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
SHOTBOX [Kent Gardner won this 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!
A conference is a time of anticipation, a time of gathering, a time of seeing old friends and meeting new. It’s a time of learning and teaching. It’s a time of ideas, a time of product evaluations, and purchase considerations. It’s a time of networking, a time of connection, and a time of celebration. RootsTech is a celebration of “families across generations!”
RootsTech, with the Innovator Summit, is the largest conference of its kind. In 4 days, with 200+ sessions, and 26,000 on-site conference attendees, time is limited and moments are embraced. Nevertheless, when it’s over, there is not one person who could experience all that RootsTech has to offer: 26,000+ people on-site — 26,000+ unique life experiences!
The month of February hosts a favorite holiday of mine, Groundhog Day. Since the movie by the same name was released in 1993, Groundhog Day has come to symbolize repetition, at least until one gets it “right.”
In honor of this idea …
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
The day began as entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and interested genealogists gathered for the climb at the Innovator Summit. Steve Rockwood opened the conference with his first public address since his appointment as CEO of FamilySearch International.
Rockwood says that powerful, positive core feelings about family history are universal. These feelings are the catalyst for action. FamilySearch International will focus on the following five categories of experiences that invoke these feelings to grow the family history audience:
Discovery — it can be as simple as a story at the dinner table or as complex as the algorithm that provides hinting
FamilyTree — growing the tree that binds and connects us together
Searchable Records — search faster, more effectively, “a huge nut to crack” for the benefit of the Google generation
Memories — stories and photos, projected to involve more people in the industry than any other category as millennials are seen as “a journaling generation like the world has never seen”
Contextual Help — provide help where millennials are and in the way that they want to receive it
Rockwood closed by saying, “Let us continue to focus in on how to help family historians do their wonderful thing and grow that space, but at the same time, how could we then work with the partners here at RootsTech to maybe bring family history out and become part of the fabric of everyday life? My name is Steve Rockwood. I look at things inside out, upside down, and backwards. When I look at you, I get pumped. I’m excited. And we thank you for coming here and we hope this will be a very fruitful four days for you here at RootsTech. Thank you very much.”
Ken Krogue, president and founder of InsideSale.com, is an industry leader and a self-proclaimed family history and genealogy nut. “When you talk about your passion, good things happen.” I highly recommend you watch his presentation.
If you don’t have the time, you may glean a tidbit or two from this summary:
Principles of InsideSales Marketing
Innovation — applying what works in other worlds to your own
Go Sell Something — according to one study, four experiences increase one’s ability to sell: 1) a background in competitive sports, 2) being an LDS (Mormon) returned missionary, 3) being an Eagle Scout, and 4) a background in Microsoft Office, particularly Word and Excel
Keep a Fresh Perspective — new people bring vision
Research Marketing — shows the speed at which to respond = 5 minutes or less
Only Raise Money When You Don’t Need It
Find Investors Who Invest In You
Manage By the Numbers — use science and statistics to make decisions
Digital Media Rules — take the lead
Content + Distribution = Results
Give Back Along the Way
Tell Your Own Story
Mobilize Your People
Krogue also provided a list of things to watch in family history and genealogy:
Apps converging to platforms
From growth to profitability
Wearable tech (e.g. life management)
Ken Krogue shared an amazing story about an exchange student who came to stay 2 blocks away from his home. He was up against a proverbial brick wall in pursuit of his Krogue lineage but one night Ken awoke with the realization that the exchange student, Tanita Sode, could be related to the Sode married to Krogue’s ancestor. Tanita asked her grandmother who revealed that she had 210 pages directly relating the Krogue lineage! Krogue asked, “how did that happen?”
Krogue outlined some activities he is involved in such as family history and social media events on Facebook. On Saturday he was going to show conference attendees how to hold a Family Reunion Event on Facebook. Unfortunately, with assignments looming, I was unable to stop by in the Expo Hall. If anyone would like to share what they learned from Krogue in the Expo Hall, email me or leave your nuggets of knowledge in the comments below. Thank you! :)
FamilySearch executives from multiple departments were available to discuss the latest and greatest from FamilySearch as well as receive some feedback. For more information, see the article titled Partner Town Hall with FamilySearch Executives that I wrote for the FamilySearch blog.
Those that attend the Innovator Summit have the opportunity to hear from industry leaders, developers, and entrepreneurs. The evening holds a number of social events and the RootsTech Hackathon, named by TechCrunch as one of the most compelling hackathons! It’s a great addition to RootsTech. Mark Wednesday, February 8, 2017 for the next Innovator Summit!
The Salt Palace Convention Center will serve as RootsTech’s base camp this year, beginning today through Saturday, February 6, 2016. Family historians, genealogists, and other interested parties will begin their ascent to greater knowledge and opportunities within the industry starting with the Innovator Summit.
The Innovator Summit is the world’s largest family history technology conference. Ken Krogue, a highly successful tech entrepreneur and founder of Insidesales.com, will give the keynote address at 9am followed by 2 sessions of choice.
At 12:15pm, those in attendance will be provided boxed lunches and have the opportunity to attend the 2016 RootsTech Innovator Showdown where 6 finalists will be chosen for the final showdown on Friday, February 5. You may view the video submissions of the 12 semifinalists at rootstech.org/showdown. They’re competing for a total of $100,000 in cash and prizes!
Following the Innovator Showdown, five 30 minute sessions will be offered at the Innovator Summit. RootsTech will simultaneously offer two sessions beginning at 3pm. These sessions will be followed by a networking social and the Innovator Hack-a-thon, an event that is touted “for those with a penchant for late night collaborative coding.”
On Thursday through Saturday, opening sessions will begin at 8:30am. The keynote speakers for Thursday will be Steve Rockwood, Managing Director for the Family History Department and President/CEO of FamilySearch International; Paula Williams Madison, Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC, a Los Angeles based media consultancy company with global reach and the author of Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem; and Bruce Feiler, “one of America’s most popular voices on contemporary life” and author of The Secrets of Happy Families and other notable books.
On Friday, attendees will hear from Josh and Naomi Davis of the blog Love Taza and David Isay of StoryCorps. Michael Leavitt’s keynote address will be streamed live on Saturday. He is a former governor of the state of Utah and the founder and chairman of Leavitt Partners. He will be followed by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a world-renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize–winning author.
In addition, those in attendance will have the opportunity to explore the Expo Hall and attend numerous other social events, including concerts by Crescent Superband with Ryan Innes and Lower Lights. One event that I would like to highlight is the opportunity to view the documentary Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China at 2:00pm on Saturday in Room 151 of the Salt Lake Convention Center.
Family Discovery Day will begin at 1pm on Saturday with an outstanding team recruited to inspire those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to get into the game of family history and genealogy and provide temple ordinances for their ancestors. Elder Dale G. Renlund and Sister Ruth Renlund with their daughter Ashley will open this event in Hall D, followed by Sister Sheri Dew, Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, Sister Rosemary M. Wixom and Brother Stephen W. Owen. It is my hope that although Taysom Hill and Britain Covey play for in-state rivals, Taysom will connect with Britain to score a genealogical touchdown by inspiring families and youth at this year’s event!
If you are unable to attend this year’s conference or watch the live streaming of select sessions, including Family Discovery Day, follow #RootsTech on social media and the FamilySearch blog. You can receive automatic notifications of the latest posts by visiting familysearch.org/blog and providing your email address. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to The Single Leaf and I will do my best to keep you posted.
For those new to the family history and genealogy community and those who are seasoned, let us remember:
“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”
― Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond