Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Donald R. Snow: Some Things I Learned at RootsTech 2013

The following is from Donald R. Snow, 2nd Vice President of the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG)

SOME THINGS I LEARNED AT ROOTSTECH 2013Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, 21-23 Mar 2013
by Donald R. Snow
These notes are online at http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html with active Internet links.

1.     ROOTSTECH 2013
There were nearly 10,000 people that attended RootsTech 2013 in the Salt Palace, including many Family History Consultants and 1500 youth who attended a series of free classes on Saturday.  It was the largest of the three RootsTech conferences so far and this one had lots of information geared to all levels of family history and not just for the highly technological, though there was plenty for them too.  The keynote presentations are posted online at http://rootstech.org/ and are really worth watching.  They are entertaining, as well as informative.  The videos from RootsTech 2012 last year are also posted on the RootsTech website by clicking on About (on the left-hand side of the screen).

The notes for all of the classes were posted 2 or 3 months before the conference for anyone to read, whether registered for the conference or not, and are still available.  To download any that you want, just go to the RootsTech web page, click on Schedule, and then click on the title of any of the 150 classes that had notes.  You will see two links, one for the notes in doc format and one for them in pdf format.  You can do searches for any term in any of the notes by using Google site searches.  For example, to find every occurrence of the term Evernote in all of the class notes do a Google search for "site:http://rootstech.org/scheduleevernote" (without the quotes).  The results will include all occurrences where Evernote is in the title or text of the file.  To download the Conference Guide and the entire conference syllabus in large compressed files, click on the links at the bottom of the Schedule page.  The problem with the syllabus file is that the notes for each class are in a folder for that class and are in two formats, doc and pdf, so when you extract all the files you have 150 folders each containing two files and you can't just do pdf searches of the entire syllabus all at once.  It would have been very helpful if they had put all the pdf's into one file and all the doc files into another and then compressed those.  At the conference attendees could print out the notes for any classes they wanted at the FamilySearch section of the Vendors area.  Few people seemed to know that there were computer printers there for them to use at no charge.  They could also get free soda pop there and just relax for a few minutes on the sofas and chairs provided.  Thanks, FamilySearch.

This year RootsTech was viewed remotely in at least 17 locations around the world.  Here's the list.  Notice that nearly half of these are outside the U.S. 

     IN THE U.S.                                                              OUT OF THE U.S.
Ashburn Virginia Stake                                          Bogota Colombia Stake
Beaverton Oregon West Stake                              Calgary Alberta West Stake
Kansas City Stake                                                   Guatemala City Central Stake 
Klein Texas Stake                                                   Lima Peru La Molina Stake 
Liberty Missouri Stake                                            Makati Philippines Stake 
Los Angeles California Stake                                  Mexico City Aragon Stake 
Orlando Florida South Stake                                  Nottingham England Stake 
Powder Springs Georgia Stake                              Sao Paulo Brazil Stake 
Rio Rancho New Mexico Stake                                                       
These stakes could arrange their own Family History "fair" and use the streaming videos and programs from RootsTech in Salt Lake City.  The Family History Dept is evaluating how this went for possible expansion to 600 stakes next year.

The Church News ran several-page articles about the conference on 31 Mar (5 pages) and 7 Apr 2013 (2 pages), and there were articles in many other papers.  Here are a few links.

     http://www.ldschurchnews.com/home/ -- Type rootstech in the search box to find articles about RootsTech 2013
There were several "official bloggers" for the conference and many unofficial ones who reported it.

     http://rootstech.org/bloggers -- List of official RootsTech 2013 bloggers and links to their blogs

This is only a smattering of the 20-30 official blogs about the conference and there are just lots and lots of good reviews, comments, photos, interviews, and stories posted in these and many others. 
The emphasis at this RootsTech was on stories and "current" family history, not just the genealogy of the individuals, and there were many sponsors and sections devoted to this.  There were discussion of how to get others involved in FH, especially youth, and what we should be doing to be sure our own family history is preserved for later generations.  There were many vendor booths relating to various aspects of stories and recording and presenting them and on Thursday evening the Mormon Tabernacle Choir put on a concert for the attendees of the history of Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant to the U.S. who wrote God Bless America.  Information about the concert is at http://www.lds.org/church/news/rootstech-irving-berlin-concert-highlights-need-to-index-immigration-records? lang = eng .  The program was recorded and rebroadcast Saturday morning to the remote RootsTech locations mentioned above.  Elder Allen F. Packer of the LDS Church's Quorum of Seventy and Executive Director of the Family History Department, spoke and mentioned that research showed that knowing more about their family history was the single biggest predictor of a child's emotional well-being.  Wow!  Does that make our family history activities important!  Since the concert was recorded, I imagine it will be available somewhere to watch, either online or on DVD.  On Friday evening they had a Story Telling evening with several local and national story tellers.  We were aware of some of these storytellers since we had heard them before at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem and we knew they were good and would be fun to hear and they were.  It was a very enjoyable evening in the Little Theater in the LDS Conference Center.  Quotes I heard that relate to stories are the following.  "There have been great societies that never used the wheel, but there have been no great societies that did not tell stories."  That was a statement from Ursula LeQuinn quoted by someone demonstrating something at the BackBlaze Theater in the vendor area on Thursday, 21 Mar 2013, at 4 PM.  Another quote I heard two of three times from one of the general authorities of the LDS Church and from staff of the Family History Department is, "Genealogy changes charts; family history changes hearts."  The difference between genealogy and family history is that genealogy is just the bare-bones of names, dates, and places, whereas family history brings in the stories and details of our ancestors' lives and fills in the "dash" between the birth and death dates on their tombstones.
One thing I learned at RootsTech 2013 was the process of the Family History Library's book scanning project.  I made an appointment in advance of RootsTech to have them scan two books of Snow biographies.  One was the Erastus Snow biography and the other was the Erastus Beman Snow biography, his son and my grandfather.  The Snow family commissioned Andrew Karl Larson, History Professor at Dixie State College (now Dixie State University!) to write them many years ago and the family has the copyrights.  The FH Library staff checked their system and found that they have a copy of the Erastus Snow biography on their shelves, but not the Erastus Beman Snow biography.  Since the Snow family hadn't given them permission, they couldn't post a scan of the Erastus Snow biography online.  I had talked to other members of the Snow family and we had decided that since both books had been published many years ago and were now out of print that we should give the FH Library permission to scan and post them online, so I signed the copyright release forms.  The books were about 800 pages and 150 pages, respectively.  They scanned them at the booth in the vendors area of RootsTech that day and gave them back to me that evening.  They also gave me 4 2-gig flash drives with all 950 scanned pages in tiff format and said that when they get them posted online in 2 or 3 weeks that they will be in searchable pdf format.  The Snow family is pleased that both of these books will be available online since they are not in print now and many family members would like copies.  Now they can get pdf copies and they will be every-word searchable.  When they are posted online, to find them just click on the Books button on FamilySearch, or go to that page directly at http://books.familysearch.org/ , or find them in the FamilySearch Catalog and click on "To view a digital version of this item click here."  This project has been very worthwhile and will be very memorable of RootsTech 2013 for us.
My daughter, Linda Snow Westover, and I gave a presentation on about using Picasa and other freeware to organize your digital photo collection.  It turned out to be very popular and there were about 450 attendees in the class and many more that couldn't get in.  I guess part of the interest is that everyone has loads of photos and they are looking for ways to organize and show them.  Besides the 4-page syllabus notes of our class we made a one-page summary handout so people would have something in hand during the class.  The notes are available on the RootsTech website (information in paragraph 1 above) and also, along with the one-page summary, are available on my Class Notes web page at http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html .  We knew the class would be of interest to many since Sue Maxwell had done a survey on her Granite Genealogy blog at  http://granitegenealogy.blogspot.com/2013/02/and-rootstech-registration-winner-is.html  and our class came in as the most popular in the Getting Started track, but we still didn't expect the enormous interest that was shown.  We were glad that our notes and summary handout are all posted online so people can have access to them.

I learned from the Church History Library booth at RootsTech that Elder Steve Snow's talk that he gave on 14 Feb 2013 in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square about his and my ancestor Erastus Snow will be posted online.  Elder Snow is the LDS Church Historian.  The CHL staff told me that 2 or 3 weeks after the 6-7 April General Conference, when they can get to it, his talk will be posted online.  Since that talk was in a series of talks about historical Church members, I imagine that other talks will be posted there too.  I forgot to ask them which website they would be posted on, but it will probably be their website  http://churchhistorylibrary.lds.org .

James Tanner, author of Genealogy's Star blog at http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/ and a consultant to MyHeritage http://www.myheritage.com/ pointed out that the program Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage searches the Internet for all the names on your database.  He pointed out that it gives almost all good hits, rather than almost all false positive hits like so many of the other genealogy searches yield.  You can sign up for a free account and post your data and have it search for your names.  They also have a more advanced account that you have to pay for.  Their search engine searches all the databases on WorldVitalRecords, plus more.  The MyHeritage website also has lots of other family history tools.

There were many new vendor companies this year and I hadn't even heard the names of some of them before.  For example, PhotoFaceMatch at http://www.photofacematch.com/ .  This service uses facial recognition to give you a probability that two photos are of the same person.  This helps in identifying old photographs where you are not sure who the person is, but you have other photos of that individual.  You upload the two photos and the website gives you a probability that they are the same person.  If you upload several photos that you know are of the person and then one that you are not sure of, it can do better since it has more information of what the person really looks like. They are just getting started and at present the service is free.

Geoff Rasmussen pointed out some differences between Billion Graves and Find A Grave, for example, how much easier it is to put cemetery data on Billion Graves than on FindAGrave, since you use Billion Graves' smart phone app and just take the picture.  It is sent automatically to their file and is posted on their website so someone can transcribe it as soon as they can get to it.  For Find A Grave you have to upload the photo.  But the Find A Grave database has many times more graves than Billion Graves and you own the copyright to the photo, whereas Billion Graves owns the copyright to anything scanned with their app.  Geoff mentioned an idea for when there is no headstone for the person in the cemetery, but you are sure they are buried there.  He suggested that you write their information on a piece of paper, lay it on the ground, and photograph it with your Billion Graves smart phone app so it will have the correct GPS coordinates included.  The Billion Graves app is free for smart phones and can be used in any cemetery by just snapping the picture.  You don't need to do the entire cemetery, unless you have time and want to, and that makes a good youth project, e.g. an Eagle Scout project.  He said his kids enjoy going to cemeteries and walking around and snapping pictures of the tombstones with their smart phones.

I attended a class on Android genealogy apps taught by David Lifferth.  The video of his presentation on this topic from RootsTech 2012 is online at https://familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/using-android-devices-for-genealogy/496 .  I was impressed by how many Android users there are and how many Android apps exist for family history now.  Android is the operating system used on smart phones and tablets that are not iPhones and iPads.  David had us hold up our Android device and he took pictures to post on his blog.  The photos from his Android classes at RootsTech in 2011 and 2012 are in the video at the website above, but the 2013 ones aren't there yet.  His notes and his presentation list many apps for genealogy and now I need to learn how to use some of them on my Android tablet.

At this conference I experimented with taking notes using Evernote on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 tablet.   I typed them in using a stylus with the virtual keyboard and found that it was slow, but I could get most of what I wanted to write.  Using Evernote the notes are sync'd on my desktop and laptop computers at home, so I can edit them more easily there.  I found it worked fine, but that I've got things to learn about Evernote on Android and how to use it.  I also need to learn how to use a virtual keyboard faster.  (I'm writing these notes on my desktop computer in Evernote so they are sync'd on my laptop and on my tablet.)  

WorldCat from OCLC -- http://www.worldcat.org/ -- combines the catalogs of over 10,000 libraries worldwide and shows you which libraries have a given item.  It works on computers, as well as mobile devices, and you can set up a free account to keep track of your searches and bibliographies.  You can enter a zip code or city and it shows the libraries within a given number of miles of that zip code that have the item.  Knowing where an item is, you can go there or else request it via Interlibrary Loans.  The Family History Library has recently joined so their collection will now be included in WorldCat searches.

14.     ROOTSTECH 2014
The dates for RootsTech 2014 were announced as 6-8 Feb 2014 in the Salt Palace, but in a new location in it.  Hopefully, it will be in a part where there are some larger rooms and where it is easier to get from floor-to-floor with more elevators and/or escalators.  Slow and crowded elevators have been major problems in each of the RootsTech conferences so far.  But the planners are aware of it and may be able to do something about it for next year.  I recommend you watch for details and check on it for RootsTech 2014.  It is not just a conference for avid family historians, but includes lots for people at all levels of expertise.
These are only a few of the many things I learned at RootsTech.  Since the notes are available to everyone, we can all learn more of topics that interest us, even if we didn't attend that class.  I like having the notes available to everyone, both before and after the conference, and think that this made the conference much more valuable worldwide.  I appreciate all the work and money that went into this conference and I hope you've caught some of the excitement I felt for RootsTech 2013.

Don Snow

1 comment:

Jana Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-25.html

Have a great weekend!