Once you’ve attended RootsTech, the family history conference sponsored by FamilySearch and held every winter in Salt Lake City, you never want to miss it again.  There is an excitement, a spirit of connection, a love of family history that is contagious.

That’s why over 30,000 people will be in attendance over the four-day conference from 43 nations and throughout the United States.

Many of the sessions are live-streamed throughout the year to more than 2,000 other meetings to an audience of 100,000+. Now, to make it even bigger,  the concept of RootsTech365 is being introduced, meaning that some of these sessions and resources will become available to be used by people all over the world every day. This excitement of the largest family history conference in the world will be available long distance.

The RootsTech attendees are in fact, just the “studio audience” for this even larger group. What is clear and spoken repeatedly in talk after talk is that family history isn’t just a compelling hobby, or a spiritual duty, it is a way to protect our children with a sense of identity and belonging, and an entire army of unseen ancestors for protection in a world that is becoming ever more corrosive and assaulting.

You want to know how to protect your children? Entice them with family history. You want to feel greater blessings flow into your own life?  Same answer.

The exhibitors’ hall is stuffed with innovative ideas—so many we wouldn’t know how to begin to share them all, but here is a little sample.

FamilySearch.org Ever More Personal

The goal at FamilySearch is to make the user experience ever more friendly while the records continue to skyrocket in numbers. Brian Edwards, group product manager said, “The Lord is hastening his work and we are trying to catch up.” To that end, FamilySearch is seeking to create a worldwide family tree where everyone can collaborate.

If you haven’t logged into FamilySearch lately, you are in for a pleasant surprise. You enter through a compelling, personalized home page, that presents material that is most interesting and important to you.

Most obvious, immediately, is a scrolling series of photos and memories that have been added recently by others who share your family tree. For me, opening this page, is a new picture of a great, great grandfather added by a cousin I’ve never met. I may not have happened on this photo any time soon, but FamilySearch presents it to me as soon as I enter. If you have a fairly active set of relatives, close or distant, you may be surprised how often what’s new on your page changes with new additions.

You also find your own to-do list, created by you, so you can remember the tasks you were working on last time logged in. Also helpful in keeping track of your own work is a list of recently viewed ancestors.

Then there is the wonderful bonus where you are offered a list of recommended tasks. This is created by record hints that have become available on FamilySearch on people in your own line. If the name of the relative is not immediately familiar to you, you can click on “View my relationship.” You will immediately see that there are things you can do right now on your own line.

On the front page is also a link marked “Get Help”. Here, if you are an expert in family history you can help others as they begin to learn how to do family history, and if you need help, you can get it from a Good Samaritan who knows the ropes.

FamilySearch has 1.1 billion persons with 708 million sources and is adding 2.5 million persons per month. With all of this growth, FamilySearch becomes ever more friendly.

MyHeritage Refines the DNA Results

MyHeritage has done a bold move to make our DNA test results more specific and refined. From their 85 million users, they selected 5,000 people, representing 200 ethnicities from all over the world, and sent them free DNA kits. Their warehouse was stacked with boxes of DNA kits bound for far flung destinations from Ethiopia to Switzerland to Uganda as they located the recipients and sent them these free kits.

They targeted people who had lived in one location for several generations, so they could zero in on exactly what those DNA readings look like. What does the DNA picture look like for a man whose family has lived in Greece for generations—and therefore is unlikely to have intermingled with other ethnicities?

Workers pose in front of boxes and boxes of DNA sampling from all over the world.

The point is to make DNA testing more specific. Now, results on DNA testing are fairly generalized in some cases point only to continents or large regions. The goal when the testing is completed and analyzed is to be able to pinpoint your DNA more closely to a particular ethnicity in a country—and perhaps even a smaller region in that country.

You thought DNA testing could tell you something now? The prospects for learning much more about your background from your DNA is on the horizon thanks to analyses like this one being conducted by MyHeritage.

Millions of Roman Catholic Records, Long Unavailable Will Now Be Digitized

Some people, who haven’t been able to pursue their Catholic ancestors are jumping up and down about this one. Findmypast just announced the creation of the Roman Catholic Heritage Archive, a ground-breaking initiative that aims to digitize the historic records of the Catholic Church in the United States, Britain and Ireland.

This is a treasure trove of over 100 million records spanning 300 years of Catholic history.

The Catholic Church holds some of the oldest and best preserved genealogical records ever created. However, as many of these documents memorialize important religious sacraments such as baptism, marriage and burial, their privacy has long been protected and access to original copies has traditionally been hard to come by.

In collaboration with various Archdioceses of the Catholic Church, Findmypast is helping to bring these records online in one unified collection for the first time ever. Exclusively available on Findmypast, images of original documents will be completely free to view in many cases. Fully searchable transcripts will also be included, providing family historians from the around the world with easy access to these once closely guarded records.

JoyFlips Vision to Capture Trillions of Old Photos

We asked JoyFlips to tell us what makes them tick.  They said their mission is to take family history mainstream by providing the hundreds of millions of people worldwide, who have trillions of old print photos, with the JOY of using them to easily discover, share and preserve their family’s history.

How do you do that?  They have created an app for your phone that can quickly scan hundreds of photos in a matter of minutes.  We couldn’t believe such a thing could be so simple but a representative demonstrated the point and shoot ease of using the phone–and you don’t even have to press the shutter!

There are trillions of print photos across millions of families worldwide. With less than 2% digitized, these irreplaceable photos — and especially the stories they tell — are literally fading away.

And what’s more amazing is JoyFlips is a free app that you can download on your phone and start digitizing all you photographs immediately.  The urgency is to get the photos in a digital format, then you can share them, tag them, label them, put audio tags on them, put stories with them, use them to put in books or any other permanent storage.

The world certainly needs an easy way to preserve the trillions of precious print photos fading away in closets and attics. But more than that, we also need a way to preserve and share the stories behind those photos. 

We need to pass down the memories that are locked away in our family albums by transforming them into living conversations that can be experienced and added to by generations yet to come. 

Sign up for free at joyflips.com or go to the application store and search for JoyFlips.

Forever Allows Permanent Storage

When Glen Meakem returned from duty in the first Gulf War, he and his wife Diane took a tour of the U.S., visiting family. They videotaped interviews of their grandparents and collected old family photos.

Then years later, in 2012, Glen was searching for a way to permanently save and share these significant family memories, but couldn’t find a single place online to make that storage permanent. Social media and other sites claimed ownership and compressed everything that people posted. When an account was no longer valuable to advertisers or lucrative, they shut them down. This was also true for photo sharing and cloud storage. He literally could find no place to safely preserve the priceless treasures he had so painstakingly collected.

This was the motivation of Glen’s formation of Forever, a permanent place to collect, curate and store photos, memories and digital treasures for generations.

Purchasing a storage plan with Forever comes with this guarantee. A portion of the money you spend is invested so that it increases in value and pays for the recurring maintenance and preservation costs of your Forever Storage, as well as the migration of your content to new digital formats over time.

And now, as if this RootsTech, Forever has announced a partnership with FamilySearch.