Video recordings of some of the FIBIS 20th Anniversary Conference lectures are now available in the members area of the FIBIS website. FIBIS members can find them in the Lectures category after logging into the website.
More than one hundred people attended FIBIS’s twentieth anniversary conference, where they listened to lectures from experts in fields including DNA, the First World War and Newsreel, and enjoyed talks by actor Diana Quick and TV personality Jan Leeming. Delegates also took the opportunity to share their family history and seek advice on how to continue their research. Alongside the varied programme of lectures there was a series of supplementary activities, including a bookstall, one- to-one research surgeries and displays of photos from both the British Library and participants’ personal collections. ‘We were delighted to welcome so many interesting speakers and hope the conference lived up to people’s expectations’, said FIBIS events manager Penny Tipper. ‘What made it particularly rewarding for the trustees was the enthusiasm for our shared interests that delegates brought to the occasion and which contributed greatly to the congenial atmosphere across the weekend.’
Following the inaugural event in 2014, the second FIBIS conference was held at the Hawkwell House hotel in Iffley, Oxfordshire, from 28 to 30 September. It began with an open forum hosted by Richard Morgan, in which he advised delegates about their own family history research. President Peter Bailey then gave the introductory lecture, ‘What Was So Special About India Anyway?’. In this he shared the excitement of his discoveries from investigating ancestors in the Indian military.
Debbie Kennett, a research associate at University College London, talked about how DNA analysis can complement traditional genealogical research. She introduced some of the many commercial sites that analyse DNA, whose matching databases are growing as public interest in the technique increases. After dinner Jenny Mallin spoke about her book A Grandmother’s Legacy, based on a collection of recipes compiled by five generations of women in her family, going back to late 19th-century Madras. She brought with her the original document and talked about some of the recipes that resonate: some familiar, others less well-known. On the second day, David Edge explained his project to transcribe births, marriages and deaths in the Bombay Times and Times of India in the 19th and 20th centuries, before historian Hedley Sutton talked about how the British Library can help people research ancestors in the Indian
Army during the First World War. FIBIS trustee Geraldine Charles then gave a wide-ranging talk, commemorating those who served from Undivided India, on medal records, war graves, websites and much else. The afternoon sessions took delegates behind the scenes at Who Do You Think You Are?, courtesy of Gill Blanchard, an expert on family, house and local history. Major General (Ret’d) J. Craig Lawrence, a military historian, author and lecturer on strategy at the Royal College of Defence Studies, then spoke about Britain’s Gurkhas, from their recruitment in 1815 to their service in today’s armed forces. Later, Philip Woods of New York University in London shared his work on how Partition was depicted in contemporary newsreel and photography, and Mary-Anne Gourley updated the conference on the active profile FIBIS maintains in Australia.
After Saturday’s gala dinner, Jan Leeming gave an illustrated talk about her roots in British India and her experiences of travelling to the country as part of the Real Marigold TV series, before answering questions from the audience about her television career. Author Jean Ellis’s family left Burma when the Japanese invaded during the Second World War. She talked about researching her book Goodbye Burma, in which she follows family members as they travel to India, using family documents and anecdotes alongside detailed research to reimagine this chaotic moment in history. The weekend dedicated to family history was appropriately rounded off by actor and writer Diana Quick, who captivated the audience with spellbinding tales of her father’s mysterious India connection.
The FIBIS trustees would like to thank everyone who attended and helped make the conference a success, and look forward to welcoming you again at a future event.