RootsTech 2014 recently concluded, with nearly 13,000 people in total attendance (compared to 8,320 in 2013)! For Innovator Summit, a preconference forum directed at developers of family history-related technologies and applications, more than twice as many people attended this year than last year (250 rather than 120).
RootsTech 2014 attendees came from 49 states (South Dakota was missing, in case you were wondering) and 32 countries. There were 4,000 youth plus adult leaders at Saturday’s Family Discovery Day, over 10,000 more who followed select sessions streamed online, and an additional 130,000 people who are expected to participate in related local family history fairs in the months ahead. From almost every perspective, the phenomenon that is RootsTech was a success.
With that said, more people need to get acquainted with the growing offering of activities and opportunities in family history. Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, talked about “the dash,” that little line between the date of birth and the date of death on a person’s tombstone or genealogical record. He described how traditionally genealogy tends to focus on names, dates, and places in a family tree. However, the expanding interest in family history today, where the vast majority of people are drawn into their ancestors’ lives, focuses on the countless stories represented by the dash. The stories and photos make up the lives of individual ancestors. These details make our ancestors real, near, and dear to us. And those stories and photos are making family history interesting to growing numbers of people.
A popular line-up of keynote speakers over four days all added their own twist and insight to the value of preserving and sharing living and past family history through stories and photos. Todd Hansen of BYUtv’s Story Trek and Stephanie Nielson, a New York Times bestselling author and mom, proved how interesting and compelling individual stories are. Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman, illustrated how wonderful telling your own story can be, urging participants, “Tell your stories, no matter what they are.”
Judy Russell, a genealogist with a law degree, explained the long-range importance of accuracy and how to ensure it, using examples of personal family history stories with surprising accuracies and inaccuracies. Dr. Spencer Wells described the perspective of the National Geographic Genographic Project as millions of DNA samples are marking the migration trails followed by various civilizations.
Class sessions provided a range of information from general to technical, for beginner to advanced genealogist, and for those more interested in their living family history. There were ideas for making gifts out of family history photos and instructions for photo restoration. There were classes for family history consultants and for mobile app developers. One could learn about preserving oral genealogies in Sub-Saharan Africa or how to share or preserve personal history on social media.
In the middle of that information avalanche, there were first-class exhibits from major companies such as Ancestry.com, findmypast, and MyHeritage, as well as relative newcomers Family Storytelling and myrelatives.com. There were also exhibits by companies focusing on specific applications and products to provide ways to take full advantage of family history and genealogy. Participants could stop by the FamilySearch booth to upload family photos, scan a book, record a message for the future, or simply search in their family tree. FamilySearch also announced its latest initiative—to digitally preserve and make searchable online hundreds of millions of obituaries from around the world, starting in North America. It declared 2014 “The Year of the Obituary!”
At Dell’s Cyber Café, participants could check their email, recharge their computer, or recharge themselves with free sodas. The Media Hub offered video recording sessions for official bloggers to interview key presenters.
That’s just a slight brush of the highlights of RootsTech 2014. At RootsTech.org, you can watch online for free the keynote presentations and over 15 recorded sessions from RootsTech 2014. LDS-specific content can also be viewed at LDS.org/rootstech.
Don’t miss RootsTech in 2015. Mark your calendars for February 12–14, 2015, and come join us. Next year will be bigger and better and will no doubt feature the latest and greatest family history ideas and trends.
The conference crowd at RootsTech 2014
Ree Drummond shares some of her family stories on her
blog and with conference attendees.
The Saturday youth activity day drew thousands of young
teens who wanted to learn about their ancestors.
Annelies van den Belt, Chief Executive Officer of findmypast
addresses attendees at the opening keynote.
Stephanie Nielsen is interviewed by Darrin Adams in the media hub.
Jim Greene teaches capacity classes about new FamilySearch
Captain Jack Starling assures Dennis Brimhall that dead men tell no
tales . . . but their obituaries do.
Darin Adams interviews opening keynote speaker Judy Russell
on the trade show floor.
FamilySearch expert Robert Kehrer offers free feature demos.