myFamily History Youth Camp 2016. Photo credit: Annie Merrell
When Diane Laytham went to RootsTech earlier this year, she noticed promotional material for myFamily History Youth Camp to be held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah from July 25-29, 2016. Her mother Roberta Allen Allred, an avid family genealogist, had left to Diane the family history trust fund established by Roberta’s father, Elijah Allen. Diane desired to use the fund to generate interest in family history with the younger generation, so she emailed all of her cousins asking if there were any youth in their families ages 14-18 who would like to attend this camp courtesy of the trust fund. The answer was 13 times “yes” — 9 young men and 4 young women, all descendants of Elijah Allen, but some of whom had never met one another. These young men and young women joined 45 other youth in attending the 2nd Annual myFamily History Youth Camp this year.
Photo credit: Annie Merrell
Youth arrived Monday afternoon and settled into their dorms for a week of full activity! During the welcome party the youth divided into teams, painted team shields, and completed a case study introducing various record groups and the importance of researching an entire family unit. As they analyzed documents they recorded the family’s story on a “massive butcher paper timeline.” This year’s camp director, Annie Merrell commented, “The youth really like being actively engaged with each other. The case study activity really got them involved and helped them to understand how to use historical records to build the family story.”
Timelines provide youth with context as they research their respective families. Photo credit: Annie Merrell
Tuesday began with a combined keynote session with the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, featuring Paul Cardall, an award winning musician. Cardall shared his story about how he and his wife embarked on a spiritual journey searching for his wife’s ancestors, meeting her family members in Slovenia, and sharing his gift of music, first in the local Catholic parish and then, 6 months later, in the local opera house. About the same time Cardall was approached by Elder David A. Bednar of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to compose the music for lyrics he had written. The result of these experiences in Cardall’s life resulted in the song One by One available at lds.org. After this inspirational keynote address, the youth attended instructional classes, workshops and labs that answered the question, “Where do I start?,” including a class on using social media for family history.
Photo credit: Annie Merrell
The youth took off from Provo on Wednesday and traveled to Salt Lake City to participate in a scavenger hunt and family research at the world-renowned Family History Library. Amy Schmuhl, one of the youth participants, reported, “My mom signed me up [for the youth camp], but I’m glad she did. I already found lots of ancestors, and it’s just the second day!” While in the city the youth also had the opportunity to explore their ancestors at the local Discovery Center and visit Temple Square. In the evening youth previewed the movie The Cokeville Miracle in preparation for Thursday’s keynote address by Amy Williams, one of its survivors.
Photo credit: Annie Merrell
After the keynote address on Thursday, participants attended workshops introducing them to small databases; paleography, a skill that is so helpful when indexing and reading old records; the most popular and useful family history sites and apps; and, how to follow their ancestors’ trail on Google Earth. Youth divided into teams to compete in AncestorsGo, an activity that required them to scan a batch of photos, index a batch of names, transcribe 20 headstones on Find-A-Grave, write a letter to a parent or a grandparent, and record a memory on the FamilySearch Memories app in record time. Youth participated in other activities, such as karaoke, bowling, and dances, including one combined with participants attending Especially For Youth. One of the highlights of the camp was an opportunity for the youth to gather and share the success that they experienced in their research during the week with each other.
John Bytheway with the descendants of Elijah Allen, some of whom met for the first time at the myFamily History Youth Camp.
Friday’s keynote was given by the popular youth speaker John Bytheway who encouraged the participants to keep a journal of their experiences because “everybody has a story!” He encouraged youth to use technology as a tool, not a distraction. Bytheway quoted Elder Quentin L. Cook saying, “Much of the heavy lifting and hastening of the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people.” (“Roots and Branches,” General Conference, April 2014.)
Grace Hancock of California said that when she heard that the myFamily History Youth Camp was going to be offered at BYU she “jumped at the chance.” She continued, “I wanted to know more about family history. How to do it and how to get others excited about it.” Suzy Hall from Utah paid for the camp herself! Currently serving as a ward family history consultant, she wanted to learn more about how to do family history. Emily Harmon shared her reason for attending the camp by stating, “In Wyoming, you don’t have opportunities to be surrounded by youth with similar interests.”
myFamily History Youth Camp Counselors 2016. Photo credit: Annie Merrell
When John Best, the program administrator, was asked why BYU hosts the myFamily History Youth Camp, he replied, “To build excitement, knowledge, and needed skills among the youth so they can return home and spread that enthusiasm [for family history].” Of interest, ten percent of the participants from last year’s inaugural camp returned this year! Camp registration was $450, including 4 nights in BYU Campus Housing and meals for each day; the cost was $360, excluding BYU Campus Housing. The 3rd Annual myFamily History Youth Camp will be held July 24-28, 2017 on the Brigham Young University Provo campus.
The 48th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy: An Epilogue
The 48th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy came to a close on Friday, July 29th, 2016. After 4 days of attendance, 3 keynote addresses, 40 sessions offered each day, vendors with their products and services, and visiting with friends, old and new, I must admit I didn’t “catch ‘em all!” Participants came from coast to coast in the United States and from Canada and Italy. Here are some additional highlights.
Paul Cardall spoke of the incredible spiritual journey he and his wife experienced as they searched for and found many of his wife’s ancestors and the joy of finding some of her living relatives residing in Slovenia.
All of this took place in the context of writing a song with Elder David A. Bednar of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled, One by One. The music and lyrics are available at lds.org.
Steve Rockwood was true to form in approaching the plenary session upside down and backwards. He began with a Q&A and ended with an invitation to address any individual questions of global concern about FamilySearch International. In between, he discussed the five experiences that FamilySearch strives to provide those seeking their ancestors: the family tree, searchable records, memories, contextual help, and discovery to create a joyous outcome for families wherever they may live throughout the world.
Paul Milner, MDiv, MSc began his address by expressing appreciation to the hotel that kept a “genealogy” book by the bedside and then began to recite lineages recorded in scripture to the amusement of participants. He then commented, “we remember the stories, don’t we?” He gave an example of a young woman named Elizabeth who didn’t know the story of a small village, whose response upon learning its history exclaimed, “nobody told me; nobody told me!” Paul encouraged those in attendance to write their stories so that their descendants would not be left to say “nobody told me!”
As I mentioned above there were 8 sessions to choose from each hour, culminating in 20 sessions that each participant could attend during the conference week.
Jean Naisbitt taught a couple of beginning genealogy classes and Terry Dahlin shared the treasure trove available at the BYU FHL. Did you know that these two are siblings by marriage?
The DNA Roundtable was an inaugural success!
The majority of vendors spent two days highlighting their products and services. There were a few stationed in the main hallway throughout the week:
ICAPGen with C. Lynn Andersen, AG prepared to answer any questions about the accreditation process
Research Ties with Jill Crandall, AG
BYU Print and Mail
BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy
The Game of Genealogy
Legacy Family Tree
BYU Family History Library
Many presenters and participants enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet each day at the Morris Center located nearby on campus. Thank you to each of the employees that served us so well!
Some of the Morris Center Employees
The Conference Committee
Finally, I would like to thank the conference committee for organizing this year’s conference: Alisse Frandsen, Ann Baxter, Kelly Summers, Suzanne Adams, Jill Crandall, Stephen Young and Michael Provard each representing their respective organizations and the sponsors of this year’s conference: BYU History Department, BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy, FamilySearch, Family History Library, ICAPGen, and BYU Continuing Education.
The 49th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy will be held July 25-July 28, 2017 at Provo, Utah! I hope that you will place these dates on your calendar and plan to attend :-)
A serendipitous encounter with Cosmo!
Although I didn’t catch all that took place at the conference, I must say I was delighted to catch a moment with the mascot of BYU — Cosmo!
Football season is upon us. BYU has a new head coach. It’s a new season — Go Cougars!
Personally, I find football, family and family history a great combination. Is family history going to be part of your game plan this season? For our family, it’s a definite “YES!” Whether or not you attended the conference, it is my hope that you will score many genealogical touchdowns (i.e., family history breakthroughs and/or success stories) this season! Keep me posted :-)
The Final Day of the 48th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy
The keynote addresses are finished, many vendors are gone and this is the final day of the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy being held in Provo, Utah.
Initial registration offered Ward Family History Consultants one day of training at no cost. For those who have pre-registered, today is the day! During the first session, Devin Ashby will present Taking Names to the Temple as a Family, Ward, or Stake. Next, Lisa Ratzlaff will teach consultants how to virtually assist every patron. Merrill White is a popular speaker who will discuss FamilySearch. Other topics include working with individuals and relationships in the FamilySearch Family Tree and getting youth involved in family history. All sessions will be held in Room 2258 and anyone who is registered for the conference may attend.
In addition to the ward family history consultant training, FamilySearch will have its own track. Jim Ericson will give attendees “straight talk about the state of indexing” and Courtney Connolly will teach “6 steps to host a successful indexing event.” As genealogists, where would we be without indexing?
Instruction in British Isles and United States research will continue as well as an LDS ancestral research track. There are three other tracks offered today: Methodology, Technology/Tool, and Genealogy and the Law. There really is something for everyone interested in family history here at the conference :-)
At this time I would like to thank the vendors stationed in Room 2260 who provided us with more than a glimpse of what they have to offer to those within the genealogy community at any level of expertise, from beginner to professional.
In alphabetical order:
By Land or By Sea
E-Z Photo Scan
Easy Family History
Family History Expos
familyroots expo 2016
James M. Beidler Research
Kent Gardner won the SHOTBOX at the Vendor Prize Drawing yesterday.
The Family History Guide
Your Family Tree: The Game
[Not pictured: Family Roots Publishing Co., Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems, Family Storehouse, Bella Italia Genealogy, Cherry Creek Radio.]
The Third Day of the 48th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy
Steve Rockwood answers questions after his keynote yesterday.
Today Paul Milner, Mdiv, MSc will give the final keynote presentation. I have no idea what his topic will be, but I am sure it will be something interesting. He is the author of 6 books on English and Scottish research, including Buried Treasure: What’s in the English Parish Chest. According to his website, “Paul has been designing genealogy workshops, writing books, and lecturing for over 35 years. He holds an advanced degree in Theology and is particularly knowledgeable about the church and its role in record keeping. As a genealogist he speaks on a variety of topics relating to research in the British Isles, migration to North America and research methodology.” For more information visit milnergenealogy.com.
Following the keynote address, there are a number of sessions dedicated to record sets, including church records, unique and unusual records, and military records. Paul Milner and others will present the British Isles research track. The International track will cover Italian, Latin, Slavic, and Spanish research as well as how to use the research wikis to begin your foreign research. There is a track dedicated to Scandinavian research as well.
Free Book Scanning is located in Room 2285
THIS IS THE LAST DAY for many of our vendors! If you are new to genealogy or just want to see what genealogy database programs have to offer, you have two options: attend each of the vendor presentations at the scheduled time in Room 2254 or visit their respective booths.
Here is the schedule:
9:45-10:45 am — Ancestral Quest as an Aid to Research by Gaylon Findlay
11:00-12noon — Planting Your Tree in RootsMagic by Bruce Buzbee
4:00-5:00 pm — Organizing, Planning & Sharing Using Legacy Family Tree by Leonard Plaizier
Computers are available in Room 2283
Other vendor sessions include Research Ties (11:00-!2:00 noon) and Family ChartMasters (2:45pm-3:45pm) in Room 2254. The vendor hall is in Room 2260. Don’t forget to VISIT EACH VENDOR to receive your stamp BEFORE NOON and turn your form in at the registration desk. The vendor prize drawings will be in Room 2254 at 1:00pm and YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN!
The Second Day of the 48th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy
Steve Rockwood, president and CEO of FamilySearch, will open the second day of the 48th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. He will present FamilySearch: Past, Present & Future. Rockwood became president and CEO of the organization 10 months ago. He addressed the public for the first time as such at RootsTech earlier this year. He is a man that admits that he looks at things upside down and backwards to bring about technological innovations. Traditionally, transcripts of the keynote presentations have been made available shortly after the conference week ends. I will keep you posted as to this year’s availability. Transcripts of the 2013-2015 keynote addresses can be found by clicking on the conference archive tab.
After the opening session, participants will have the opportunity to attend 5 additional sessions from 8 different tracks that cover topics such as basic record types, methods, tools, and tech. New this year is a track for Utah Libraries and Archives with sessions about the Utah State Archives, BYU Family History Library, and BYU Special Collections. There will be tours of the BYU Family History Library from 6-9pm. Shuttles will be available from the Conference Center. The popular topic of DNA research will be presented throughout the day with its own track followed by a DNA Research Roundtable at 6pm.
There are 8 computers in Room 2283 for participants to use. Book scanning will continue throughout the week in Room 2285. Representatives from the Daughters of the American Revolution will be available in Room 2279 to assist those interested in completing their applications to join this organization. Additional vendors will be in Room 2260 today and tomorrow.
The First Day of the 48th Annual BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy
The lower level entrance is accessed from Lot 20Y located at 730 E. University Parkway and the Marriott Center’s Lot 19Y.
An important reminder: Conference Center parking and the entrances are affected by construction. As the official website states, “[a]ll handicap parking is now located at 1550 North 900 East in Lot 23A, southeast of the BYU Conference Center. The rest of Lot 23A is reserved for those with an “A” permit. In the event that all handicap stalls are occupied, a handicap permit allows you to still park in this lot.”
The upper level entrance is located off 1550 North 900 East in Lot 23A, southeast of the BYU Conference Center.
“Free visitor parking is available in Lot 20Y located at 730 E. University Parkway, west of the BYU Conference Center. Parking is also available in the Marriott Center’s Lot 19Y. Please do not park in stalls or areas identified with “Service Vehicles” or requiring an “A” permit.” For a map, click here.
The keynote speaker for the opening session is Paul Cardall, described as “a pianist with a heart.” An award-winning recording artist, he has a story to share with us today. His most recent album, 40 Hymns for Forty Days, debuted at Number 1 and stayed in the top ten for more than 40 weeks. Participants from the myFamily History Youth Camp will be joining us for this opening session.
I met some wonderful conference participants from California, Texas, and Washington at early check-in yesterday :)
After the keynote address, sessions—organized by tracks—will span all skill levels from beginner to advanced with a track that addresses the ICAPGen accreditation process. Online research and methodology sessions are offered throughout the day. Sessions covering research in the United States, Germany, and Scandinavia will be offered. For more information, click here.
The FamilySearch track begins with a session titled, “Begin at the Beginning: Helping Others to Love Family History.” Next Robert Kehrer will present “Finding Elusive Records on FamilySearch.org.” Other FamilySearch topics discussed will be the mobile tree app and the use of FamilySearch hinting. In the final session of the day, Brian Edwards will provide a product road map, titled, “FamilySearch Past, Present, and Future.”
Yesterday Michael Provard and his wife prepared the computer lab for use throughout the week.
There is a computer lab in Room 2283 and book scanning available in Room 2285. Representatives from the Daughters of the American Revolution will be available to assist those interested in completing their applications to join this organization.
The BYU Family History Library is open from 7am to 12 midnight Tuesday through Friday. It will be open from 8am to 12 midnight on Saturday. The library has subscriptions to many noted genealogical websites and houses a large collection of microfilm. To check to see if the library has a microfilm of interest, obtain the film number from the FamilySearch catalog at FamilySearch.org and then check FHL Films and Fiche at BYU to see if the film of interest is here. Scanning, printing and other services are available. For more information about the BYU Family History Library call 801-422-6200.
In case you missed it, Relative Race is a new show that premiered last Sunday, February 28th at 6pm MT on BYUtv. With 9 more episodes to go, the good news is that there is time to catch up by watching the first episode on BYUtv.org. If you like Amazing Race and family history, you’ll love Relative Race!
What is Relative Race? Those who attended RootsTech were the first to see the premier episode and the response was one of enthusiasm and anticipation!
I had the opportunity to visit with the Relative Race production team at RootsTech who explained the details. It began last year with an audition call for couples to submit an approximate 2-minute video introducing themselves and explaining why they would want to be on the show. Not all audition videos are available, but here is one example:
Four couples were finally chosen:
Anthony and Brooke Brown from Las Vegas, Nevada
Doug and Margo Engberg from Seattle, Washington
Bradley and Heather Randall from Phoenix, Arizona
Patrick and Janice Wright from Anchorage, Alaska
Each couple took AncestryDNA tests that discovered DNA matches throughout the United States and then the matches were verified by a researched paper trail. These findings defined the Relative Race route for each couple that spans from San Francisco to New York.
In Relative Race, each couple is given a team-colored rental car, a paper map, a $25 per diem, and a flip phone. No GPS here. No advantage to the technological native born; a possible advantage to the technological immigrants of today. Each couple must stay at the home of the newly acquainted relatives along the way!
Dan Debenham is passionate about Relative Race!
Each team’s route is unique. Relative Race ensures fairness by estimating how long each team may need to complete a challenge and arrive at their destination each day. At the end of each leg, teams are ranked by subtracting their estimated completion time from the actual completion time or vice versa. It’s the difference that matters. The couple in last place for each leg receives a strike. If a team receives three strikes, they’re eliminated from the race. The couple ranked first at the end of the race wins $25,000.
At RootsTech the Relative Race production team discussed the adventure, the challenges, and the long hours spent making this show a reality. Some tough decisions were required in editing to allow the audience to actually feel like they are a part of Relative Race. It’s exciting. It’s emotional. It’s heart-warming. It’s funny. It can bring out a bit of road rage at times, but in the end these couples are introduced to family they have never met. At the end of the season, Relative Race will culminate with a “Where Are They Now” episode. I’m looking forward to it. I know from experience that these types of road trips are game-changing. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll catch the first episode before Sunday 6pm MT. I have it on good word that this show gets better and better. For all of us watching, let’s enjoy Relative Race!
Note:Family Discovery Day at RootsTech is a free, one-day event of inspirational messages, instructional classes, interactive activities, and exciting entertainment to teach LDS members (age 8 and up) how to find their ancestors, prepare and take their names to the temple, and teach others to do the same. See RootsTech.org for more information.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Family Discovery Day opened with announcements from Elder Allan F. Packer, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of of the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He announced that there were about 13,000 individuals in attendance with 120,000 participating through live streaming at lds.org. In addition, the presentations were recorded and will be used during 1300 Family Discovery Day events held in over 55 countries and presented in 10 languages. Ultimately, the presentations will reach over a quarter of a million members and their friends. Once this material is incorporated into curriculum lessons, websites, and printed publications these messages will reach millions of Church members.
Elder Packer said that earlier that day a meeting was held among Church leaders. The Missionary Department announced two new pamphlets, Learning and Serving in the Church and Families and Temples. The Family History Department announced a new beginner resource card titled Strengthening Eternal Family Bonds through Temple Service: Start Building Your Tree. The card and online experience were created to help new members record their family lineage and identify those who may need temple ordinances. The My Family booklet is now available in 42 languages around the world. The Temple Department announced that members will now be able to print family ordinance cards on white paper on any printer and then take these cards to the temple to perform ordinances for their ancestors.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Ashley
Following these announcements, Elder Dale G. Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Ashley, took to the stage for the keynote address. After introducing his wife, he remarked that when he is not with his wife, he is “ruthless.” Together they shared a family history story that you can listen to below.
Ashley described the discovery of dynamite by Alfred Nobel. It was a combination of two known substances, kieselguhr and nitroglycerin. This was likened to family history and temple blessings, together they’re a powerful combination.
The Renlunds discussed the challenge given by Elder Neil A. Anderson to those in attendance at RootsTech in 2014: “Prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple.” In 2015 Elder Anderson added, “and help someone else do the same.” “This opportunity for blessings excludes no one,” Elder Renlund says. His wife Ruth added, “the temple ordinances are central to individual power.”
The Renlunds then read from Ezekiel 47: 1-5, 8-9 and explained that Ezekiel saw an angel who brought him to the House of the Lord. As the water left the house, it grew into a river and out to the sea, … “for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh.” According to Elder Renlund, the river that increases represents the blessings of the temple and he likened the growth of the river to the exponential growth of progenitors doubling each generation.
Ashley quoted President Russell M. Nelson, “While temple and family history work has the power to bless those beyond the veil, it has an equal power to bless the living. It has a refining influence on those who are engaged in it. They are literally helping to exalt their families.”
Elder Renlund closed by adding his apostolic voice in support of the temple challenge and extended a promise of protection for the individuals engaged in this work and for their families. The challenge was modified to include not only baptisms but all ordinances. He promised “personal power, power to change, power to repent, power to learn, power to be sanctified, and power to turn the hearts of your family together and heal that which needs healing.” He closed by declaring his witness of Jesus Christ and the restoration of the sealing power to earth.
Sister Sheri L. Dew and Sister Wendy W. Nelson
Elder C. Scott Grow was asked to recap a few ideas from the previous presentation, specifically the apostolic temple challenge, before introducing Family Discovery Day’s next guests. Elder Grow reminded everyone that the apostolic temple challenge to find as many family names for temple ordinances has been reissued and expanded the challenge to include all ordinances, not just baptisms. He stressed that this challenge is for everyone. “A promise of protection and personal power, power to change, power to progress, power to learn, power to be sanctified, power to heal, the power to be sealed, and seal the hearts of our families together” has been issued. He quoted President Howard W. Hunter by saying, “I have learned that those who engage in family history research and then perform the temple ordinance work for those whose names they have found will know the additional joy of receiving both halves of the blessing.”
Elder Grow then introduced two good friends, Sheri L. Dew and Wendy W. Nelson for a family history discussion. These good friends then publicly conversed about Sheri’s resistance to pursuing family history. Wendy shared some of her spiritual experiences with Sheri and the blessings that have come into her life since she took Elder Richard G. Scott’s challenge. In the end, Sheri took the apostolic challenge to find as many ancestors to take to the temple to receive their ordinances as she will complete this year and to help others do the same. I encourage you to watch their presentation.
Sheri responded to Elder Grow’s question of how this is to be accomplished by saying, “Something will have to change and I’ll figure it out. I don’t yet know exactly when or how, but it will work … I’m sure I’ll have to give up something, the question is what?”
Elder Grow than asked those in the RootsTech audience, “(1) What did you learn? (2) What did you feel? Select one idea expressed in this presentation and make it a part of your life.”
Brother Stephen W. Owen and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom
Elder Enrique R. Falabella, who serves as an executive director of the Family History Department, began this session by expressing his enjoyment of Family Discovery Day. He said, “The Lord has inspired the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to help the members of the Church to strengthen their testimony in Heavenly Father and in His Son Jesus Christ through keeping the Sabbath holy. What a great opportunity we have now to spend some time on the Sabbath doing family history Our ancestors will be eternally grateful and we will be blessed.” He then shared that this was the first idea that came to his mind to help Sister Sheri Dew meet her commitment to bring her ancestors to the temple. After his remarks, he introduced Brother Stephen W. Owen and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom.
“There is no age requirement to be touched by the Spirit of Elijah,” says Brother Stephen W. Owen. He went on to say that by becoming involved in family history, one discovers the power and purpose of relationships in God’s plan. “Relationships are at the very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He then quoted the greatest commandments. He said that the Savior focused on relationships and was not distracted by anything temporal. He suggested that as we’re focused on our relationships with our Heavenly Father, our Savior, our family, and others we are focusing on what lasts and Christ’s gospel can move from our head to our heart.”
Brother Owen invited his youngest daughter Jessica on stage to share her family story. Jessica delivered her first child, Annie, two months premature. Annie was born with a condition where all of her muscles would contract and this happened about 60-70 times a day. Jessica and her husband Sam would cheer her on to get through each episode, but four and a half months later, Annie passed away. Jessica shared how her father, through his own grief, counseled them to get through this together. Jessica shared her gratitude for the plan of salvation and testimony that families can be together forever if we do our part. Brother Owen returned holding his one month old grandson, Archie, Jessica and Sam’s second child and Annie’s little brother.
Brother Owen then quoted from a song called “Grandma’s Book of Memories”:
“When Grandma opens up her book of memories,
these strangers all begin to look like friends to me.
I can see where I have come from and where I belong,
And where I got the color of my hair.
And I won’t be afraid when I follow them home,
because I’ve got friends already there.”
He mentioned the sealing power of the priesthood that can strengthen and bind family relationships. He went on to say, “We are each an important link in our family chain. And each of us, regardless of our current family circumstances. can begin working on the things that last. I recognize that not everyone has had the opportunity to nurture and develop family relationships, but don’t be discouraged. Stronger relationships can begin with you, right now, where you are. Through all kinds of family history and temple work, you can increase in love and help your family heal, going in both directions, towards your ancestors and towards your posterity. Maybe you’ve started your family history and have become discouraged because of damaged relationships or missing information. Don’t give up. Keep seeking the eternal. Pray and look for connections, relationships, and stories and when you begin to find those personal connections … you’ll start to understand what it’s like to have your heart turned to your fathers and the gospel will have an opportunity to move from your head to your heart. You will feel for yourself the power and eternal nature of family relationships … Let us remember that Christ suffered alone so that we can be together. Because of Him, we can have relationships that endure, relationships that include our Heavenly Father, our Savior, and our loved ones. I testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of relationships that transcend death and have eternal value. And, I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Sister Rosemary M. Wixom then took the stage. She started by sharing an experience she had five years ago when an apostle asked her, “What is the taproot that will anchor a child in the wind?” A taproot is the first and largest root that sprouts from the seed. It grows downward and provides stability. Taproots can make a plant drought-resistant. She shared the story of the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi. Children need to know who they are, where they came from, why they are here, and where they are going so that their lives take on a sense of purpose.
Sister Wixom quoted President Russell M. Nelson saying, “We need … women [to] call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.” She extends this call to all members of the Church in the lives of children. She then asked how does this related to family history. She said that she loves family history and loves family stories. Then she made two confessions: (1) she now makes cookies for her husband while he does family history research, and (2) she does not scrapbook; she has plastic container with pictures for each child for their future book.
She recognizes the importance of family history and shared a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. as saying, “They are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith (History of the Church, 6:52). We make our ancestors real by telling their stories.
She said that she began with a two-minute exercise to write everything she remembered about her deceased father. Then she began to discuss recording her memories of others and considered how these stories and phrases could strengthen the next generation. She stressed that they must be shared and preserved and recommended the FamilySearch Memories app.
She closed by testifying, “We can anchor all generations to the taproot as we share precious pieces of information about those wonderful men and women, perform their sacred temple ordinances, and seal our families together. Of this truth I testify. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Elder Bradley D. Foster introduced two young men to illustrate the “importance and power of family.” He continued, These young men show us what it looks like and “what good families produce.” He then introduced Britain Covey, a wide receiver for the University of Utah, and Taysom Hill, a quarterback for Brigham Young University.
For some Family Discovery Day fun, each player was asked to find two youth in the audience to help with a relay race. No spoilers here; you must watch the video to know the outcome :)
Once the race was decided, it was time for these young men to be interviewed. The presentation highlighted Britain’s mission call to Chile and Taysom’s temple marriage. Both shared missionary experiences on and off the field.
About leaving his football career for a mission with no guarantee upon return, Britain said, “Scoring a touchdown is awesome, but it’s a difference type of happiness that this gospel and this mission brings and I guess this is what I’m excited to share.”
After this presentation, Family Discovery Day closed with a concert by Lower Lights. Mark your calendar for next year when Family Discovery Day will be held again on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
At the Friday keynote session, RootsTech attendees were greeted with some exciting news. First, on-site 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. Indexers, on-site and virtual, sought to index 900 batches in 90 minutes; the result was that participants indexed and arbitrated over 1860 batches! As Steve Rockwood said in his opening remarks, “We come to RootsTech to DO family history!” Thursday night’s index-a-thon was a great example 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 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 may want to keep your 2017 summer calendar free 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, “So, 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.”
These words were 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 they can 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. This app is also available for Android from Google Play.]
David Isay closed with a quote from Mary Lou Kownacki, a Philadelphia nun who said, “It’s impossible not to love someone whose story you’ve heard.” As he continued he quoted 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 gleaned from the discussion: if it’s a violation of law or a violation 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.
[Today’s title consists of the Twitter handles of Friday’s keynote speakers or their organizations.]
Steve Rockwood opened Thursday’s session of RootsTech with a few of his family stories. One story he told was when he was a young boy who, although he need heart surgery, didn’t want anyone “messing with [his] heart.” The doctor didn’t gain Steve’s trust by his medical degrees and training. He gained his trust by wearing cool and funny ties. Although the doctor’s expertise was essential to young Steve’s care, it was the ties that won Steve’s confidence. And subsequently, Steve’s doctor did not try to turn him into a heart doctor.
The same is true with family history. A family member may need the outcomes of family history: love, peace, joy, happiness, belonging, etc., but may not need to become a genealogist. Steve encouraged conference attendees to consider someone in their family who would benefit from sharing a family story. He suggested that a different approach may be necessary and encouraged everyone to make it fun, in small doses, to build trust and relationship.
Rockwood introduced his neighbor, Kathy Tarullo, a stay-at-home mom who recently graduated with a bachelor of general studies degree with an emphasis in family history and genealogy. Rockwood and his wife Jill were invited to Kathy’s graduation party where she served refreshments associated with her ancestors decoratively arranged with a story behind each one. Kathy also mentioned another project she is working on where she is taking an ancestor’s story and turning it into a children’s book written in poetic form. These are some of the ideas shared to inspire attendees to consider ways of making family history part of everyday life.
RootsTech began to trend #4 on @Twitter during the opening session of RootsTech Photo credit: Wendy Smedley
Next up was the host of BYUtv’s American RideStan Ellsworth. He surprised the crowd by entering the hall on his classic Harley-Davidson. I’ve been to RootsTech, even before it was known by its new name, and I have NEVER seen anything like it! Ellsworth shared his passion for the American story that is our collective story. Nevertheless, “every American family has its own unique heritage, traditions, its own roots ’cause all of us came from somewhere before we came here,” Ellsworth said. He continued, “every American family has its own story to tell … These people want their stories remembered; they want their stories to be celebrated. You can begin your own journey. You can start your own exploration. You can find your heroes. You can find your heritage. You can find your roots. So kick a leg over and begin to discover your family’s own unique American ride.”
After his impassioned speech, Ellsworth was delighted to introduce Paula Williams Madison, a successful businesswoman who retired in 2011 to pursue the story of her maternal grandfather Samuel Lowe. Madison thanked FamilySearch for helping her find her Chinese family. She credits FamilySearch and the individuals who index for solving this mystery in her family. If you are a volunteer and ever wondered if what you do makes a difference, Paula Williams Madison wants you to know that you do.
Before RootsTech I listened to her memoir, Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem. I chose the audio book so that I could listen to Madison’s story in her own voice. It made a difference to me. I encourage you to watch her keynote address, read or listen to her book, and watch the documentary. It is an amazing family journey.
Regrettably, Paula Williams Madison’s uncle, the youngest son of Samuel Lowe, passed away in China the Sunday before RootsTech. As her American family members returned to China to gather and attend the funeral, Paula determined that she would give her keynote address at RootsTech. It’s the way her uncle would have wanted it. After briefly meeting with the media, Paula began the long journey to China arriving with 4 hours to spare before her uncle’s funeral. My personal condolences to Paula Williams Madison and her extended family in Harlem, Jamaica, and China at the loss of such a wonderful patriarch. I am so grateful that Paula found her family and reconnected with them during the last few years.
Next, Bruce Feiler took center stage. He began his remarks by saying that he felt like RootsTech is the “Super Bowl of storytelling.” [This may be true but just an FYI, “Super Bowl” is a registered trademark of the NFL.] He told stories of his adventures in his keynote address:
Feiler says that the “secret sauce” of a happy family is that they TALK, they talk a lot, about what it means to be a family. He recommends 3 things that families can do to be happier:
Write a family mission statement.
Do storytelling games in your family.
Tell your family history; use pictures.
Feiler said that the single most effective idea for a happy family is to tell your family’s story. It is the same for biological and/or adopted families. It is the family narrative that is critical for the resilience of its individuals. He recommends that a person grounds their story in the oldest stories ever told, find a way to make it part of everyday, and don’t keep the story to one’s self, but share it! He mentioned that his New York Times article, The Stories That Bind Us, was the most emailed article for an entire month and, out of the 850,000,000 articles saved to the Pocket app, it was the second most saved article on the entire planet for the entire year. It’s worth the read.
He also encourages seniors to tell their story. He is working on another book and made a request that attendees write to him and tell him their experiences of how they accomplished this in their own families.
Feiler was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago. On the one year anniversary of that fateful day, he asked his doctor what advice the doctor would give Feiler’s daughters if they came to him. The doctor replied, “I would tell them what I learned. I would tell them that everybody dies, but not everybody lives. I want you to live.” As a family historian I would add, “and set aside time to record it.”
Bruce Feiler closed his keynote address with great counsel for all of us: “Every now and then find a friend, take a walk, and share a story.” I witnessed a lot of this as I went about my day at RootsTech.
RootsTech is a massive conference with many opportunities throughout each day, including the event organized to index the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau. These records were created when the bureau was established in 1865 by Congress to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. Although RootsTech is an unique experience to each person, it is almost universally a very long, engaging, and exhausting day for all!