How do I begin to describe the 10th Anniversary of RootsTech? The only word that fits is “epic”. As RootsTech continues to grow past the decade mark, it is important to understand that the size of this conference means each attendee can have a completely unique experience. Today I will fill you in on the experience I had, including some great announcements that were made during the week. And to get a broader representation of the RootsTech experience, check out some of the blog posts published by other 2020 ambassadors!
The Story of YOU:
The biggest impact this year had to be “The Story of You”. As the theme of this year’s conference, you could see it everywhere. And as a librarian, the book motifs were geeking me out quite a bit. It reminded us all that our story and our ancestors’ stories are very intertwined. The story chain would not be complete without our story – urging everyone to buckle down and include their story in the family narrative.
By far, the best visual for this theme had to be the “What’s Your Story” interactive display. Attendees were encouraged to write a snippet of their story in one of the hundreds of empty journals lining the balcony on the second floor. By the time the conference was over, most of the pages were filled with colorful comments and stories.
Wearing Many Hats:
This year, I attended as both a speaker and ambassador which afforded different experiences, yet flowed together pretty seamlessly due to the wonderful work of the RootsTech organizational teams. With all of the moving parts, and such a small planning team, what they achieve each year is pretty remarkable. Below I will outline the highlights of each role in 2020.
As a speaker, I presented three sessions on various topics: Digital Citizenship, Difficult History, and Family History Preservation. Just remember that the syllabus material is still available on the app, and there are 20+ free sessions available right now in the 2020 video archive. You can watch my session on Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History by clicking this link, or by watching the video link on the sidebar. I have to say, this session was my most rewarding so far, due to the sensitive and timely nature of the stories I included. Plus, I’ve had so many people thank me for the session, while sharing their difficult histories amid tears and hugs. We all have difficult chapters in the family tree – and this session will help you deal with them in a practical and sensitive manner.
For those of you who purchased the Virtual Pass, the recorded sessions are still being processed and should be available within the next few weeks. The Virtual Pass is still available for purchase until September. If you opt for this option, the 30+ sessions in combination with the free sessions will give you access to over 50+ sessions. Since no attendee can get to all of the sessions physically, this is a great way to keep learning from RootsTech over the coming months!
As a RootsTech Ambassador, we are given certain updates and information to share with you all. Some of those highlights include:
RootsTech is heading to LONDON this fall! This, by far, was the biggest announcement by Family Search. Save the Date: November 5-7, 2020. Registration is already open.
Interview with Dan Call and Bryan Austad: These two Family Search “Experience Managers” are the masterminds behind the Discovery Centers – found in the Expo Hall and on the 1st floor of the Family History Library. Dan was even instrumental in helping to create RootsTech 10 years ago. So, they shared their views on how much the conference has changed, and their desire for the future of the Discovery Centers. Be looking for additional ways to Discover your family history through an expanded experience Discovery Experience on your own PC – coming very soon!
MyHeritage:During a dinner for Friends of MyHeritage (and throughout the conference) they showcased their new photo colorizing tool that quickly colorizes old black and white photos with the click of a button. They also announced a new U.S. City Directory collection that expands their digitized images to 1.5 billion.
For me, the inspiration of the keynote speakers, and the importance of telling our stories had the most impact. We’ve all told ourselves to get writing, but this year, the tools available to help us, and the fleeting nature of life have spurred me to once again pick up the pen. We have work to do!
For this year, there were some cool additions that had us playing and learning at a greater rate.
Virtual Reality:There was a huge booth designed to allow VR participants to explore the land their ancestors called home. And for those who had ancestors on the Mayflower, MyHeritage was adding a fun twist to the experience.
The Discovery Center: Was expanded this year and placed in the center of the Expo Hall.
Shuttle to the Library: This year, there was a shuttle taking folks to the library and back to the Salt Palace – If you missed the shuttle, there were new, helpful sidewalk signs to help you find your way!
Thanks again to the organizers!They rocked it once again, and demonstrated how strong this conference is after 10 years. I was there the first year, and each year I attend, I am more and more impressed – and always come home greatly inspired. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring for RootsTech!
It’s almost here – RootsTech 2020! The Genealogist’s version of Christmas! As this year marks the 10th anniversary, it should be the biggest conference yet! In the flurry of packing, writing, and planning, I wanted to take some time to cover my favorite features of this amazing conference – and why you should attend, either in-person or virtually.
Cutting edge tools, tips, and instruction: From the ginormous expo hall with the latest and the greatest genealogy tech tools to the most recent advances in DNA science and available resources, this conference should be on your yearly genealogy check-list – and here’s why. If you stay at home or travel to attend in person, your week (and the coming weeks) will be chock full of discovery and learning.
Here’s my formula for success with both attending options:
At Home 1:Watch the FREE live-streaming classes! There are about 21 sessions scheduled which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, without spending a dime. But as a binge-watching society, I know those 21 sessions will NOT be nearly enough. The great news: You can purchase a Virtual Pass which will bring you another 30 sessions to watch from home! That’s right, the virtual pass brings your total viewing number to over 50! Seriously, with 300 sessions in person, 50 is a great chunk.
At home 2:Download the syllabus material! You can do this as well, for FREE – for most of the classes! Not just the 50+ mentioned above – ALL 300+ sessions! Please take advantage of this option – the speakers spend a lot of time and effort making these materials thorough and useful – not to mention that each speaker can be a future reference for you when needing more education. Downloading is available through the RootsTech App.
At home 3:Take a virtual tour of the Expo Hall! The entire list of exhibitors can be found on the RootsTech website, and at your leisure, you can click on each one and explore their websites. Some may even have RootsTech special pricing, so be sure to explore and play with these latest genealogy tech toys and tools.
At home bonus: As most of you know, I am honored to have been selected as a speaker once again this year – which I will cover in more detail below. However, several folks have asked me about one particular session that resonates with many of us today: Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History. I am doubly honored to announce that this session has been picked up for the livestream schedule! On Thursday, February 27th @ 3:00pm Mountain Time (5:00pm EST), you can tune in to watch my presentation in its entirety. If you miss it that day, the recording will be available shortly thereafter on the RootsTech.org website.
In Person 1:Happy Birthday, RootsTech!This year is going to be a huge blow out! Over 300+, and expanded session space and exhibit session opportunities, so you’ll want to be there if at all possible! As a speaker, I will be giving three presentations over the course of the conference:
My Session Schedule:
A Digital Citizenship Primer for Genealogists: Wednesday, Feb. 26th @ 3:00pm
Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History: Thursday, Feb. 27th @ 3:00pm
The Hoarder’s Guide to Family History Preservation: Saturday, Feb. 29th @ 1:30pm
Speaker Meet-Up Schedule: In lieu of questions during my sessions, I am going to try and snag a space in the speaker meet-up area for more in-depth conversations. As these tables are first come, first served, please pay close attention to my Twitter or Instagram feed to see when I’ve snagged a table for confab! If you don’t use either – you can see these feeds right here on this website – right sidebar.
In Person 2:Be sure to take care of YOU! Pace yourself – this is the big one! At 10 years old, this year’s event looks to be the biggest yet. According to the Salt Palace tour video that was put out by the conference organizers, the event is sprawling even more – including food and session rooms all the way down to the far end of the Palace – which is reminiscent of the first year, then only down the north side of the Palace. Also, be sure to watch the Road to RootsTech video series – this includes wonderful tips – which for this year, is VERY important! There is construction happening at the south end entrance to the Salt Palace – resulting in CLOSURE. From what we have seen so far, even the sidewalk around that entrance is closed. Another important point – this construction alters the bathroom plan. Go watch the latest video for updates.
In Person 3:Bags and Swag! Your badges have been mailed to most of you. For those of you who need them printed or re-printed, there will be several stations available to provide this service. And did I mention how cool the bags are going to be this year? Pink and black backpacks! Woot!
In Person 4:Do not forget to prioritize the Exhibit Hall!NEW THIS YEAR: Gone is the Unconferencing Session space, and in its place, a more expanded area for vendors to host instructional sessions. Yes, the Demo stage will still be there, but these expanded areas should be able to accommodate more attendees and provide more in-depth information compared to the brief Demo sessions. Look for spaces in the vendor areas as well as the EXPO HALL CLASSROOM, in the front, next to Trace’s Coaches’ Corner. In other words, build time into your schedule to fully explore this genealogy/tech wonderland. It is unlike any genealogy conference out there and should be enjoyed to the fullest!
In Person 5:The Family History Library!OK, so if you live in SLC, you’re excused from this one. If you are visiting from out of town, you MUST take a little time to research those ancestors! This place is unparalleled – And they have graciously added late night hours to enhance your RootsTech/SLC experience! Just make sure you come prepared with a reasonable research plan, or you will quickly get overwhelmed by the resource buffet on each floor. Another tip: If the Discovery Center in the Expo Hall gets too crowded, head over to the permanent version on the first floor of the library!
In Person 6:Stretch those introvert tendencies and talk to other attendees!These are your people – gathered together at the great watering hole of ancestral information. Even the vendors are there to learn more about you, the users! In fact, that was the original mission of RootsTech 2011 – getting the developers and users in one place to learn from each other. So, in 2020, let’s remember that original dream and make the genealogy landscape a better place because we made the effort to connect with those of like minds and pursuits.
Post Script: For additional survival tips, please see the official Survival Guide posted by the conference organizers, as well as many other ambassadors out there!
Howdy faithful readers! As RootsTech 2020 is now less than a month away, it’s time for another update.
The final keynote lineup has been announced and the 10th anniversary looks to be amazing! (See pic above)
For those of you attending in person, there is still time to pre-register with on-site registration or individual daily attendance always an option.
For those of you attending virtually from home, the free Livestream schedule has been posted – meaning you can tune in for FREE online – and watch over 20 sessions that educate and inspire!
Announcement: As most of you know, I am honored to be giving three presentations at this year’s RootsTech – and several of you have asked about one specific session: Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History – I am pleased to announce that this session will be available for free on the livestream lineup! It is scheduled for Thursday afternoon (Feb. 27), at 3:00pm mountain time (5:00pm eastern).
If the free lineup only makes you want more, there is a virtual pass available for purchase that will give you access to 30 additional sessions. The lineup looks amazing, so check it out!
The conference app is also now available for download. For those onsite, this is an invaluable tool to make your attendance a successful experience. Through the app, you can see the speaker lineup/profiles, download syllabus material – and in some cases, presentation slides!
That’s about all the news I have for January – stay tuned – I will post my big RootsTech preview in the coming weeks!
As the Holiday Season draws to a close, we need to be looking forward to RootsTech, 2020! As a RootsTech Ambassador, it was my privilege to pick the winner of my RootsTech full pass giveaway contest. On Christmas Day, my family and I drove up to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to announce my winner – The full video can be seen on Instagram or Twitter. Drum roll, please – the lucky winner was Kathy Webb! Even though the winner was chosen at random, Kathy’s favorite genealogy find of 2019 was pretty cool – She discovered that her great grandmother was a sheriff in Arkansas! I’d love to know more about that story!
I would like to thank all of those who entered my contest via the three options (blog, Twitter, Instagram)! We had a total of 29 entries with some really great stories. Be sure to go read the comments of the last post to be inspired for 2020. From immigration stories, to DNA cousins, to connecting back to the land of our heritage, the entries were really amazing, and worth the read. Also, thanks to RootsTech for providing these passes for the Ambassadors to give away – there are still some contests running out there for the next couple of days – so if you didn’t win, and want another chance – be sure visit the Conference Keeper site for the links.
Now that we are less than two months away from RootsTech 2020, here are the latest updates: The 2020 app is now live – and we’ve heard the schedule has been finalized – so time to get exploring and setting up your schedule for each day. Another keynote speaker has been announced – Emmitt Smith, Former Dallas Cowboys player, and NFL Hall of Famer.
These next two months are going to fly by – and I can’t wait to see everyone in SLC. Be watchful for more announcements as they are released in the coming weeks!
To kick off the Holiday season, I am hosting a RootsTech Christmas Contest – starting now! You could win a full four-day pass to RootsTech 2020 – with the lucky winner being announced on Christmas Day! If you’re already sold on entering, please scroll down to the contest instructions to proceed.
Latest RootsTech News:
If you haven’t already noticed, RootsTech 2020 is fast approaching. And with the Holidays coming up, it will be here before we know it! After watching the Highlights from RootsTech London just a month ago, here are some things you should keep in mind:
1: The free recorded sessions are still up on the main RootsTech site – as are sessions from RootsTech past. Did you know you can still watch some sessions from RootsTech, all the way back to 2015?! You can find these videos in the video archive section. That’s a whole lot of learning going on!
2: Swag Alert – they debuted a new swag bag for attendees this year. RootsTech London attendees received a pink backpack – and for RootsTech 2020, we’ll be getting blue backpacks!
3: The first keynote speaker of the 2020 line-up has been announced: Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer, David Hume Kennerly – with more great speakers to be announced soon!
4: Even if you can’t make the conference in person, be sure to check out the premium pass options for a deeper roster of virtual sessions.
5: Reminder: 2020 is the 10th anniversary bash – if you’ve been waiting for a good time to attend RootsTech – your waiting is over – this is the one you cannot miss!
6: If you can’t make the full conference, there is a special discount going on right now that cuts the single day registration fee in half! The code when registering is GENFRIEND and is good through December 9th.
In order to win, you simply have to comment on this post, or on the corresponding posts in Twitter or Instagram – Telling me about your favorite genealogy find of 2019. Only one entry per reader, please! Each comment will be entered into a drawing with the winner selected on Christmas Day. Meaning, your deadline for entry is December 24th – all day, even up until midnight.
What You Could Win:
A full 4-day pass to RootsTech 2020 (on-site in Salt Lake City), held February 26-29, 2020 – a $299 value! Don’t worry, if you’ve already registered, winning this contest would get you a full refund of your purchase price.
Pass includes the following: • Over 300 classes • Keynote / General sessions • Expo Hall • Evening events. It does NOT include any travel costs, paid lunches, virtual pass, or paid labs.
As we close out September, it’s time to take a look at the RootsTech 2020 countdown – and we’re down to 5 months! At this stage in the lead-up, if you’re planning on attending, registration is now open – and early bird pricing ends October 11th! Also, the conference hotels are filling up fast, so be sure to make your reservations ASAP!
I hope to see many of you there in 2020 as it’s the 10th anniversary celebration, which should be the best RootsTech yet. As both a speaker and ambassador this year, I would love to meet my readers and share the festivities with you all. Due to the roles I have for 2020, be on the look-out for an opportunity to win a full conference registration by commenting on a future blog post.
As most of you know, RootsTech London will be taking place in late October – but after that edition is over, there will be many more RootsTech SLC announcements released – so stay tuned!
Psssst….RootsTech is back, Y’all…in a BIG way – so spread the word! Not that it was ever really gone – but the bad reports from last year had me worried. Despite my inclination to be a wordy blogger – I must admit I am almost speechless where RootsTech 2019 is concerned. This year’s conference surpassed my grandest expectations – and I can safely declare that this was (by far) the best one I’ve experienced yet.
To be clear, there was never a point when I could not get into a class, nor felt overwhelmed by crowds, nor had to stand in line for anything – except at the concession stand for lunch one day – which is to be expected, and even that was only about 10 minutes. The attendance totals have been in for about a week, and the general conference numbers hit over the 15,000 mark (with over 23K for Family Day) – signaling a rousing success, as usual.
For those of you who did not get to attend this year, here are a few changes that I think made a significant impact:
Conference badges by mail: This meant many of us walked into the Salt Palace ready to hit sessions, instead of standing in line to pick up packets. Lanyards, badge cases, and conference bags were in multiple places throughout the Palace, making pick-up a breeze.
Spreading out – By placing check-in over on the far side of the Salt Palace, along with a few of the sessions, there was more breathing room. Heading over in that area brought back memories from the early years when RootsTech was only on the north side of the Palace. Look how far it has grown!
No badge scanning, except for lunches and labs. No session lines, and no one chased you out if your next session was in the same room.
Opening sessions at 11am – Some folks grumbled about this, but not me – I loved this change! This allowed folks to wonder over there to find a seat in their own good time – instead of everyone running over to find a seat first thing in the morning. I am not a morning person, and getting to the 8am sessions is hard enough – but with a half hour to get over there after the earlier morning sessions, I didn’t feel rushed. Besides, once the lights go dark and you’re enjoying the festivities, you have no idea what time it is. Plus, after the program is over, folks are in a festive mood, and enjoy talking with each other – they can go to lunch, hit the exhibit hall, engage with fellow attendees, or plan for the afternoon sessions – instead of rushing off to the next session. This change also means the livestream opening sessions were hitting the central/eastern time zones around lunch time – making contiguous enjoyment (and social media engagement) more possible.
Easy to identify, helpful staff – perfect number ratio of helpers to attendees. If I needed help, they were always just a few steps away – and very attentive.
Great signage! Vertical and horizontal signage everywhere – even under your feet!
One of RootsTech’s greatest strengths has been the electric atmosphere of inspiration that builds each year and leaves you with the impression that you serve a great purpose – and that with the right knowledge, skills, and tools, you can achieve your genealogy goals. Obviously, the inspirational opening sessions always provide highlights, and become some of the best memories of the conference. And the sessions are amazing! But here are a few others:
TheFind Relatives at RootsTechGame – If you had ever entered even a small amount of generational information in the Family Search Family Tree, you were connected to the cousin three ring circus. But what a hoot it was! As the conference grew, there were over 9,000 people participating, and I matched as a cousin to over 2,500 of them – including David Rencher and Crista Cowan! One of the funniest moments was when I connected to a local Kentucky genealogist whom I’ve known for years, and live within 10 miles of, and who comes to RootsTech every year – Here we are – our cousin selfie! :
The SLVGS Board trying to wrangle new members at the Unconferencing Table – It was so much fun to work with these dedicated folks whom I’ve only met previously as virtual avatars. We connected with several potential new members at the Unconferencing area.:
Giving My Presentation on Consumable Genealogy – Such a great engaged crowd – they seemed to really have fun with the examples of packaging genealogy bites into consumable portions for print or social media. My largest crowd ever, at about 400 – and the tech staff/room monitors were wonderful. This was my second time speaking at RootsTech, and it was a fantastic experience, as usual!:
The Discovery Zone Heritage Toys (Also in the library) – These toys were also active if you participate in the Family Search Family Tree – I felt like a kid again with all of these cool discovery tools. Sometimes, it’s very revealing to step back and look at your family data to see the worldwide connections. My only gripe, was that I spent a couple of hours playing in the library Discovery Center with the same toys, and my fun elements produced that day were never emailed to me – huge bummer! I was only sent the location images.:
The DNA Learning Center – Introductory DNA sessions to help with this topic: Always crowded, with loads of mini-sessions, various speakers, with helpful videos and knowledgeable staff.
The RootsTech Store: I LOVE swag! And even when it’s not free swag – I am very willing to purchase more! It was a nice open store, easy to shop with so many cool options! My suggestion for next year – Please produce a sweatshirt or hoodie! It’s cold in SLC in late February! I would have snapped that up! Hey, RootsTech officials – you might want to create an online store of RootsTech swag – I’d seriously send my family members there to fill up my Christmas wish list!
The Demo Theater: Smaller than previous years, and hidden towards the back – but always crowded. I always learn a lot in this space while I’m taking a breather in a very comfortable environment. They also have door prizes, BTW.
The Ancestry Photo Booth – and their wonderful cookies!: Confession: At first, I kinda rolled my eyes at this – but then thought, hey, I’m kinda dressed up and I had a new find to share, so I gave it a try. The result, in this glamorous backdrop, was pretty awesome! They not only sent me the digital image they took with their beautiful professional camera, but also a lovely print to take with me – topped off with an amazingly tasty cookie! Well played, Ancestry! Well played!
Meeting up with genie friends, as usual: I always love meeting old and new friends!
Added Bonus: Researching in the library!: We flew in a few days early to research for hours and hours – and I regret nothing!! Always a fantastic time – and so much brought back to add to my tree. Some serious brick walls damaged in that library! I’m still processing all that I brought home.
Hiccups – I didn’t encounter too many hiccups this year – and have declared this to be the best RootsTech yet – but if pressed, Id have to identify the following as my least favorite elements:
Unconferencing Sessions: I had not been to RootsTech in a few years, and my memory of the Unconferencing area was drastically different than I encountered this year. Gone were the small curtained off areas where you could talk to a group or even present something on the provided board, or diagram ideas. This concept has now been relegated to 8 tables crammed into the space of about two booth footprints. Really didn’t like this shrinkage, and while I did see groups using it – it was also placed in the very back of the exhibit hall instead of in the front where it used to be. Most people I talked to never found its location, and with very little signage – I would say this looks like the last year for the Unconferencing area – as I’m pretty sure we were witnessing the death knell. Some of the presenters mentioned their disappointment with the size and location in our Facebook group – but also complained about the name – saying it was unfriendly, and not appealing. Perhaps it could be resurrected as something slightly different? Break-out sessions perhaps? Obviously, the large exhibitors enjoy great success with their own areas of demos and discussions – so the concept is not a bad one. But it would be nice to have a more tailored area for folks to discuss genealogy issues – or meet up with speakers after their sessions, or programmers to discuss concepts with users (as was its initial purpose.) Conversely, I also understand usage and statistics – if people weren’t using them in the previous years, I can understand the reduction.
Access and Preservation Track on Wednesday: While this was a nice set of small, targeted sessions, I think many people misunderstood its purpose. As a librarian with special collections/archival training, I was going to attend this, no matter the purpose – but after squeezing in to the last couple of seats at 8am, and then watching the attendance bleed out like a trauma victim – until there was only about a third of them left – was a red flag that most people didn’t understand the intended focus. As a whole – I would say this was RootsTech’s version of “Librarians Day” – or “Digital Archivist’s Day” – etc. Which makes all of this more intriguing. With the huge crowd coming in to learn about “Access and Preservation” – regular folks who were not information professionals – doesn’t that indicate that the general genealogy crowd is very interested in preservation and access – for their own collections? Perhaps? Or were they wanting to learn more about the efforts being made to place more unique material online? Or did they want to learn more about digitization best practices? This is an area RootsTech should investigate. It sure caught my attention when thinking about this after the event.
Demo Stage: Thank heavens it hasn’t changed too much – but again, it’s been shrunk, and placed in the back, instead of being a focal point of festivity for the Exhibit Hall. Gone is the soda fountain bar and popcorn – and gone is the concept of walking around and hearing some of what was being demoed. I’m guessing that was the problem. As the Exhibitors have adopted their own demo areas and engagement clusters with microphone and large screens, their sound would be in competition with the Demo Stage instructors, and that would not be pleasant for the big sponsors. At least the comfy chairs and couches were still there – along with some really nice door prizes for those who sat through the individual demos.
Daily Sheets: They announced that there would be daily handouts with the general session info, as well as a list of the most popular classes that day. Ummm, first of all, I never found any of these sheets, until I stumbled upon a small pile on the very last day for Family Day. To be fair, I didn’t look super hard for them during the regular conference days. However, I’m not sure about plucking out a handful of sessions to highlight as “popular”. That could go one of two ways – either it drives a ton of people to these sessions, resulting in overcrowding, or it drives people away since they want to avoid the large crowds if possible. Plus, as a speaker, the speaker liaisons, kept trying to avoid giving us room capacity and info on popular sessions because they said they didn’t want to make other speakers feel less worthy by identifying popular sessions based on topic, speaker and/or room size. But then each day, they were highlighting popular sessions to hand out to everyone. Since we all have the app and the conference booklet outlining the offerings of each day – I don’t think they need these daily sheets – and I’m sure they could save a little money in printing.
RootsTech is not really over – you have several options to take in more of this conference over the next several months: Watch the canned livestream videos; Download the Syllabus Material; Explore the Exhibitor List – and prepare to watch more when the international version of RootsTech premiers in London in October!
This type of experience is unparalleled, and should be experienced in person at least once. Obviously, for continued inspiration and exposure to the most current genealogy tech tools, it is encouraged to attend as frequently as possible. However, as a tech conference, RootsTech has ensured that there are multiple remote methods for attending virtually. Not only can you sit at home and watch several of the videos for free, but this year they also offered a virtual pass that allowed you to enjoy 18 sessions from the comfort of your own home. Coupled with the exhibit hall list for traversing via websites at your leisure, and syllabus material you can download, #notatrootstech folks have a buffet of learning opportunities available.
BTW, Next year is RootsTech’s 10th anniversary! Theme: The Story of You! Make plans to attend – I’m sure this will be a grand and unforgettable party!
Everybody loves a great party, but a genealogy party….that’s an event to be reckoned with! We are a little less than a week away from genealogy’s biggest annual shindig. In my part of the country, shindigs are epic, and RootsTech does not disappoint. In fact, as we draw closer to the event, the energy builds, and we all feel like kids on Christmas Eve. I have been to several RootsTech conferences in person, from the very first one, as both attendee and presenter, and I have always been surprised about the mixed reaction this conference receives. Folks either love it or they hate it – and I fall firmly in the “love it” camp. But perhaps, some of the grumbling comes from a different set of expectations? It is completely unlike the other national genealogy conferences out there. Simply because it’s supposed to be different. The more attendees understand its underlying purpose as a conference, I think the more they would say “vive la différence”!
From the very first year, RootsTech had aspired to be the genealogy tech sandbox or playground – a place where programmers and users could get together to explore what worked in our industry and what didn’t. A place to introduce new tools and resources for our field, and where to engage with others. While this happened a lot at the very first conference, attendance necessity did not allow this concept to continue unaltered. My personal opinion: While this interaction with programmers and users still happens at RootsTech, it does not happen on the same level that it used to mainly because of the differing wavelengths of programmers and users. In many cases, we don’t speak the same language, and dialogue can get frustrating really quickly.
As an alteration to the overall concept, RootsTech was great in shifting towards a storytelling/sharing, DNA, and digital resource focus. In essence, keeping with a tech foundation, while bringing in more sessions of traditional genealogy instruction to appease a wider audience. And it has grown exponentially over the years – which means, despite some growing pains and hiccups over the years, they must be doing something right. For those of you who attended last year’s severe hiccup with badge scanning – they have promised to do away with that process for this year – which should make attendance much smoother.
For those of you new to RootsTech, I am going to outline some of my favorite bits of advice to get the most of out this conference.
So buckle up, Buttercup – it’s time to dive into RootsTech 2019!
Adjust Your Expectations: This is NOT NGS or FGS – this is RootsTech. It will be a different experience overall, and many of the sessions will be different. Some would say, not different enough, which is a good point – but go in with your eyes wide open, and your expector antenna set to tech overload! In other words, go with the flow and have fun with the offerings – you will learn new things, and come away with renewed inspiration. This is the pep rally of genealogy, and its message is family, connections, and inspiration. The energy alone is worth the trip.
Use the App!! So much information in one little space – this is how you get to the syllabus material, schedule your session attendance, learn more about speakers/vendors, and keep updated on conference announcements. And don’t forget – they really want you to rate the sessions you attend through the app – it helps with next year’s planning, and determines whether your speaker receives any bonuses based on your rating. As a bonus, you can also make friends in the app, and learn about great places to eat.
Introvert Alert: This is the largest genealogy conference on the continent – so it will be crowded – really crowded. Pace yourself, try to make some new friends, and go take a break if you need to – like, in the big comfy demo stage chairs, with some popcorn, and a soda. There are some places to break away and take a breather – and if necessary, sneak back to the hotel for a nap.
So Many Sessions, So Little Time: You may not get to attend every session you have your heart set on – as I said above, it is crowded, and while they plan as best as they can for attendance numbers per room, some may hit capacity, and you may be forced to move to another session. This is where the app can be a lifesaver! As you review the session descriptions, and pick (star) your favs, be sure to pick a few per time slot. The app lets you pick more than one per hour for your personal schedule. It will warn you that you’ve picked more than one, but if you can pick your top three each hour, you will be able to attend the alternates at a moments notice, instead of scrolling through everything while the seats continue to fill up.
Make the Exhibit Hall a Top Priority! This is by far the largest exhibit hall you will encounter in genealogy conference land – so many new companies and tools, tips on how to use your favorite tech tools, and demos all day long! It is so important to examine the exhibit hall map as closely as you do the session list. Besides, the hub of the RootsTech party is in the exhibit hall – with an energy that does not sleep. BTW, for those of you attending a virtual pass, or staying home to watch a few of the live streaming, the exhibit hall is always open to you virtually. Take the exhibitor list, and visit all of their websites to tour their products or offerings = another great way to be a part of the action!
Don’t Forget the Unconferencing Sessions in the Exhibit Hall! I have mentioned thisaspect of RootsTech in the past, and some have given me a side eye, because they didn’t know what I was talking about – which is such a shame! From the very first year, these unconferencing sessions were implemented to encourage conversations – tech, genealogy, or both – programmers, genealogists, or hopefully both – all in rooms/booths they could schedule to talk about anything in the industry they wanted to cover. And this tradition has not wavered. In fact, this is one of my favorite things to do at RootsTech. The unconferencing sessions are along the North side of the Expo Hall. I will be hosting a session as a follow-up to my class on Consumable Genealogy – giving a live demo on using Canva and Pixabay – and there will be a couple of chat sessions about Genealogy in Second Life, hosted by the Second Life Virtual Genealogical Society – so be sure to check in at the unconferencing boards to plan out your participation.
THE Place to Bring Out Your Social Media ‘A’ Game! With all of the of the great tools at your fingertips, now is the time to hashtag it and post it – or storyboard it. You will connect with attendees and those attending from home. #rootstech #notatrootstech
Don’t Over Do It. You cannot experience everything there is to offer, and it’s important to understand your own limitations. So prioritize your time within reason – and if you get overwhelmed, head over to the library for some research – they are open until 9pm just about every evening – and you won’t want to miss the opportunity of researching in the nation’s most comprehensive genealogy library.
The Common Sense Stuff: As with any conference, this is a marathon, not a sprint – you need to stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, dress in layers, eat healthy, and wear your walking shoes. I noticed from the most recent ‘behind the scenes’ video – a tour of the Salt Palace – that the on-site check-in is on the opposite end of the building – back where the very first conference took place. In other words – seriously – wear comfortable shoes!!!
Smile, have fun, be nice, and soak up the energy that will inspire long after we get home to digest all we have learned.
That’s about it for now, folks – I’ll see you in a few days! Safe travels and may the session selections be ever in your favor!!
Reflecting back on 2018, I’m happy to report that I accomplished a lot more over the course of the year than was conceptualized at its inception. This is not to brag, but rather, a revelation when considering the beginning of a new year. I have come to the conclusion that it is much healthier to identify our successful changes of the previous year, and look for opportunities to expand growth, instead of identifying areas of failure that need to be altered. In other words, we have a tendency to issue resolutions as declarations that are inflexible and too finite to encourage success. Which, in the long run, spells out our defeat even before we begin. If we, instead, look for hopeful themes to help or encourage our growth, then this should be enough to elicit positive change over the course of a long 12 months.
When looking at the growth of 2018, there was no resolution to drive the change, but an openness all year to identify areas susceptible to change, which were actually within my power to change. I knew a healthier lifestyle was priority one, but instead of hitting the gym like a crazed fitness junkie, I started taking walks every day as the weather permitted, and making better food choices consistently. I lost almost 20 pounds, gradually, and even with the weather change, I have not gained anything back, and will gently continue my efforts to get out more, and look for opportunities to enhance this healthy alteration; Being gentle with myself, and not harsh when I take a break or indulge in a guilty treat – celebrating by encouraging myself to continue the good work, instead of internally chastising for a missed step. This approach is also a good rule of thumb concerning our research efforts – be gentle with ourselves, and celebrate our accomplishments along the way.
Another area that caught my attention in 2018 was the amount of clutter in my home. With each house cleaning session, I made a point to throw away or remove via donation, a small amount of items which held no further meaning, neither intrinsic nor sentimental. Over the course of the year, I made 5 carload trips to Goodwill, and disposed of 7 large trash bags of paper junk. The end result: I was finally able to settle all of my family archives into their proper housing containers, and should any emergency occur, I can lay my hands on a few small boxes with the most important items. Now, when someone asks for a copy of a photo, I can go right to the proper location and digitize at will.
With the above accomplishment that evolved over the course of 2018, and while preparing similarly relevant material for my talk at RootsTech in a couple of months, I am mentally able to move on to the next phase in this transformation. The limited nature of time and the familial value of what I have been entrusted with have directed the next offshoot of growth – a prioritization of sharing. It is the natural progression of putting things in order. There is no longer a hindrance in the area of superfluous pieces of random material obscuring the vital or irreplaceable elements.
Welcome to 2019’s theme: Sharing.
But what does a lifestyle of sharing look like?
A sharing lifestyle is fluid and looks for a variety of sharing opportunities. My upcoming session at RootsTech is called: Past Forward: Tech Tools & Strategies for Sharing Family History Through a Consumable Genealogy Plan. Without giving too much away prior to the session, I have learned so much about the brain and how it consumes information. As family historians, one of our goals should be an aim for retention. What can we pass on that will be retained and therefore passed along to the future generations? This concept of “consumable genealogy” is my new driving force when sharing family history nuggets.
As I move forward in 2019, looking for various ways to share meaningful and engaging chapters of my family history, I will strive to be open to multiple platforms, and learn adaptive lessons from engagement. What can I learn from the perspective of others in my family? How can I package consumable pieces of family history in such a way that sparks the lazy muscle that sits between our ears?
Step one for me is to get a bigger handle on my scanning/digitizing progress in order to have material ready to package for sharing. While I have scanned a portion of my collection, there is much more that needs to be done, and sharing along the way will drive my efforts. Conversely, as much as I strive to produce the mammoth 500 page family history someday, I vow to not wait for that moment to begin my sharing. As Charlotte Brontë once said: “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness.” And if we replace the word happiness with ‘family history’….. Family History quite unshared can scarcely be called family history! With so many tools out there at our disposal to share our genealogy love, there has never been a better time to live with sharing as a driving force.
It is with great delight that I announce my return to RootsTech after a self-imposed hiatus! I was notified last week that one of my proposals was selected for 2019! To be honest, the RootsTech conference is a pricey one, and, even with speaker assistance, I cannot always afford the trek out west to the beautiful Salt Lake City. I am just a librarian, after all! However, each year, my geeky genealogy heart yearns for this kaleidoscope of tech wonderment! It had just been too long since attending, and so I threw my speaker hat back into the ring – luckily, they picked it up, once again!
There are so many reasons why this is my favorite genealogy conference, and I won’t get into all of them, but I will feature many as the conference draws closer. My relationship with RootsTech began with its inception in 2011. That year, my business partner was selected to present two tech sessions which planted the seeds of semantic web structures which we see in use throughout many of today’s family tree software products. After multiple brainstorming sessions with Family Search developers over dinner (at RootsTech, and previously at FGS in 2010), we could see the direction our future was about to take, and today, we all reap the benefits of that first year!
Of course, we could all see the writing on the wall: We had just witnessed the birth of something truly special – a genealogy conference unlike any other! I cannot begin to list all of the great memories of RootsTech over the years! After 2011, I was fortunate enough to attend a few more years, and speak at one. By that time, I was also speaking at the other national conferences, and really busy with my day job in Kentucky. I have been so thankful for the increase in online sessions provided each year – it keeps those of us at home connected to the energy of this wonderful conference!
I know I’ve just used a lot of exclamation points, and I’m sorry, I’ll calm down now….well, only a tiny bit. In 2019, my session will be: Past Forward: Tech Tools and Strategies for Sharing Your Family History Through a Consumable Genealogy Plan. This session will explore emerging communication methods and the technological tools that make these methods possible. We will then explore the concept of “Consumable Genealogy”: packaging your family history into brief nuggets of stories, photos, recipes, audio and video memories, that are perfect for sharing and preserving in family collaboration friendly environments.
As I said earlier, you will no doubt encounter additional RootsTech focused posts leading up to and after the 2019 conference. However, I specifically chose NOT to apply to the RootsTech Ambassador program. In the past, I have praised this conference, while pointing out little areas of improvement that I encountered along the way. As my blog will always be a “truth zone” based upon a foundation of honest analysis and advice, I don’t want to filter my thoughts or experiences. Here’s a link to my previous RootsTech posts over the years, back at Journeys Past.
Thanks for enduring my giddy gushing about RootsTech, y’all! Hope to see you there!