By Glen Greener
RootsTech 2014 recently concluded with nearly 13,000 people in attendance (compared to 8,320 in 2013)! Almost twice as many people attended the Innovator Summit this year as last (250/120), a preconference forum directed at developers of family history-related technologies and applications. RootsTech 2014 attendees came from 49 states (South Dakota was missing, in case you were wondering) and 32 countries. There were 4,000 youth plus adult leaders at Saturday’s Family Discovery Day, over 10,000 more who followed select sessions streamed online, and an additional 130,000 people who are expected to participate in related local family history fairs in the months ahead. From most every perspective, the phenomenon that is RootsTech was a success.
That said, more people need to get acquainted with the growing offering of activities and opportunities in family history. Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, talked about “The Dash,” that little line between the date of birth and the date of death on a person’s tombstone or genealogical record. He described how traditionally genealogy tends to focus on names, dates, and places in a family tree. The expanding interest in family history today, however, where the vast majority of people are drawn into their ancestors’ lives, focuses on the countless stories within the dash. It’s the stories and photos that make up the life of an individual ancestor; that makes them real, near, and dear to us. And that’s what is making family history interesting to growing masses of consumers.
A popular line up of keynote speakers over four days all added their own twist and insight to the value of preserving and sharing living and past family history through stories and photos. Todd Hansen of BYU’s Story Trek and Stephanie Nielson, a New York Times bestselling author and mom, proved how interesting and compelling individual stories are. Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman, illustrated how wonderful telling your own story can be, saying, “Tell your stories, no matter what they are.”
Judy Russell, a genealogist with a law degree, explained the long-range importance of accuracy and how to assure it, using examples of personal family history stories with surprising accuracies and inaccuracies. Dr. Spencer Wells described the metaphysical perspective of the National Geographic Genographic Project as millions of DNA samples are marking the migration trails civilizations followed.
Class sessions provided a range of information from general to technical, for beginner to advanced genealogist, and for those more interested in their living family history. There were ideas for making gifts out of family history photos, and instructions for photo restoration. There were classes for family history consultants and for mobile phone application developers. One could learn about preserving oral genealogies in Sub Saharan Africa or how to share or preserve your history on social media.
In the middle of that information avalanche, there were first-class exhibits from major companies such as Ancestry.com, findmypast, and MyHeritage, and relative newcomers Family Storytelling and myrelatives.com. There were also exhibits by companies focusing on specific applications and products to provide ways to take full advantage of your family history and genealogy. One could stop by the FamilySearch booth to upload family photos, scan a book, record a message for the future, or simply search your family tree. FamilySearch also announced its latest initiative-to digitally preserve and make searchable online hundreds of millions of obituaries from around the world, starting in North America. It declared 2014 “The Year of the Obituary!”
At Dell’s Cyber Cafe you could check your email, recharge your computer, or recharge yourself with free sodas. The Media Hub offered video recording sessions for official bloggers to interview key presenters.
That’s just a slight brush of the highlights of RootsTech 2014. You can watch the keynote speakers and over 15 taped sessions from RootsTech 2014 online for free at RootsTech.org. LDS specific content can also be viewed at LDS.org/rootstech.
Don’t miss RootsTech in 2015. Mark your calendars for February 12-14, 2015 and come join us. Next year will be bigger, better, and no doubt feature the latest and greatest family history ideas and trends.