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The Unlock the Past Roadshow and the future

Here are a few photos and comments on the History & Genealogy Roadshow ANZ to complement Shauna Hicks’ superb and interesting daily blogs and her Roadshow overview.

It was especially pleasing that the major genealogy societies in most states and New Zealand agreed to support the roadshow. It was also very pleasing that most major libraries and archives in Australia and New Zealand also participated as exhibitors and/or speakers. Though the new online resources are most useful and featured with all three speakers from overseas, no serious historical or genealogical research can be done without the resources of societies, libraries and archives. This is the reason we invite them to most of our events.

We were delighted also with the “supporting” speakers at each venue. They were great and, judging from the preliminary response to our roadshow survey and new society memberships, many others greatly appreciated them also. For a full list of speakers and exhibitors see History & Genealogy Roadshow web site.

It was a highlight for us to see the launch of Inside History, an exciting new history, genealogy & heritage magazine for Australia and New Zealand, at the roadshow. This is a high quality production, in full colour throughout with articles from a great team of contributors. It is a brave thing to commence a new magazine in the current changing scene. This one deserves to succeed – and will with the support of quality contributors and subscribers. Support it with your subscription today – and perhaps even a contribution!

A pictorial glimpse of the roadshow


Our roadshow team at Perth airport – Alan & Anthea Phillips,
Rosemary Kopittke, Dan Lynch (from the US), Elaine Collins (UK),
Shauna Hicks, Aimée Engler, and Louise St Denis (Canada)



Dan Lynch in a familiar scene from Melbourne onwards –
one on one dealing with individual Google case studies.
A number of breakthroughs came through in these sessions.


Inside History

Cassie & Ben Mercer – the launch of their exciting new magazine
Inside History occurred during the roadshow



Dan Lynch speaking to a full house in Canberra



Louise St Denis speaking in Brisbane



Auckland Libraries display



Evening meal break, Adelaide


How succesful was the roadshow?
Different people will have different expectations and get varying benefit from any event. We are still receiving feedback from the roadshow, and will report again when results are in, but one indicator of its success is the number who say they would attend a future similar event. From preliminary Roadshow evaluation responses – 80% said "definitely" or "probably", 17% said "maybe", 2% "probably not" and 1% "no".

  • From anecdotal indications and survey results so far it was highly successful for most of those who attended – see sample testimonials below.
  • Most (probably all) societies benefited from many people joining up on the spot or taking membership forms. The outstanding success here was the WA Genealogical Society who signed up 30 new members on the day (from about 100 attending) – see WAGS report and photos.
  • I am sure the libraries and archives benefitted in a similar way from many who in all likelihood had never done anything more than they can online or on their own.
  • I believe the overseas presenters found considerable benefit, though they must have been disappointed at the numbers.
  • Dan Lynch unexpectedly found some Australian relatives and Elaine Collins may have done so as well.
  • We at Unlock the Past? It was a great experience to tour with our own team of up to eight people and to meet with many people around the nine cities. It was especially satisfying to hear from many how much they enjoyed and learnt from meetings. The downside from our point of view was the less than hoped for numbers. But with no precedent we went into it without really knowing what to expect.

A look at the numbers?
Overall about 1050 people attended. Only Canberra exceeded our early estimates. But, to get some perspective, this is about twice the number that Australasian Congresses get and about half, or better, than the national conferences in the US (where they have 15 times the population). On the other hand we were able to get 1000 at the two expos we had in recent months – 450 in Adelaide and 550 in Sydney.

Will there be more roadshows?
This roadshow was planned as a one-off exercise. There was (and still is) no commitment to either hold or not hold more. If we do similar events in future some things would be done differently. Some early thoughts – in advance of the coming full review based on the roadshow survey.

  • Need to lock down the program earlier in order to be able get up a brochure in time to catch supporting society magazines.
  • Need to make the roadshow more manageable. Nine cities over nearly three weeks was probably too much for the presenters and organisers.
  • An option is to do a future roadshow in two stages – with  3-6 months separating each. This was considered in early planning for the recent roadshow.
  • Perhaps there is a different way – maybe bring out a single featured presenter around a major event as we did with Chris Paton for the Sydney Expo in October which attracted five times the number of people as the Sydney leg of the Roadshow did. Further meetings could then be set up before and/or after in other supporting cities.

We would be interested in your ideas on future events events in comments on this blog or email to alan@unlockthepast.com.au

Marketing the roadshow
It was a bit surprising to me to hear so many say they only heard about it a few days before; also that they did not understand the difference between the expos and the roadshow.

  • Expos primarily feature a wide range of exhibitors with some supporting speakers.
  • Roadshows focus on special presentations, with a modest supporting exhibition in most cases.

The roadshow was first announced about 6 months ago and has been regularly publicised in genealogy circles especially since – via about 40,000 Unlock the Past general and event brochures sent out over many months, direct mailing of the roadshow brochures to almost every genealogy society and many others in Australia and New Zealand, four times featuring in ads on the back cover of Australasian Family Tree Connections magazine, at a number of fairs, expos, conferences and other events we attended or supported in most Australian states and New Zealand. Plus many we did not attend. It was publicised by others including Dick Eastman, and Findmypast and Genes Reunited to their Australian/New Zealand mailing lists.

Clearly the Roadshow concept did not connect with many people. Perhaps the time of year was not the best, especially in Sydney with a busy calendar of major events before and after the roadshow.

We would welcome suggestions about how you think we might better market our events. How do you find out about events?

Unlock the Past events – all about collaboration
It may have been missed by many, but Unlock the Past is primarily about collaboration. A major principle is to support other events, and partner with others to run major events they may not do on their own. Only two out of the 350+ events on our online calendar are our own (without society involvement) – and these are still in the future.

  • Our online Events Calendar has listed over 350 history, genealogy and heritage events so far this year – a unique one stop guide to what is on.
  • The two events on our calendar as UTP only events are very unique and innovative special interest events, though other cruises are now under consideration.

o   Unlock the Past History & Genealogy Cruise in March 2011

o   War comes to Australia: WWII bombing 70th anniversary tour in February 2012   

Cruise   Darwin2012

  • The roadshow and the two expos were organised by Unlock the Past but only with the support and interest from the major genealogy societies in each state or city.
  • Regional roadshows (two in 2010) depend wholly on the support of the local host societies. We just bring different expertise to towns that want it.
  • Unlock the Past has attended a number of events organised by others as exhibitor, speaker and sponsor. And we have sponsored many others we do not attend at all.

Sample of responses from some who found the roadshow  useful

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Thank you for bringing your show to Perth.  We seem to miss out a lot and it was good to see us included.

All speakers were very good, nothing was above the understanding of the average person attending.

The Roadshow has reawakened my genealogy interest after several years in the doldrums

Very good value for money

Congrats to Gould Genealogy for the great job that they have done in leading the way for Australian genealogists. I'm in awe of the way that this business has kept abreast of the changing trends.

Even better than previous Genealogy Roadshows as regards speakers and presentations.

Excellent event and excellent speakers

In my opinion the day was a great success, I got so much out of it. Thank you for organising the event, I look forward to many more.

Well worth it!

My only comment is PLEASE! PLEASE! come back to the South Island, each and every one of you are a gem.

Absolutely Awesome. I loved it. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

I'm only sorry that more people didn't attend, they missed a treat.


Alan Phillips and the Unlock the Past team