By Bob Steed, Treasurer of the South West Area Group of Family History Societies’ Fair
The South West Family History Fair recently took place at the Winter Gardens in Weston super Mare, Somerset. This Fair is held every two years and started in 1997. So why Weston? Why bother to organise such an event? Is it still relevant in the Internet age?
It was in 1995 at a meeting of the South West and South Wales Family History Societies when it was decided that a family history fair should be organised to run alongside the SOG Fair (as it was then) in London.
Weston super Mare was chosen because it “it was well served by road and rail and offered a central location”. The estimated cost of hosting such an event would be between £1250 and £1500. The eleven participating societies were asked to fund up to a maximum of £100, just in case it all went wrong. It was pointed out by one of the members that the Winter Gardens located on the seafront could be hit by a tidal wave! If any of you have ever been to Weston on holiday you will realise that the sea goes out so far it takes a week for it to come back in.
For the first Fair at The Winter Gardens we levied an entrance charge of £1 and by 10am the public were queuing.
Over the years the Fair has changed a lot and we now use the two main halls and a side room is used for lectures, this room will seat a 120 people.
The cost of this years Fair, about £6000, with an entrance fee of £2.50 we have made a small profit this will be put towards the next Fair in 2013.
So who attends? The exhibitors include County Record Offices, Libraries, The National Archives, Family History Societies, and some of the family history websites. S&N Genealogical Supplies joined us in 1999, the Braund Society was at the very first Fair and they both still attend, and in 2005 Ancestry joined us.
So why bother? We are often told by members of the public how much they have learnt from the lectures and how they have solved a problem that they have been stuck with for ages. That’s why we bother. Is it still relevant? Yes. We all sit at our computers looking at websites, I’m guilty as well, but if you go to a family history Fair you will learn so much more and you never know, you may even get chatting to someone with the same hobby.
Guest blog from Bob Steed, Treasurer of the South West Area Group of Family History Societies’ Fair