Although I have been involved in genealogy for some 10 years for various reasons I have not visited Genealogy Fairs until this year. I have attended fairs at Stockport, York and Newcastle on Tyne, and broadly speaking my reaction has been favourable. But why?
Visiting the various companies displaying their software, books, charts etc. is interesting, but hardly earth shattering, although I have usually found two or three things which are of use to me, usually books or specific data discs. If I was asked whether I would go specifically to have a look at the wares on sale, then probably not.
No, what has been of most use has been the help available from "information providers". Whilst companies such as Ancestry, Findmypast, and The Genealogist are frequently represented at these fairs, it is not these to which I refer, largely because I am reasonably familiar with their range of services, but I do recognize that they will be valuable to those who are not. Their stands are always very busy, maybe because they often offer free access!
What I find most attractive are the genealogy organisations, the local family history societies and national organisations, such as The Genealogy Society, Local and National Archives, and many others, strictly speaking some may not be genealogy societies but concern themselves with aspects of out history, eg. The Indian Army. Following my visit to the York Fair, I am pretty sure that I have found my 5th great-grandfather from an idea I picked up at a local fhs stall.
If you are considering going to one of these fairs my recommendation would be to look carefully at which societies will be exhibiting rather than at the commercial concerns who, in general, will be there anyhow. Look for family history societies and local archivists from the areas in which you are researching. The national organisations can also give invaluable advice on where to look for information.
Finally, before going do ensure that you have noted exactly what you need to know. There is nothing worse than going to a stall and not be able to remember a name or place. Take my word for it - I know!
© Ron Ferguson 2010