Friday, February 5, 2016
At the Friday keynote session, RootsTech attendees were greeted with some exciting news. First, onsite registration surpassed 26,000. Second, those in attendance were from all 50 states and more than 35 countries. Finally, Thursday night’s Freedmen’s Bureau index-a-thon exceeded its goal. The goal was to index 900 batches in 90 minutes; the result was that participants indexed and arbitrated over 1860 batches! Indexers onsite and virtually participated. As Steve Rockwood said in his opening remarks, “we come to RootsTech to DO family history!” What a great example and contribution Thursday night’s index-a-thon was of this declaration. It speaks volumes :)
One aspect of RootsTech that I love is the live streaming that allows anyone with an internet connection to be included throughout the majority of the conference. The RootsTech theme is “celebrating families across generations.” It also connects time zones and distance through this technology and it is offered free of charge.
Our cousin A.J. Jacobs returned to the stage this year to report on the Global Family Reunion held on June 6, 2015. He affirmed that Sister Sledge had it right, “we are family.” DNA has helped him discover hundreds of cousins, including his wife. He admits that she is a distant cousin and assures us that their children are all okay. He said that although some cousins had previous commitments, 3700 attended the Global Family Reunion in New York with 40 simultaneous satellite reunions around the world totaling 10,000 more cousins in attendance. The event broke several world records, including biggest worldwide family reunion. One of the purposes of this event is to garner interest in family history. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, People magazine & Good Morning America provided coverage and the reunion will be featured on the season finale of Finding Your Roots. Jacobs announced another family reunion in 2017 so you might want to keep your 2017 summer calendar free from other commitments until the date is set. He closed by saying he believes that “we are all related, and it’s not us vs. them. It’s just us; there is no them. We’re in this together.”
Jacobs then introduced Josh and Naomi Davis, fellow New Yorkers who author the blog Love Taza. As a couple, they took center stage to share their journey of blogging as newlyweds to blogging as the parents of 3 children. They now have over a million people throughout the world interested in their family adventure. Recently returning from Australia, they admit that theirs is an ordinary life. Besides photography, Naomi likes to capture moments with her children by recording “-isms.” She calls them “Eleanorisms” and “Samsonisms” after their authors. One example Naomi shared was when their daughter Eleanor was “looking at [her] pregnant tummy and asked, “[s]o, is the baby just swimming around in there? … Is she wearing a swimsuit?”
As we heard throughout the conference, Josh and Naomi reiterated that “everyone in this room has a story!” and encouraged all of us to “become a part of a global community of storytellers” because “it’s not a story if it’s not told.”
This was the perfect transition to the next speaker, David Isay, founder of StoryCorps. StoryCorps was founded in 2003 when a recording booth was established in Grand Central Terminal. The premise is that a person brings someone that they want to honor to the booth and he or she then has the opportunity to record a 40 minute interview. StoryCorps provides a facilitator and, if desired, a list of questions. After the interview concludes, one copy of the interview goes to the Library of Congress and another copy is given to those who interviewed.
Isay played for those in attendance a number of excerpts of these stories. In my opinion, no one can tell their story better than themselves so, if you’d like to hear these stories, watch the RootsTech keynote address below or listen to a number of examples on the StoryCorps website. StoryCorps expanded its reach by having mobile units that are dispatched throughout the United States. Schedules fill up quickly. Most recently, StoryCorps released an app that allows an individual to record his or her story and send it directly to the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress where it will be archived. [Note: the StoryCorps app requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. It is also available for Android on Google Play.]
David Isay closed with a quote from Mary Lou Kownackiz, a Philadelphia nun who said, “it’s impossible not to love someone whose story you’ve heard.” He went on to quote Mother Teresa saying, “we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” He thanked the RootsTech audience for asking the important questions, for honoring our families, and for listening.
After David Isay’s address, it was time for the Innovator Showdown where 6 finalists competed for $100,000 in cash and prizes. TapGenes took 1st place, followed by STUDIO, and Twile. Twile was also the recipient of the People’s Choice Award.
Although I planned to attend a number of sessions, my schedule permitted only one. It was a panel discussion on ethical dilemmas in the genealogy community. Copyright, plagiarism, compensation, and other issues were addressed. To summarize the wisdom of the panel: if it’s a violation of law or of a moral conscience, don’t do it; if it’s considerate of another, such as reimbursing a volunteer for out-of-pocket expenses incurred on one’s behalf, do it.
One final thought: at the end of a RootsTech day, there is a choice between the opportunity to network at the evening events or sleep. The choice is always yours, even if you have a looming deadline.
[Today’s title consists of the Twitter handles of Friday’s keynote speakers or their organizations.]
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