Tuesday, February 22, 2011

RootsTech 2011 Review

It's been over a week now and I have finally recovered enough from attending RootsTech to review it.  What a wonderful experience it was. This was one of the times in my life that I could say history happened and we will never be the same.

The experience started at 2pm Wednesday, Feb 9th for me.  That's when I had a tour of the Family History Library.  It had been probably 20 years since I had taken an official tour of the library. I've been using the library during that time frame but just doing my own thing.  I was very pleased to see how many digital microfilm/microfiche scanners they have available. There used to be only one scanner per floor, I think there are at least 20 per floor now.  You used to have to schedule a time frame to use the scanner, but that's not necessary now - you should be able to find one available anytime you need it.

After the FHL tour I jumped on the bus with my fellow bloggers and reporters for a media tour of the Film Distribution Center.  My how high tech and efficient the system is.  We were given stock photos to use for our blogs since photographs onsite were not allowed.  I'm not going to post them here - you will see them in the blog articles I link to below.  It was during this tour that I realized that not everyone in our media group was familiar with genealogy or why we even use microfilms.  I was very impressed the RootsTech had invited such a diverse group of media to tell their story. The MormonMommyBlog stands out in this area.  It's interesting to see how her heart has changed about genealogy after attending RootsTech.  You will find the link below.

After touring the Film Distribution Center we had an opportunity to go into the Church Distribution Center next door. It was a timely thing for me since I needed to pick something up for my Primary class. As the tour bus was taking us back Paul Nauta, FamilySearch Public Affairs Director gave us all the Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD "Showtime!" and a lovely journal.

We had some time to kill before dinner when we arrived at the Joseph Smith Memorial building. There was a lot of socializing going on. I visited the FamilySearch Center there and had my picture taken on the Ellis Island dock.

Then it was on to dinner at The Roof, you can't go wrong with that choice. What a view of Salt Lake and especially the temple at sunset.  Not everyone was LDS so it was a lovely way to introduce them to Salt Lake and our culture.  Did you know The Roof does not serve coffee?  What interesting things you learn through other people's eyes.  Before leaving we were given our RootsTech bags containing our name tags, syllabus and a gorgeous leather bound journal. FamilySearch really knows how to treat the media.

Before the doors to RootsTech opened the media were given breakfast and a tour of the facilities. Thomas MacEntee handed out red beads to all the bloggers. What a fun little group bloggers can be!  The first thing I noticed on the tour was instead of your typical vendors hall we had a Community Zone Exhibit Hall.  It was totally carpeted to encourage people to stand around and talk and still be comfortable.

There was a Media Hub right in the middle of everything.  You could power up your laptop, be online and write about any break news you heard. I took the opportunity to just visit and gab with fellow bloggers there during down times. The Media Hub was also a great place for vendors to drop off press releases.  Bloggers also got a neat RootsTech mini USB hub and a complimentary membership to Archives.com.  I can't wait to try that!

I had debated about bringing my laptop.  I can only carry so much stuff around. I see many conference users with wheeled bags which would be lovely if I didn't also have to walk with a cane. Genealogy conference goers know how annoying it is getting around these slow wheeled bag people or how dangerous it is to trip over their bags.  I could just picture myself being doubly annoying with a wheeled bag and a cane for people to get around me.  So I opted out of the whole laptop thing.  Instead I twittered off my phone or stopped at the mini Family History Library there to write tweets. My RootsTech bag was just the right size for me to carry.  But, I have to confess to some bag envy by Saturday after seeing all the different styles they handed out.  It was quite fun discovering new styles.

The Community Zone also had a Cyber Cafe that anyone could use, and many did.  I just have a hard time sitting on a stool because my feet don't reach the foot rest.  The Cyber Cafe in my opinion needed some tables and normal size chairs.  Or people could do like I did and go to the mini FHL to use the computer.  The missionaries there didn't care what you where using the computers for, which was very nice of them.  I never had any problem getting onto a computer while in the Community Zone.

One place I didn't visit was the Microsoft Playground.  I saw lots of people relaxing and playing games. I forgot all about the massages they offered there.  If I had remembered I would of made use of that. This is one piece of information I have stored in my brain for next year.

I did attend a couple of demos in the Community Zone.  They had soft couches you could sit on or nice chairs. The mini FHL was right next to the Demo Area so I could sit at an end computer tweet and listen to a demo at the same time. The demos usually had prize drawings after their presentation too. The only suggestion I have for the Community Zone it would be to have more vendors there. Other than that don't change a thing.

Since we were touring the Community Zone as people gathered in the main hall for the keynote address, RootsTech was kind enough to have reserved seating upfront for the media.  You couldn't ask for better seats in the house.  As we walked in you could tell this was going to be a genealogy conference like no other.  There was lively music playing and colored lights moving around. There were two large screens on either side of the stage.  Everyone had a perfect view.  This was a major class act.

As a recorded voice introduced each speaker with music and lights I began to feel like I was attending a TED Convention for Genealogist!. I'm not going to go over each keynote address. Other bloggers have done a wonderful job here.  I just want to say the momentum of coming from a keynote every day just got you more and more siked about being there. There was synergy in the masses coming together, hearing motivating speakers on the use of technology and how things are just getting bigger and better all the time.  It's a wonderful age we live in and genealogy is just blossoming from it.

I am just going to mention a couple of classes I attended.

Software Forecast: What Genealogists Need for the Future - D. Josh Taylor
He gave a call to action to software programmers for what genealogists really need.  "The community needs software that bridges elements of cloud computing, social networking, and the next generation of web-based technologies with established principles of genealogical research and methodologies in order to harness emerging technologies for genealogy and family history users."  I was impressed with his depth of vision.

Create Your Own Family Reference Library and Catalogue - always at your fingertips - Jan Grow
I had been waiting for this class ever since I saw it as an option on the website.  The time was changed so it was confusing when this class was offered.  Since it was a workshop you needed to sign up in advance.  I made sure a couple of days before the conference that I was signed up for one of the new time slots.  It was a good thing I did.  There was a huge crowd of people wanting to get into this workshop. It became standing room only in the back.  I got a nice lovely seat up front because my name was on the list.

Jan went over how she used TreePad for her reference library.  I was already a TreePad user and fan so I was thrilled to see how she recorded her genealogy research using it. She didn't show how in the class to download her template, but I found it and saved it to my flash drive.  I can't wait to play with it.

Jan used TreePad to track things I had not thought of, which will save me from having to buy a few programs I thought I needed.  She gave examples of how you can use TreePad to track magazine articles, belongings, along with your research with a Research Plan.

TreePad is: A Personal Information Manager, Organizer, Database, Word Processor, Fully portable - install and use on a USB drive.  Plus has a wonderful search engine.  As I play with this program more I will write up my findings.  Jan's class was tape recorded and I hope when it goes online it includes the slides.

The final day of RootsTech I attended the Genealogical Data Standards - Discussion.  Robert Raymond did an excellent job as moderator. This was a two part class and after the first session many people left and missed out on one of the biggest news of the conference.

During the discussion attendees could come up to the microphone and give their input.  The sessions were recorded. Robert did an excellent job adjusting the agenda as the discussion evolved.  The original agenda was to cover 1. ID Issues, 2. Solutions, 3. Standards, 4. Plan - Governance.

The first session covered ID Issues.  A representative from Google even came to the mic and wanted to help with searchablity. Since we all knew we were going to run out of time it was decided that we wanted to discuss Governance. Along this time Tom Creighton, from FamilySearch, made a very soft announcement that FamilySearch has been looking at these issues and has been developing the SORD project.  He went on to tell about the SORD fights they have had. FamilySearch was not looking to control this all by themselves.  They wanted to be involved with the community in creating the Standard.  He said "Shame on us for not doing this the last 20 years."

In my tweets after the second session I referred to the FamilySearch project as SWORD.  I know that came from picturing the sword fights within FamilySearch.  So the real name of the project we want to hear more on is SORD.

I can tell you I was way over my head in the discussion. I just know it was important and changes were happening.  In fact as I sat there I could feel it as a living thing. I wished I had attended more discussion - they were the place to be in a conference like this.  It took until the last day for me to realize what RootsTech was all about - the people.  Genealogy and technology coming together and Growing!

At the end of the conference there was a closing session.  It was great to come back together as a group. Anne Roach, who did an excellent job putting RootsTech together, took us on a journey on how RootsTech began and what it became.  I loved the slide shows.  Jay Verkler spoke to us and gave us all an opportunity to show our appreciation to the people that put this all together.  We gave them a heartfelt standing ovation, and that didn't even seem enough thanks for what they have done.

Afterward the conference I spoke with Don Snow and his wife and daughter. I learned that at the same time I was feeling something important happening in my class on the Genealogical Data Standards - Discussion, that Elder Richard G. Scott, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was giving an apostolic blessing on those involved in genealogy work.  I think I felt the spirit move through the building at the same time.  I can't wait to watch the recording of Elder Scott's talk when it's online.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the fun RootsTech evening events.  Thursday was the Clark Planetarium hosted by brightsolid. There was casual dinner which you needed to visit every floor to get the full course.  It was fun but there were too many people there to make it really enjoyable.  Probably because there weren't many chairs. I was lucky to get into the first show "Hubble 3D".  I hadn't seen anything in 3D since I was a kid.  It was really cool.  I left early and spent the rest of the night at the FHL.

Friday evening was the "Late Night at the Library" sponsored by Ancestry.com.  They had a  "Who Do You Think You Are" viewing party, along with food and a class. It was enjoyable. I stayed until about 11pm even though the library stayed open until midnight.

To finish the whole RootsTech experience I went to Dick Eastman's EOGN Dinner Saturday night. Something I have wanted to do for ages. Dick had asked me in advance to be a contestant in the Genealogy Jeopardy game they were going to play.  I made sure to eat some almonds before the dinner to wake up my brain.  I thought I was going to make a total fool of myself and was pleasantly surprised that I knew as many answers as I did. If I had only wagered more money on the final question it would have been in my grasp.  It was great fun anyways.  A Dick Eastman dinner is the best way to close a genealogy conference experience.

There were a few things that could be improved for next year.
  • More vendors
  • Better class descriptions online ahead of time
  • Mark the tracks better - especially workshops that need to be signed up in advance. 
  • Escalators!  Seriously the Salt Palace would be perfect if they just installed them in place of the stairs. I know that not within the power of RootsTech but I'm just saying....
What will I do different next year?
  • Attend some unconferencing sessions
  • Attend more discussions than classes
  • Try and take more pictures - I'm really bad at that!
  • Get a free massage

Below you will find links to articles others have written about RootsTech.  It was only after I created my list that I learned about The RootsTech Daily. That has links to these articles.

I understand that the DVDs and recording made during this conference will be sent to all the registered attendees of RootsTech. They will also be posted online at YouTube's FamilySearch Channel -

There is also a FamilySearch Wiki article on RootsTech at: https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/RootsTech_2011

A new website to come out of RootsTech is: http://familytech.familysearch.org/

Elder Richard G. Scott Speaks on Technology’s Role in Genealogy
New Conference Encourages Innovation in Genealogy Technology

Church News


LDS Living
Elder Richard G. Scott Speaks on Technology’s Role in Genealogy (video)

FamilySearch Blog
Let's keep the momentum going

ReadWriteWeb Blog - by Curt Hopkins

About.com - Kimberly's Genealogy Blog - Kimberly Powell

The Ancestry Insider

Dick Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter
The FamilySearch Microfilm Distribution Operation
Podcast: An Interview with some of FamilySearch Senior Managers
Video: An Interview with Brewster Kahle
3,000+ Genealogists at the RootsTech Conference (with Pictures)
The EOGN Dinner after RootsTech

MormonMommyBlog - Elisa

Genealogy’s Star - James Tanner

DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Blog

Find My Ancestor

Genealogy Gems News
RootsTech 2011: A bold fresh face on the genealogy conference scene


Granite Genealogy - Sue Maxwell

Olive Tree Genealogy Blog - Lorine McGinnis Schulze

Relatively Curious About Genealogy - Tami Glatz

Taneya’s Genealogy Blog
Managing RootsTech Knowledge

The Accidental Genealogist

The Family Curator
Virtual Attendance at #RootsTech 2011

Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog - Schelly Talay Darashti

The We Tree Genealogy Blog – Amy Coffin

Grove Creek Family History Blog – Rayanne Melick

Geneabloggers – Thomas MacEntee
Latest News From RootsTech 2011

Genea-Musing – Randy Seaver

GenealogyMedia.com – Jordan Jones

Journeys Past – Cheri Daniels

Luxegen Genealogy and Family History – Joan Miller

The TechnoGenealogist – Anne Roach

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!


Russ said...


Thank you so much for that review AND those links. Guess I missed a couple.

2012 is on my Calendar.

Thank you,


Tpstry said...

We had a great time at RootsTech too. While we were there, we had the chance to ask several speakers, vendors and bloggers 3 questions about their family history. You an see these videos at: http://blog.tpstry.com.

Renee Zamora said...


Great list of videos. Can't wait to watch them all. Thanks for sharing the link!

Geni Grant said...

Great RootsTech overview. It really was a fantastic conference.

Did you see the video recap we posted over at the Geni Blog?


Renee Zamora said...

Geni Grant,

Thanks for the video link. I see you also have several RootsTech blog articles at http://www.geni.com/blog/2011/

James Tanner said...

Thanks Renee, I wanted to do something like a summary but got too busy to go back. Love your post.

JL said...

That is a Marathon of a blog post! The links are bookmarked for my next month ... no, year's ... reading list.