I apologize for this message being so late since the RootsTech Family History Conference is now breathing down our necks – less than two months away! Unfortunately, during much of the RootsTech planning and announcements, my mother fell ill and passed away this fall. Naturally, RootsTech was the last thing I was thinking about with the grief swirling throughout the Holidays, etc.
As we close out another crazy year, with all of the losses and difficult chapters we’ve lived through, once again – happiness can only gradually return by focusing on the future with hope of better days. For my family, RootsTech will always be a steadfast marker of “better days”. Regardless of the bad times we’ve endured, that genealogy week in the winter always provides a light of fun and learning that inspires us to push forward with the purpose we were gifted as the family historians.
That precious purpose and the limited time in which we have to fulfil it is the main theme of RootsTech 2024: Remember. Over the years, I have written about the shift of RootsTech from a genealogy technology conference to that of story telling and education – with a little dash of technology mixed in. However, with the new AI, DNA, and other tech tools swiftly impacting the genealogy field – I feel like RootsTech is coming full circle. The genie tech is rising, but largely in the areas of aiding in the capturing and preserving of family stories. This is a most exciting time to be in the genealogy field – and even more so at RootsTech (once again – both at home and in person)!
Let’s get to some brass tacks about what is happening for RootsTech 2024 (February 29 – March 2):
This list will NOT be comprehensive because the RootsTech Team will be releasing new information as we get closer to the event – some big announcements coming in January!
Theme: Remember – is focused on telling our stories – down the ancestral lines, and in our own backyard. Capturing our stories is tantamount to beginning our genealogy journey and bringing the ancestors back to life through new tools that will help us share those stories in dynamic ways!
First keynote has been announced and the selection is spot on for reminding us about the journey and the larger connections of genealogy to history: Lynne M. Jackson – the great great granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott – from the famous U.S. Court case of 1857 that pushed the subject of slavery to the boiling point in the final years prior to the Civil War. Jackson will be sharing her family’s legacy and how their place in history impacts her today.
So far, the class lineup is amazing with 250+ sessions only available in-person in SLC with another 200 sessions available online for FREE! Registration is already open, so grab your seat! Pretty customary for the world’s largest family history/genealogy conference!
Yes – I am super honored to be presenting again at RootsTech! Both sessions are in-person in SLC: My 2023 workshop – Picture It: Photo Identification and Preservation – is BACK by popular demand – one last time in the Salt Palace! I also have a NEW session coming in 2024: Hiding Behind the Liberty Tree – Finding Patriots Among Underrepresented Groups.
Also, yes – Once again, I am a member of the official RootsTech Media Team – so you can keep watch on my social media accounts to get some of the latest announcements as they are released – Another keynote will be announced in the next couple of weeks and your ability to schedule your classes should be arriving in a little over a week. Rapid fire announcements coming soon!
As I mentioned earlier, the theme (Remember) is going to hit us all hard with the feels – here are a couple of links to the promo videos being released – including a new theme song about Running Out of Time:
And in honor of my mother – who loved RootsTech, I produced a small slide show to remind everyone that RootsTech is a GREAT way to build family memories!
As a longtime attendee and supporter of the RootsTech Conference (since 2011), I have the privilege of declaring this amazing event – BACK and better than ever! Don’t get me wrong – thanks to some amazing people, RootsTech kept going virtually through Covid – but having the in-person event back in such a big way is nothing short of a miracle!
The organizers of the RootsTech suite of events faced the biggest challenges we could ever imagine when Covid reared its ugly head. But ironically, adversity often has a way of forcing us into areas of creativity and desperation that result in an entirely new creation.
In this case, the new creation was a conference that reached global audiences and sustained our fix for genealogy education and connection despite the worst possible historical event that stretched beyond our dreaded fears.
Now that 2023 has arrived and Covid has at least loosened its deadly grip on the world, the RootsTech team made the brave decision to return to Salt Lake City – in person – while keeping the virtual options fresh and alive to maintain the global connections built over the past two years.
For those who attended this year and quipped that the conference was not as large as the years prior to Covid – I say – RootsTech is bigger in its overall reach since it is fully hybrid – and the 2023 on-site event was only slightly smaller than 2020.
I remember this conference in its infancy, back in 2011 – when the entire conference fit into the north side of the Salt Palace. That smaller footprint was sustained for a few years prior to its move to the entire venue. Even in its first year, attendance was double the average attendance of the other national genealogical society conferences – back then we had about 2 genealogy conferences that drew between 1500-2500 – and the first RootsTech more than doubled this number.
In 2020, this conference had reached its golden on-site peak at 30,000+ attendees over the course of three days, and every nook and cranny of the Salt Palace was packed with genealogy fun. None of us realized how close Covid was that year. Although, many of us found out upon our return home when the toilet paper shelves were emptying, and we had a mysterious head cold that came out of nowhere.
And the blunt fact that we all need to remember is that for over three years, we lived in a terrified state. So many people died or almost died across our globe. We lost too many wonderful genie friends, and we will never be the same in many ways.
Despite the global terror, the RootsTech team marched on, providing us with two solid years of free virtual programming and engagement. Now that they pulled the chord to return to in-person classes, they never left the virtual attendees behind and made sure to provide an entirely different set of classes (plus live-streaming some on-site sessions) that equaled the number of in-person sessions in quality and quantity.
The result was an amazing end product that satisfied both audiences – uniting us on a scale that we have never seen before – which was a goal of this this year’s theme: Uniting. It also opens the door for more great speakers to participate without physical travel where that might be impossible or a great burden. While the on-site crowd was slightly smaller than the peak of attendance in 2020, I was delighted to see that the buzz and energy had returned. With the higher travel costs, and some folks just not ready for post-Covid travel to such a large event – the first year back was NEVER going to be as large as 2020.
But what a wonderful turn out it turned out to be!
I admit to getting teary eyed a few times with all of the hugs and selfies, main stage crowds and energy, seeing audience reactions/engagement, and connecting with our genie tribe in person. The experience truly reminded me that we cannot take these experiences for granted. The truth is, we almost lost them forever. If it wasn’t for the tenacity of the RootsTech organizing team, all of this was in danger. While standing in the giant exhibit hall that is so large and full of genealogy goodness, I said a prayer of thanksgiving.
You see, as much as I love a good genealogy conference, and I’ve been to (and spoken at) many national conferences in the past dozen or so years, there has never been anything to compare to RootsTech. All I have written so far should put this yearly event on your genealogy bucket list – and if you need more incentive – that exhibit hall is larger than ANY you have seen in the genealogy field. All the others are very small shadows compared to the RootsTech exhibit hall – and – once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.
Some highlights of this year:
With some slightly smaller attendance numbers, the footprint of the event was roughly the same – so everything felt, familiar, comfortable, and slightly less cramped in your favorite sessions.
The energy, connections, and buzz were back in the main stage, the exhibit hall, and the sessions! This is why we come to RootsTech, and it did not disappoint!
Registration was seamless and extremely efficient – no bags this year – but with registration cost down to around $100 + FREE virtual sessions, the bargain was significant! All of your favorite celebrity genies were there to deliver quality sessions and welcome everyone back to the genealogy event of the year!
Big announcements came from the major vendors, and Family Search – announcing so many tech tools and enhancements to the products. I could never list everything here – but do yourself a favor and virtually revisit the exhibitors/vendors from this year’s virtual and on-site events. It’s still the winter months, so it’s a great time to explore their sites more fully. Some of them are even still offering conference specials and discounts for their products – so, hurry up – time’s a wastin’!
This workshop format was a new concept, and I was honored to be a part of the inaugural series launch in conjunction with the RootsTech offerings. These sessions were listed as a part of the on-site session list, but pre-registration was required since class size was limited to 50 each. The classes I gave on historic photography and preservation were full within a couple days of listing, and we even opened up for ten more people each class (which meant ordering more gloves prior to flying to SLC) – but of course, even that wasn’t enough, and we had more people wanting to squeeze in. The educational benefits of these classes included not only holding the various photographic formats in their hands – but all attendees went home with two pairs of gloves and a sampling of enclosures to get them started in preserving their own photographs at home.
And lastly…the amazing keynote speakers provided incredible high points as usual. Most of these can still be viewed on the RootsTech main website. Of course, my favorite of Sean Astin! Getting to meet him in person was an experience I will never forget. “Goonies never say die!”
Here are my final thoughts:
With so many sessions available for free on the RootsTech website (sessions from 2020-2023) – RootsTech is NEVER over! Invest in your own genealogy education and development by viewing these great sessions over the next year.
Now that the inaugural post-Covid event is under our belt, you know this on-site event is going to continue to grow each year – so put this back on your genealogy bucket list. Every genealogist should attend at least once in their lifetime!
Despite the large crowds, very few masks, and lots of hugs, conversations, and mass transit (planes, trains, & automobiles) – no one in my party came home sick – nor have I heard of any widespread illness during, nor upon our return. In 2020, it feels like we all got sick during or after. This is a wonderful sign about our (hopefully) post-Covid existence.
If you plan on coming out next year – the dates have already been set, and one word of planning caution – from what I observed – with both merchandise and the food set-up – this conference has moved to a cashless system.
Be watching for a post-event podcast episode coming soon via BloodRoot as my RootsTech posse gathers once again to chat about our 2023 experience!
If you are in the Louisville/Kentuckiana region – be on the lookout for the Picture It! Workshops to be given again this summer at the NSSAR headquarters. Keep an eye on the events page of library.sar.org for coming announcements.
Thanks to all who attended my sessions and have reached out since – y’all make the work so worth while!
Wishing everyone a safe 2023, and – hopefully – look forward to seeing even more of you in SLC in 2024!
Greetings, one and all! It’s that time of year, again – RootsTech season! The world’s largest family history conference is back this March 2-4, and I’m hoping most of you have already heard about the dual nature of this year’s conference: Approx. 180+ classes in person at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City with a similar number of (different) virtual classes available for FREE, online! Just to be clear, both of these options contain NEW classes – and are different from the thousands of on-demand classes that are currently available at the RootsTech website from the past couple of years. CLICK HERE to go directly to the 2023 session/speaker/exhibitor listings.
Which also means there are two ways to register – in-person – or virtually. The virtual option is FREE for all – but pre-registration is required for either choice.
If you will be in the SLC area, and would like a chance to attend the conference for free, scroll down to the giveaway section!
What’s new this year:
For RootsTech 2023, the theme is Uniting – and we can’t wait to unite once again with our fellow genealogists, family historians, colleagues, vendors, friends, etc. Some really great keynote speakers are being announced as we get closer to the conference, so keep an eye out for additional announcements as March approaches.
Picture It: Photo Identification and Preservation Workshop @ the FS Library, Thursday, March 2 • 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Picture It: Photo Identification and Preservation Workshop @ the FS Library, Friday, March 3 • 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Listen Up! Podcasting Your Family History, Friday, March 3 • 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
FAN of the Enslaved: A Forensic Look at Two Family’s Journeys to Freedom, Friday, March 3 • 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Navigating Racial Challenges in DNA Connections, Saturday, March 4 • 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM (Livestream – Online/Virtual)
Avoiding Ancestor Identity Theft: How to Add the Right People to Your Tree, Saturday, March 4 • 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
BTW, if you caught that one of my sessions has a seemingly duplicate entry – that’s because I am giving this very special workshop twice at the Family Search Library (formerly the FHL)! This 2 hour hands-on workshop is co-sponsored by the the FSL and the SAR Genealogical Research Library!
Here is a description of the Picture It workshops: Have you ever wanted to fully understand the difference between daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and more? This intensive two hour workshop will take a deep dive into the various historic photograph formats that we encounter as family historians – followed by instructions on how to properly handle and preserve them based on format and access needs. Attendees will get a hands on experience as they receive their own pair of gloves to keep as each type of photograph is passed around the room. We will closely examine what each format looks like and feels like in person, sometimes using magnifying glasses to see the processing elements that signal type and production markers. During the preservation phase of the class, attendees will be introduced to the various types of enclosures and tools necessary to preserve their collection. At the end of the class, each attendee will also receive a few enclosure samples to take home. Free class, sponsored by the Family History Library and the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Genealogical Research Library. Class limited to 40 attendees.
These off-site workshops held at the FSL is a new concept for RootsTech – so pay close attention to the session descriptions to find additional off-site workshops! And just a reminder that these two workshops are limited to 40 attendees each. Once you register for the conference, you will be able to add them to your schedule which should create a count for those keeping track.
We are all so excited to get back together in person – but equally as happy to know that the virtual RootsTech party is still going strong! And don’t forget all of those on-demand sessions still available at the RootsTech site right now!
Now for the Giveaway!
As a RootsTech influencer, I am tasked with giving away one free on-site registration to the 2023 conference – a $98 value*! This includes full access to all three days of the conference – featuring 180+ sessions, expo hall, keynote sessions, and main stage fun! You must enter by January 30th – and the winner will be announced on January 31st.
Here’s how to enter – just comment below to give me the name of your favorite ancestor. You may also comment on my Twitter or Instagram posts if you prefer. Only one entry per person, please.
Now – what are you waiting for?
*Note: This contest for on-site registration only and does not include any travel monies for arrival/attendance. The virtual conference is free for all.
Did you hear that RootsTech – the world’s largest family history conference and year-long learning platform is going virtual and FREE once again for 2022?! That’s right, the team at RootsTech is doing it all over again, promising an even richer buffet of genealogy goodness! This year’s virtual event takes place March 3rd through the 5th and registration is now open – just visit RootsTech.org.
With thousands of classes, inspiring speakers, meaningful activities and joyful connections, RootsTech brings the human family together like no other event. Get ready to celebrate shared connections with people from around the world. Connect with friends, your family, your past, your heritage and homelands—all from the comfort of your home and in your browser.
As an online experience, attendees will be able to choose from thousands of classes from around the globe and in multiple languages. Gee, that sounds like a lot of classes to take in during a three day window! Well, have no fear, there is NO schedule for the regular sessions – these have all been pre-recorded and placed online for you to consume at your leisure. Think GenFlix for us genealogy junkies! After the conference is over, you will have access to the full selection of sessions for the rest of the year, plus many from 2021.
Beyond these dynamic classes, there will be inspirational keynote speakers, cultural activities, contests, virtual meet-ups, and a virtual marketplace. The keynote sessions ARE scheduled, for the main page – but if you miss one, they are recorded for you to enjoy later. For 2022, you will hear inspiring stories from: Matthew Modine, Thais Pacholek, Molly Yeh, Azumah Nelson, Diego Torres, Maysoon Zayid, and Apollonia Poilâne ! This is such an exciting lineup – and all for free – astounding!
“See” you There!
Oh, and one last thing, I’ll be seeing you there as a speaker and influencer, so I apologize in advance that my social media feeds will be taken over during the conference. For more information about my speaking sessions, just search for my name once the conference goes live on the 3rd, or see my Speaking page at genealogyliteracy.com/services.
For the best conference experience, consider signing up for a free familysearch.org account before heading over to the registration portal. What are you waiting for? Sign up now and let’s get connecting!
BTW, Special thanks to fellow speaker, Dr. Penny Walters for the great keynote graphic!
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!
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!