The Expo Hall at RootsTech

The Expo Hall was huge! I am still not sure I covered the entire breadth of it during the conference. As an Ambassador we got to go into the Expo Hall for a tour before the Keynote Sessions on Thursday. The Expo Hall was still under construction and they only had a few hours left but when 10 o’clock rolled around they were ready to open!



It was nice to see the Expo Hall before the people arrived. It allowed for an uninterrupted view of the space. We didn’t get to spend long but were able to take some pictures. There were some lovely displays.



The Sponsors were all front and centre. You had Ancestry, Findmypast, MyHeritage and of course FamilySearch. FamilySearch had booths throughout the Expo Hall. The front booths were the ones that had seating and talks about using the websites. They were always busy. Ancestry had a big sale on DNA kits and you saw a lot of folks wandering around with large bags filled with kits. I would think there are a lot of requests going out right now to family members to take a test. Mine have done theirs and I have received notification that they have been received by Ancestry. Now we wait. Cue the Final Jeopardy theme.




FamilySearch had different booths around the Expo Hall. A unique one was the “We Hear You” booth. There was a car and you got into it and recorded a story or whatever you wanted. The theme was “the best conversations happen in the car.” It was a unique way to get people to share information.












Call My Relative was another FamilySearch booth. Here you could record a quick conversation with a loved one. I never found out if it was for anywhere in the world but you went into a green call box to make the call.



Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems booth was all set up and ready for the demos. You didn’t have to be an attendee as Lisa streamed most of them live via Periscope. You can watch some of them on her website.



The Demo Theatre is a great place to sit down and rest your feet while learning something new. Even better if you could get one of the comfy seats. There were a wide variety of speakers promoting their products during the conference.



They brought a little bit of the Antiques Roadshow to RootsTech. You could bring a family heirloom or photo and have an expert look at it.



This was a wonderful display set up by Kindex the winner of the People’s Choice in the Innovators Showdown. Rescue your records!



There were small and large booths around the expo hall.


This was the display for Pictures & Stories Inc. They will help you create a book of your life. It made me think of the big red book they used on the television show This is Your Life. This was a stop for many photographs and selfies.



The world’s largest genealogy chart was on display and attracted a lot of attention. It was in an area where you could have your genealogy chart printed off.


The Expo Hall was usually busy. You had to pick your times to speak to vendors. Family Discovery Day, Saturday, was the busiest.



I am not sure I made it all the way around the Expo Hall but I did meet a lot of vendors and learned something new so that is a good thing. The Expo Hall is something you need to go around several times a day to make sure you have covered it. I would take different turns out of the media hub to make sure I covered as much as I could. The Innovator Alley was interesting as all the entrants had booths where they were explaining their ideas. While in this area I also found WordPress which is a format a lot of bloggers use, me included, and it was nice to get the chance to talk to someone about the software.



The Expo Hall is something I plan out every time I have gone to RootsTech or any conference for that matter. I go through the RootsTech app and read the vendor descriptions. I star the familiar ones I want to visit first. Then I go back and learn more about the other vendors and choose the ones I want to visit. It was fun and everyone was having a good time.


© 2017 Blair Archival Research – All Rights Reserved

My Adventures at RootsTech – The Final Hurrah



The last day of RootsTech is always a busy one because of Family Discovery Day and it is also sad because it is almost over. The Keynote Speakers today were CeCe Moore and Buddy Valastro aka “The Cake Boss.”


Before each of the Keynote sessions started Jason Hewlett would come on stage to warm up the audience. He was fantastic and so much fun. Music and laughter woke up the audience who had to be ready for the opening cheer. On Saturday he introduced us to the Genea-gecko. I guess every living thing has an interest in where they came from.



Ancestry started the session with an announcement about how AncestryDNA will be going beyond ethnicity to find community. They are going to use the information from DNA to try and create communities and see where the people may have originated. They will add historic and political information to explain why there may have been mass migration in recent times.



CeCe Moore was next and she didn’t disappoint. If you have never heard CeCe speak then check out her session on the RootsTech Saturday Sessions page. She talked about how our genealogy is coming alive through DNA and how our experience and those of our ancestors will always be found in our DNA. My main take away was that now people are starting their family history journey by doing a DNA test and then following the paper trail. This is a reversal of how it used to be done.

Did you ever set foot in a country and feel like you were home? CeCe said that there is a connection between a biological relative and an ancestral location. She believes that DNA passes down genetic memories of places, personal choices and creative ideas. She spoke of how DNA has brought forgiveness and healing to families. It is important to know the roots your family installed in you to make you who you are today. Looking ahead in DNA CeCe believes that in 10 years we will be able to reverse engineer our ancestors DNA. We will be able to see what they looked like.




Up next was Buddy Valastro and he spoke about the ancestral journeys of his family, how they arrived from Italy, went back and then came back to America. He talked about how the family dinner table was a time to share your day and family stories. I remember this as part of my childhood but it seems to be disappearing in today’s busy world.


Buddy also spoke on one of the themes of RootsTech and that was family food traditions. Passing on family recipes is an important part of our family history.  He has never forgotten where he came from and that has helped him build his business and raise his family.


Partial line up to view the Cake Competition entries


Buddy Valastro had an extra job at RootsTech as he was a judge for the Cake Competition. There were four categories: Wedding, Birthday, Holiday and Graduation. There were three finalists and one grand prize in each category. There was also a People’s Choice. The Deseret News has an article about the winners.


The lab I attended today was “Create Genealogy Videos and Images Quickly for Free with Spark.” I have had this app on my iPad for a while but didn’t know how to use it so this helped me focus and now I am looking to create my first video. Maybe I will do it with photos from RootsTech and post it online? Shannon Combs-Bennett was the lecturer and she had people in the room to help if we got stuck. Again this hands on lab helped me get comfortable with a new program and that is always a good thing.



Family Discovery Day is a very busy day at RootsTech. There are special events and sessions on for the Members of the LDS Church and it is fun to watch the children enjoying family history. Some were on a treasure hunt and wanted pictures with some of us who had long ribbons on our badges. We were all busy collection them from each other and vendors during the conference. One person was unbeatable. Still some of us had to start adding them down the side or going so long then starting again at the top behind the first row. Here is a shot of mine. I couldn’t get it all in the picture.


You can view the Saturday live streaming on the RootsTech website.

© 2017 Blair Archival Research – All Rights Reserved

My Adventures at RootsTech – The Midway Point


Friday was another early start. Friday was the very first African American Day at RootsTech. The Keynotes started off with an announcement from Findmypast. They have updated the US Marriage Collection. It is the largest collection of US marriages ever published. There are nearly 70 million records available online.



Findmypast have partnered with Twile who have created a family history infographic. All you have to do is upload your gedcom to the Twile website. It is free.



The last announcement from Findmypast was the Catholic Heritage Archive. They are digitizing the records from the Archdioceses of New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. There will eventually be Catholic records from Ireland included in this database.



The Keynote speaker today was LeVar Burton and everyone wanted to hear him speak. We weren’t disappointed. His keynote was eloquent and emotional. He had the audience in tears. You could feel the power of his passion in the room. His Mother was a huge influence in his life and when FamilySearch presented him with his Mother’s family history he was visibly moved.




The Ambassadors has an opportunity to interview him but his keynote will not be available online due to contract restrictions.

The Innovators Showdown Finals were held right after the General Session on Friday. The winner was OldNews USA. Second place went to QromaTag and third place went to Canada’s own Double Match Triangulator. The People’s Choice was Kindex.

The lecture I attended today was “Go Paperless: Digitize & Streamline Your Research” with Janine Adams and Brooks Duncan. Janine Adams writes the Organize Your Family History blog and Brooks Duncan is from British Columbia and dealt with the technical side. It was a very interesting lecture and I am starting to get things in place to get some of my family history digitized. I will not go completely paperless as I like to be able to touch and read documents. I have difficulty reading some digitized documents.


In the Evening it was the Culture Celebration: Celebrate Your Heritage in the Expo Hall. It was open to 7 pm and the place was filled with music from many different countries around the world. I went to the Genealogy Gems booth and watched Journaling and Scrapbooking with Amie Tennant. Got some great tips from this one. You can watch some of the demo hall lectures on the Genealogy Gems Podcast Facebook page.


Friday night was the MyHeritage After Party and I had heard great things from people who had attended last year. It did not disappoint. This party was a lot of fun. They had games to play in order to win tickets for the door prizes. Things like bouncing pencils into cups and using a straw to pile up bolts one of top of the other just to name a few. Some of these were really hard and after a few tries they gave you a ticket for trying. If you did it you got extra tickets. There was karaoke and they had some wonderful mock cocktails. There was a picture booth where we could have a little fun with props and when we were leaving they gave us a neck cushion for the plane ride home.

I spent most of Thursday and Friday walking around the Expo Hall. I knew that there were a lot of attendees expected for Family Discovery Day and that the Expo Hall would be busy. I was able to wander and talk to vendors about their products and ask questions. I will talk about the Expo Hall in another post.

Friday Live Streaming Sessions

© 2017 Blair Archival Research – All Rights Reserved

My Adventures at RootsTech – The Kick-off – Innovator Summit


Wednesday was the Innovator Summit. This was the technological side of the conference. The Keynote Speaker was Liz Wiseman and she was a fantastic speaker. She was inspirational. The main takeaway from her keynote was “a rookie moment.” A rookie moment is a time when you are doing something brand new and have no experience with the project. You take baby steps and ask lots of questions so your knowledge base grows and you gain your experience. Is there a job/project where you didn’t know what you were doing but you jumped in anyway and succeeded? Liz had us share a rookie moment with the person beside us. The person beside me was a chap from Vancouver BC who was there to do research on an idea he has for a future Innovator Summit.

Liz Wiseman provided questions to answer to help us focus on those moments. Rookie moments provide a feeling of discomfort in us which is a catalyst to help us grow. She encouraged us to throw away our notes and to ask naïve questions. Ask the questions of a toddler – Why? How? Who says? We need to surf with the amateurs and learn something new.


You can watch Liz Wiseman’s keynote on the RootsTech website.


The next session was Innovation and Industry Trends. This was the expert panel discussion. The panel consisted of Ben Bennett; Craig Bott, Grow Utah; Heather Holmes, TapGenes; Nick Jones, JRNL, Inc; Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch.



The principles to keep in mind are: differentiate; build products that people want; don’t reinvent the wheel; and sharing is caring.


TapGenes, last year’s winner of the Innovator Showdown, have a new app called Genivity which connects health and health care costs. It helps people balance both issues.



Robert Kehrer from FamilySearch said that there will be a greater need for indexers in the future. New items that are coming are fuzzy search advancements and process innovation.



Next it was the Innovator Showdown semi-finals. The semi-finalists were: JoyFlips a photo archiver for your devices; Cuzins app; Crowd Sourced Indexing – CSI a transcription project management tools for societies and user groups; Kindex which gathers records into a single digital archives where you can transcribe, tag records and eventually share it; Roots Finder app which makes it easy to share and expand your family history with other family members; Champollion 2.0 manages archival or ancient documents; Emberall is a mobile app that will help you record, organize, store and share life stories; Canada’s own Double Match Triangulator which combines two different chromosome browser results to give you the Double Match Triangulator information; QuormaTag allows you to add a date, location and people that are found in a digital picture; OldNews USA uses the Library of Congress Chronicling America collection. It create suggestions on where you may find some information. When you view the page the search term is highlighted. The app automatically zooms into the next match. It seemed like the judges had a hard decision to make.


The next session I attended was a panel discussion entitled: How will DNA Continue to Disrupt Our Industry? The panel were CeCe Moore, Angie Bush, and Dr. Scott Woodward. Now people go straight to DNA before doing the paper research. DNA tells us things the paper trail can’t. DNA can help those who do not have access to their genealogy. Everyone will find an end to the paper trail but the DNA trail will go on. There is still a huge demand and need for DNA educational resources. We have been carrying the DNA markers from our family tree for 1000 years. The more people you have triangulating a common ancestor the better. Ideally what we want to do is map out the chromosomes of the DNA matches and be told exactly who the common ancestor is but we are not able to do that – yet!


My last session of the day was: Organizing your Genealogy Files and Correspondence with Drew Smith. The room filled up quickly and he started the presentation but five minutes into it they found a larger room and we moved there to finish up the session. Design your own systems for organizing but there are some basic principles. The main one is to keep it simple. Paper, computer files, binders or a combination of any of them – it is up to you. When organizing your binder organize by first name then chronologically. Once you decide on your filing system it will still continue to evolve and change.



Wednesday night was the RootsTech Welcome Party. It was great fun and the finalists of the Innovator Showdown were announced. They were: Champollion 2.0; Double Match Triangulator; Emberall; Kindex; OldNews USA.


You can view Wednesday live streaming on the RootsTech website.

© 2017 Blair Archival Research – All Rights Reserved

My Adventures at RootsTech – The Preamble

Whew! RootsTech was a whirlwind! I was attending RootsTech not only as an attendee but for the first time I had the great pleasure of being a RootsTech Ambassador.

There was a great group of Canadians attending RootsTech this year. I know there were some I didn’t get to meet in person but I was following them on social media.



I arrived on Sunday evening which provided a fairly slow start to a very busy week. Monday and Tuesday was spent visiting the Family History Library. I had a research plan so knew exactly what I was looking for which helped me focus. Each item was completed in my plan but I didn’t find everything I was hoping to which can happen when doing research.
Monday night was the British Commonwealth dinner. We met at the Blue Lemon and it was a very large group of people from around the world. Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada and other countries were represented. It was a great time.


Commonwealth Bloggers Dinner


Tuesday at lunch we met at the Blue Lemon again but this time it was for Geneabloggers and DearMYRTLE was our hostess. This was another large group and we had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.



Tuesday afternoon was a tour of the Discovery Center at the Family History Library. This is a wonderful interactive family history center. You are given a tablet to take with you and attach each discovery station. You signed in with your FamilySearch account or with your name and email. I used my name and email. There were places where you took pictures in the fashion of your ancestors but you didn’t have to dress up, you stood in front of a screen chose your style of dress and hit the button to take a picture. It was a little difficult to use your hands to touch the screen button but you soon got the idea. There was a section where you went into a sound proof booth to record an interview. It was just you and they had larger rooms for couples and families. They provided questions or you could do it free style.



Other options were taking a picture in the homeland of your ancestors, putting in an ancestors name and year of birth and being shown a timeline for their life.  Since I had provided my email I presumed that I would receive the interview and pictures from the Discovery Center but that didn’t happen. Those that signed in with their FamilySearch account did receive the creations of their visit. I had a great time at the Discovery Center and would recommend a visit. Just remember to sign in with your FamilySearch account.



Tuesday night was the RootsTech Media Dinner for the Ambassadors. This is where I got to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I decided I was going to make sure I sat at a table where I didn’t know anyone. I met Nicole Dyer and Diana Elder. My other dinner companion was Marie Cappart who is a genealogist from Belgium. There was a large group of FamilySearch people who were instrumental in organizing RootsTech. Thank you for all your hard work.


© 2017 Blair Archival Research – All Rights Reserved

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