Catching up – RootsTech

It has been a long time since I did any real blogging. There has been a lot going on but things are finally getting back to normal. Not blogging does not mean I haven’t been doing all things genealogy! So I’m going to start with my first genealogy adventure this year and then blog about the rest later.

This year I got to tick something off my genealogy bucket list by going to RootsTech for the first time. This was very exciting and was done last minute although my very clever friend had booked a hotel room a year in advance just in case. I had attended through live streaming and reading blog posts but this year I was there in person.


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Travelling in February can be iffy but thankfully the weather gods gave us good travelling weather. Salt Lake City is beautiful and they were having a warmer and dryer winter than usual so this meant that I was in my spring clothes even though it was -25C at home. It could be sacrilege to say this as a Canadian but it was better than Florida in February!


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This was a joint conference with RootsTech and FGS and we had signed up for both conferences. We went to register and the line ups were not bad. There were a few glitches with our registration but that was soon sorted out. As we were wandering the halls of the Salt Palace Convention Center to familiarize ourselves with the layout we ran into some friends and did a little catching up.


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Tuesday night we had a Commonwealth Bloggers dinner that was set up by Jill Ball from Australia. She is a regular at RootsTech and an Official Blogger. We had people there from Australia, England, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand and Canada. We even had a honourary Commonwealth attendee from the States. It was so much fun to meet all the people behind the blogs I have been reading for so long. The chat and company was great fun. There was about 18 of us and we managed to chat with almost everyone.


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Wednesday was the first full day of the FGS conference. I went to the opening session and then to the Family History Library for a few hours before meeting up with Nancy for lunch. One of the unfortunate things about signing up late was that we couldn’t get into any of the sponsored lunches. Still there are some great restaurants in the area and we tried them out. Then we went to the afternoon sessions.

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There was an evening social entitled “Behind the Scenes: Family History & Television.” It was a panel discussion and was very interesting. The panelists had worked on: Who Do You Think You Are? (US), Finding Your Roots and Genealogy Roadshow (US).


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Thursday was the first day of RootsTech. It started with a Blogger breakfast event hosted by Findmypast. Josh Taylor and Annelies van den Belt provided information on what was new at Findmypast. I got to meet up with a lot of bloggers that I had met at previous conferences as well as meet new ones. Thanks to DearMyrtle I also got my blogger beads!


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The opening session for RootsTech was next and it featured FamilySearch, My Heritage and the featured speaker was Tan Le. Tan Le was a wonderful speaker and had the audience in tears. She spoke of her family’s escape from Vietnam to Australia and their life in Australia.

Then it was time for the lectures and touring the Expo Hall. I attended: Organization for the Genealogist; Basic Genetic Genealogy; Reopen Your Genealogy Cold Case; Dirty Family Photos and Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy. The last one was live streamed. I am fairly new to genetic genealogy and the Getting Started lecture was very easy to understand.


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In between the lectures and wandering the Expo Hall I would stop by the Demo Theatre where demos were presented every 20 minutes. There were big comfy leather couches and they gave out draw tickets and chocolate before each presentation. It was a great place to go if your feet were giving out. I learned a lot from the Demo Theatre and when I attended Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Google Toolbox Update I won her recently updated book of the same name! Wonderful addition to my genealogy library!

Other Demos and Expo Hall presentations I attended were: Heirloom Roadshow; Your Perfect Photo Organizing Practices; Ten Steps to Complete a Life Story; Preserve Family Photos; Preserve Family Photos on a Budget and Basic Genetic Genealogy. These were the ones I marked in the RootsTech app to watch but I ended up watching many more.

I loved the RootsTech app. It was on my iPad and had my schedule and handouts on it so I could check things very quickly. I had connected with friends so we could arrange times to meet and if one lecture was full I could quickly see if there was another I was interested in attending. There were maps in case I got lost. The map of the Expo Hall was great because I could find the vendors I wanted to visit. The internet wasn’t needed to view the app which was good since it was hard to get on the internet at the convention centre.

On Friday the opening session keynotes were Josh Taylor and  Laura and Jenna Bush. Their stories were fun and interesting. The mother daughter dynamic worked very well on stage. It was easy and relaxed. Although I have never seen so much security at a genealogy conference.

The lectures on this day included Lost Cousins Down Under which I attended because I wanted to hear Jill Ball speak plus I have Aussie connections. She did not disappoint. Other lectures included Using Online Radio as a Platform to Encourage Interest and Participation in Genealogy and Lesser Known Sources for Birth, Marriage and Death in the British Isles.


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The day ended with Culture Night in the Expo Hall. It was called: Culture Night: Celebrate Your Heritage. They had performers from many different countries and people in period and cultural dress walking around the Expo Hall. The Pipe and Drum band spoke to me because my Dad used to play the pipes when I was little and belonged to a Pipe and Drum band. I will admit it I love the bagpipes!


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Saturday was the last day of the conference and it felt like a very early start for the opening session but I wasn’t going to miss this one because the featured speaker was Donny Osmond. Donny shared his family stories and his family history journey. A.J. Jacobs was speaking about the Global Family Reunion that took place the first weekend of June in New York.


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There were thousands of people there on Saturday. RootsTech broke a record for the largest conference attendance around 20,000. It made it difficult to get around and I couldn’t get into two lectures despite being there half an hour before they started. Unfortunately neither of them were being lived streamed or audio recorded. I wanted to attend: Using Microsoft Word for Writing Family History and Microsoft Excel A Little Known Genealogy Tool but was not able to get in. The ones I did attend were Treasures in the Attic: Digitize & Preserve and The War Memorial Reconstructing a Community.

I am glad I went to RootsTech. I have always wanted to go. Conferences are a great way to learn new things, meet new people and network. You never know you might even meet a cousin!

©2015 – Blair Archival Research