Family Discovery Day at Roots Tech 2015

In addition to being the last day of Roots Tech in Salt Lake City, and Valentine’s Day, Feb 14th was also Family Discovery Day. What a phenomenal day it was! The weather was beautiful, and thousands of people turned out to participate in classes, workshops, entertainment, games and celebrity hobnobbing!

My fulfilling focus of the day was meeting and adoring a new family member. He was anxious to participate in the festivities from whatever angle possible.

Roots Tech baby

Roots Tech baby

Although Discovery Day was a free event, registration was required, so crowd control could be managed. We were given a special packet at registration, which included a map of the Salt Palace Convention Center, an agenda, a list of activities going on, and several copies of the My Family booklet to record your pedigree with the first couple of generations and get you started in Family History research.

Family Discovery Day knapsack

Discovery Day knapsack packet

The Family Discovery Day classes and activities were pure genius, as chosen for this group. Classes addressed those with leadership roles, youth involvement, finding missing people in your pedigree, making better use of programs and resources readily available. In the Expo Hall, special game areas were roped off and the Family Search booth included stations with open terminals for experimentation in several steps of goal accomplishment. A few very large screens at one end of the booth were equipped with some program features of the Discovery Center model, enabling viewers to pull up animated story lines about themselves and their family origins. Lots of free and reasonably priced refreshments were available in the Expo Hall.

Classes in the ballroom corridor were jam-packed to the point that a few of the most popular ones were re-situated in overflow rooms with delayed-release recorded video of the instructors presented on screens that were quickly hoisted into action. The corridor opened up into a huge lobby that was crammed to capacity with autograph-seekers of on-site celebrities: the cast of Studio C television show and David Archuleta, to name a few.

Keynote addresses from popular Al Fox Caraway and Olympian Noelle Picus-Pace, were in the huge Hall D. At the end of Picus-Pace’s presentation, her cute husband of one year presented her with roses on-stage for their Valentine’s Day anniversary. All together now: “Awwwww…” LDS Church leader Neil L Anderson presented a new challenge, similar to 2014’s goal of “Find” names of ancestors, with an added “Teach” for 2015. The focus this year is to gain proficiency in family history work, and then help someone else get started as well. As many shared experiences in this conference attest, young people love discovering things about their ancestors.

Neil L Anderson

Neil L Anderson #rootstech
Find, Take, Teach

Now that Roots Tech is over, those who monitor the Family Search toll-free number for calls, chats, and email questions are swamped with communications, so it’s obvious to conclude that the symposium was a great success, inspiring many to up their involvement in family history research.

The closing session was possibly the biggest event of Discovery Day, featuring LDS dignitaries and mega-star David Archuleta. I wasn’t on hand to attend that session, but the excitement and thrills of rubbing shoulders with him and the other family-centric celebrity guests in the Salt Palace, was all around!

Lovely Day 3 Roots Tech

Saturday was an especially lovely day! It was the last day of Roots Tech 2015, and would you believe that along with the Family Discovery Day crowd, over 20,000 people attended? It was unbelievable!

The keynote event kicked off in the early hours with A J Jacobs, who (I found out) happens to be my cousin (as well as everyone else’s!) Each member of the multitude who attended the session found this placard on their seat:

A J Jacobs

A J Jacobs Global Reunion


Later in the presentation we were asked to hold up our signs so he could take a selfie with all of us cousins! Jacobs is a very funny comedian and family history enthusiast who reminded me a little of Adam Sandler without the vulgarity. His presentation was eye-opening and hilarious, and his focus is currently to invite everyone to a global family reunion June 6, 2015 in New York City. Wow, would I love to participate, especially since all the proceeds from this go to charitable causes benefiting Alzheimer’s.
global family reunion

Global Family Reunion

He had the audience rolling with laughter as he showed segments of his “year of living Biblically” and his interviews with celebrity cousins. He said scientific sources say that our furthest-degree of relatedness to another living person on earth today is 70th cousin.

Next up was the appearance of the legendary Donny Osmond. I’ve never been a fainting, screaming, rabid fan of the Osmonds, but I now have a permanent warm spot in my heart for Donny after listening to his talk Saturday morning. A few choice tidbits about him that I’d never known before: 1) He went on a double date with one of his brothers and ended up stealing his brother’s date. He and that date have now been married for 38 years! 2) Despite the beautiful toothy smiles he and his siblings have made famous, his great grandmother had a scary, grouchy-looking frowny-face! 3) His two oldest brothers are deaf, and after they were born, a doctor advised the parents not to have any more children. 4) Donny is seriously dedicated to family and family history. His talk was funny, fascinating, and full of love. Why not; he is a Soldier of Love! He sang several songs for us, including “Moon River,” theme song for the Andy Williams Show, which gave the Osmond boys their early break into show business.

I didn’t quite get to any of the classes I really wanted to attend Saturday, but I had a wonderful time, overall. I got to participate in some Family Discovery Day hi-jinks and hang out with several cherished people. Thanks to everyone who made this whole experience so sublime!

Day 2 of Roots Tech (with link to sessions!)

Just a little summary of what we did at Roots Tech on the second day, Friday, February 13…
This day’s sponsor: Findmypast.com
Keynote speakers: D. Joshua Taylor (who is Family History Director at Findmypast) and his two co-hosts on Genealogy Roadshow, Kenyatta Berry and Mary Tedesco.
Laura Bush, former First Lady of the United States.

Laura Bush #rootstech

Laura Bush #rootstech 2015


And her daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, who is currently a presenter on NBC’s Today Show and an at-large editor for Southern Living magazine. Fascinating commentary from each of these popular stars in American culture and entertainment had the audience enthralled. Honestly, I came away feeling that Laura Bush, someone who is the closest thing to royalty in the US, and who has been right at the heart of some of the most shock-and-awe historical events of the past few decades, was everyone’s personal friend, neighbor, and down-home confidant. What a fantastic morning; I didn’t want it to end.

But I had to get to class and see what Roots Tech had in store to teach me.

My first class was called Impossible Immigrant, taught by Warren Bittner. It was my favorite class of the entire conference, because it spoke deep down into my heart and soul that Bittner found his seemingly untraceable ancestor from Germany, and therefore, I can hope to find some of mine, too! He presented the class as a case history, which format he tended to like as far as genealogy classes go. I liked it immensely.

Next, we had lunch with some great friends and co-workers from the mission.

We messed around in the Expo Hall, and [my fault entirely] missed the class we wanted to go to next. So we went to another class about Your Digital Afterlife, by John Wylie. By the time it was over, the crowd was growing into a crush outside, and it was a hassle getting anywhere. I heard people muttering “s’like salmon swimming upstream” en route to class more than once! So we skipped the last class of the day and went back to the room, where I hoisted my swollen ankles upward and caught up on some jet-lag induced sleep deprivation. Next on the agenda was the Cultural Event, which was supposedly an hour but we suspected it would be longer, and we were correct! We were treated to performances on the Expo Hall stage from a cowboy band, a Scottish pipe and drum troupe with adorable Highland dancers, and Chinese, Asian, and Polynesian dancers.

Peaches Bill Band at #rootstech

Back in the Saddle Again, with the Pecos Bill Band

Then we walked to the City Creek Mall and had dinner at the Blue Lemon, where we had fresh black bean ravioli, artichoke and tomato chicken, slow-braised short ribs with house-made demi-glace, and our meals were delicious–and so must have been the eventual meals of the hundreds of other diners, who were lined up waiting to get in.

BTW, if you want to view some of the sessions of Roots Tech 2105 that were recorded, you have only to go to the Rootstech.org link and click on the link “Previous Sessions” and then choose from many.

First Day of Roots Tech 2015

Roots Tech 2015

Roots Tech 2015 Kickoff


When I planned for Roots Tech this year, I had a couple of vague objectives in mind. One, I wanted to look for books that might include info on a particular area I’ve been studying, Yates County, New York, in the late 1700’s, early 1800’s. And two. I wanted to get some information on two of the new genealogy web sites I’ve joined in the past year but haven’t had a chance to fully explore. I ended up conquering both these aims and more!

It just so happened that the Thursday Roots Tech was sponsored by My Heritage, one of those web sites I wanted to delve into. The company’s Chief Product Officer, Mike Mallin, spoke, along with Dennis Brimhall, the CEO of Family Search, and Tan Le, a young Australian inventor and founder of Emotive Lifesciences. All three talks were thrilling, but Tan Le definitely stole the show, ending the keynote session with a riveting account of her family’s emigration from Asia in a boat, fleeing a repressive government and dodging modern-day pirates.

Tan Le

Tan Le #rootstech

My first class was presented by Daniel Horowitz, Chief Genealogist for My Heritage. From this entertaining talk, I learned a couple of things about the site that I never knew before. It offers 40 different languages, has features that allow you to invite people to interact in social-media-sort-of ways, and it has facial recognition technology (although he didn’t talk about that in depth). I’m excited to delve into My Heritage, and hook up with some of the renowned world-wide search engines.

Next I went to a class on brick walls in Irish roots research, presented by Rosalind McCutcheon from Irish Genealogical Research Society. She named lots of links and resources. The Roots Tech 2015 phone app made it easy to schedule everything, download the class syllabi, look up your friends who were in attendance, and keep up to date with alerts sent out to remind you to go to your chosen events. The booths in the Expo hall were better than ever! Dell sponsored a free coke vend, and the food choices included all kinds of Mexican, pulled pork on buns, deli sandwiches, and more. The sweet smell of vanilla and cinnamon crusty-glazed Sugar Bear nuts and kettle corn rolled over the convention center airspace in voluptuous waves. I passed the Italian Ice kiosk too late to get one in peach flavor, but the black cherry with vanilla custard gelato was mighty fine. And in the Expo Hall, I found a vendor and bought a book about probate records in New York during the past 350 years (including the above-mentioned Yates County!)

Later we went to a gigantic Family Search consultant class presented by Craig Miller, and learned about some upcoming new features. Family Search is a family history pedigree software platform similar to Ancestry.com, but free and it’s getting better and better all the time. The big difference between it and Ancestry is that Family Search has a global tree, everyone belongs to the same great big family. The last session of the day for me was Google Searching with David W. Smith.

One Voice Choir

One Voice #rootstech Opening Social

Before we knew it the Opening Event was upon us, a concert with the One Voice choir featuring Lexi Walker and Alex Boyé and his band. Check out the You-tube vid of their version of “Let it Go” that has had over 60 million hits.

Later in the concert, Boyé shared some of his family history and stories of his fascinating journey from Africa to London to his current home in Utah. What a fabulous, full day at Roots Tech!

A Sumptuous Prelude to Roots Tech 2015

Roots Tech 2015, the monumental genealogy symposium, is now over and I’m catching my breath to write down some of the highlights! I’ve already filled out their email summaries, giving what I thought were favorites for each day and for the whole event, but they don’t know all the background issues that made it so memorable for me.

First off, to be a Family Search missionary at Roots Tech makes attending a highly charged experience. You get a very substantial discount to register as a missionary, so the price is definitely right. You get invited to some special events the public doesn’t know about: Missionary Appreciation gala Wednesday night preceding the kick-off of the conference. You can have lunch with some of your fellow missionaries, whose names you’re used to seeing on the Skype chats but you may have never met in person. You are in close proximity to venerated LDS landmarks in temple square. You’re gifted with opportunities to chat with other missionaries from all over and share experiences. And there’s also the happenstance that you have relatives who live nearby and who have a brand new baby to meet and greet, for the first time!

Ryan Shupe Band

Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband #rootstech

This very bad snapshot is of the entertainment at Missionary Appreciation Night. Here’s a link if you want to check out the real scope of the band, which included some excellent fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass guitar, drums and guitar.

Salt Lake Conference Center Theater

Venue for Appreciation Night

The Theater was an elegant spot for Appreciation Night. We were treated to some heartwarming words from our leaders, then the Rubberband engaged the audience with a high-energy concert. After the performance, we filed into a vast dining hall for a sumptuous buffet dinner. And then we walked back to our hotel through the magnificent winter scenes of Temple Square.

Temple Square

Temple Square, Salt Lake City #rootstech2015

Roots Tech Simpatico

Goodbye Provo Canyon!

Provo Canyon

Carry on, carry on, carry on!

Back home in Florida, I will flesh out the Roots Tech 2014 blog-a-rama with Day 2, which I haven’t yet written about.

Keynotes blew me away: Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, talked about Scots-Irish ancestors and their propensity for story telling. And the possibilities of searching in places where the chances are slim that you’ll find a gold nugget of info, then you do! I attended her Thursday class on Black Sheep (the one about ancestors who were in prison). Awesome! Dr. Spencer Wells, who does population migration studies for National Geographic, utilizing DNA samples, gave such a fascinating talk that I realized I had to jump on the DNA bandwagon.

A short interview après-speech: does his face look like Sundance might have been on his agenda recently?

ancestry.com DNA test kit

ancestry.com DNA test kit

I went to 2 Mac genealogy classes that day. Crazy, huh? I’m a neophyte Mac user and I took advantage of the chance to learn some arcane Apple tricks to supplement what I do on my PC. The most appealing thing I want to take back from Jimmy Zimmerman’s class is Alfred. Batman has Alfred, everyone needs an Alfred! The other class was by taught by Nancy E. Loe of Sassy Jane Genealogy.com. From that class I learned an easy tip for adding the accent grave in the above après: all you do is hold down the e key for a few seconds, and a pop-up menu with diacritical mark options will show up.

The other class I attended was Cartography for Genealogists by Pamela Weisberger, who also taught the Jewish Roots class. Weisberger showed many great sites and sources, including her Gesher Galicia Map Room and the amazing David Rumsey Collection.

I found a sewing book that is simpatico with this conference.

fashion patterns c. 1900

Historical Costumes

Mastering Genealogical Proof

Dr. Jones’ book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to Dr. Jones’ class Thursday, and was so impressed with his work I snagged a copy of his recent book.

Roots Tech Techie

Temple Square, Salt Lake City view

Greetings from Salt Lake City

Guess what the “object” is here for Weekly Photo challenge? This photo might also be considered for the next day Weekly Photo Challenge theme “Selfie.” Selfie being rather loosely, creatively defined…

I greet you from the tenth floor of the Joseph Smith building on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, with the stunningly beautiful Salt Lake City temple in the background.

I’ve been enjoying Roots Tech 2014, a genealogy conference with 11,000 attendees on site at the Salt Palace Convention Center, and thousands more attending each of the 3 days via webcast. Go to rootstech.org for info if you’d like to tune in to the daily courses that are being streamed live, and for recordings coming up.

So far I’ve seen some terrific presentations and had fun with friends. Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, gave a heart-warming talk at yesterday’s keynote, relating how she got started blogging and how she developed her blog as a tool for doing family history.
Inspiration for all us tiny cogs in the blogiverse-machine! She started as a mom blogging day-to-day events on her farm with her family, and moved up to authoring cook books, children’s books, and starring in her own television show on the Food Network.

At the keynote address, Dennis Brimhall, the CEO of Family Search, gave a rousing speech about future upgrades to the program. Technology is rolling ahead like never before. Another speaker, Anneliese Van den Belt, CEO of findmypast.org, spoke of “happy moments” that drive and fulfill us as we search for our relatives.

ON the agenda: a class on internet genealogy by Tom Jones, author of Mastering Genealogical Proof and lecturer at Boston U; a little exploring Jewish Roots with Pamela Weisberger, program chair for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles; and searching for records of ancestors who may have been in prison, with Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist. All were excellent presentations with much audience participation.

A couple of great receptions. First, a welcome with food and entertainment by Voice Male, a beat-box ensemble. Second night was another beat-boxing group from BYU, Vocal Point.

(this is not what Vocal Point sang for us, but a recent you tube)

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