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The Secret Lives conference - how did it go?

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Secrets Revealed at Secret Lives

Family Tree were honoured and delighted to be one of the sponsors for the Secret Lives conference, which took place last weekend (31st Aug to 2nd Sep). And what an event it was... Shining a light into the shadowy stories in our family history, talks covered topics from ladies of the night to Communist era spies and so much more. AGRA member and conference delegate Carolyn Boucher shares her thoughts on a fabulous three days of genealogy.

From Fallen Women to Spies, - Jury’s Inn Hinckley was the venue for the Secret Lives Conference “Hidden Voices of Our Ancestors” held from 31 August to 2 September 2018. It was organised over an 18 month period by The Halsted Trust, The Society of Genealogists, Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives and The Guild of One Name Studies. Over 200 people attended from UK and abroad and enjoyed three days of talks highlighting the social history aspects of our ancestors’ lives which may well have remained hidden had they not triggered a researcher’s interest.

Following the opening talk on ladies who travelled to ply their trade, each of the ten sessions had a choice of three different talks. All were recorded to be available at a later date to the delegates, so nothing need be missed; an advantage when choices were difficult to make. There was a wide range of subjects which covered migration and transportation, lunatic asylums, male and female prostitution at home and abroad, marital breakdown including bigamy, divorce and separation. Workhouses, the slave trade, the Indian Mutiny, Prisoners from the Battle of Dunbar and the Squatters Movement along with ancestor’s living conditions added to the diversity. All the talks were informative, interesting and frequently amusing. The different ways the subjects were covered suggested alternative ways of looking at and researching our ancestors’ lives, often suggesting previously unconsidered pointers and sources. The key emphasis of the talks was on the stories from the past rather than the records themselves.

Delegates also had opportunities to visit the various exhibitors who were present. University courses, specialist indexers, genealogical organisations and specialist book sellers were all represented along with the offer of a considerable discount to purchase DNA kits; - the new important tool for some genealogists.

On the Saturday evening a drinks reception and Gala dinner provided a convivial and festive atmosphere. The Keynote After-Dinner Speech was given by Dr. Janina Ramirez with a spirited, enthusiastic and very entertaining talk on “The Secret Life of the Cloister” – who’d have imagined what those cloistered persons got up to! After the drawing of the raffle many of the delegates enjoyed a disco into the early hours; several people had sore knees and legs the next day!

Nick Barratt gave the closing lecture on “The Secret Life of Ernest Oldham, The Forgotten Spy” which was amusing, with some very interesting research. An intriguing subject, one close to his heart and a most fitting subject on which to close this Secret Lives Conference.

For me, the pleasures of a conference like this were the opportunities to renew and make new acquaintances and friendships with like-minded people, the chance to hear good speakers and explore new ideas. The planning which went into the conference paid off handsomely, it was a resounding success with many people saying how much they had enjoyed the weekend. We can only look forward with eager anticipation to the next one!

Carolynn Boucher  [A.G.R.A. Member]

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