that we can help people who have very little idea of where to start with researching Jewish ancestry. It also gives us an opportunity to sell the benefits of joining JGSGB or buying one of our Jewish Ancestors Guides (www.jgsgb.org.uk/catalog/shop). We also provide a lot of verbal information and do on-line searches there and then. There are lots of funny enquiries, if we had a pound for every time someone asked, in all innocence, “do you think my ancestor was Jewish? He/she had a a large nose and dark skin.”, we would make a lot of money. This is something that we might take offence at but the enquirers are very sincere about finding out if they have Jewish roots. A lot of time is spent letting people down gently by explaining that their ancestor probably wasn’t Jewish, even with a first name like Benjamin or a last name like Isaacs. Quite a few people go away disappointed at not having Jewish ancestors. What we are doing is educating people about what makes someone Jewish and how to establish the fact through vital records.
The stand is staffed by JGSGB members on a rota basis. The volunteers get the chance to use their knowledge and experience to help visitors to our stand. We also get the opportunity to explore interesting Jewish genealogies, working with the person to find areas that will take their search forward. It has been very useful for me personally to learn on the spot where to find specific records and useful websites. It is also an opportunity to be able to use knowledge gained from attending JGSGB educational events and talks and also the International Conferences to help people.
JGSGB manages to recruit about 20 new members at each show and also sell dozens of guides and also other people’s books about Jewish genealogy and history.
There is a lot of work done in preparing for the show, most of it falling on the shoulders of JGSGB Stand Manager, Jeanette Rosenberg, and then the physical setting up, falling a lot on my shoulders and one or two others. After a few years doing it we now have it down to a fine art!
It is worth the effort, as we cover our costs and make a little profit on top, and more importantly, we get to help so many people. JGSGB will be at the show again on 2013. Hope to see you there.
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