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!
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
Family History Enthusiasts Worldwide Gathering in Utah for RootsTech 2016
For Immediate Release From RootsTech
SALT LAKE CITY, 27 January 2016—RootsTech, the largest family history conference in the world, is looking forward to over 20,000 visitors over four days with an exciting array of speakers and entertainers, over 250 interesting and informative classes, a huge expo hall with more than 160 exhibitors. There is something for every level of family history—from the beginner to experienced. The three-day conference begins on Thursday, February 4, and goes through Saturday, February 6. For more information go to RootsTech.org.
The keynote speakers and offerings reflect the growing influence of family history. Today multiple generations of all ages are engaging through family storytelling and sharing memories within families using social media and an expanding array of new technologies and mobile apps. The opening session on February 4 will begin with Stephen T. Rockwood, who is the managing director for the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President/CEO of FamilySearch International.
Also featured is Paula Williams Madison who is chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC, a Los Angeles based media consultancy company with global reach. After her retirement in 2011, Madison started doing research on her family lineage. She wrote the book and produced a movie Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem in April 2015 about her experiences. A free screening of the movie will be provided on Wednesday, February 3.
Bruce Feiler is one of America’s most popular commentators about contemporary life. He hosts the PBS series Walking the Bible and Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler. He wrote The Secrets of Happy Families containing best practices for busy parents from some of the country’s most creative minds. He has appeared on many television shows on NRP, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and others.
On Friday, February 5, David Isay, is a scheduled keynote. He’s the founder of StoryCorps, an award-winning organization that provides people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their life stories. 50,000 interviews have been archived and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. He has also written several New York Times bestsellers, including Listening is an Act of Love. He is a broadcaster and documentarian, and his research reveals ways to tell great stories for the family historian.
Also on Friday, Josh and Naomi Davis, popular family bloggers known as Love Taza, will speak. On their blog, they relate their life with their three children in bustling New York City. The blog has become a digital destination viewed by millions around the world. People love the inspiration about raising a family and the appreciation Naomi has for life’s simple joys.
On Saturday, February 6, Doris Kearns Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. She worked with Spielberg on the movie Lincoln, based in part on her award winning Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. She has written books about Frank and Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and the Kennedys and shares her expertise and commentary on many television shows. She has a PhD in government from Harvard and was an assistant to Lyndon Johnson and has been a consultant in several PBS and History Channel documentaries.
Also on Saturday, Michael Leavitt, a three-term former governor of Utah, will speak. He also served in George W. Bush’s cabinet as an Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The second annual Innovator Summit is a one-day event on Wednesday, February 3, for developers, entrepreneurs, and innovators from around the globe to explore, examine, and discover business and technological opportunities within the family history industry—a rapidly growing multibillion dollar industry. Innovators from around the globe and from all industries will be competing for a piece of the $100,000 in total cash and in-kind prizes. The keynote speaker for this event will be Ken Krogue, an entrepreneur who has taken his business InsideSales.com from a small beginning to a billion dollar industry. He will share his expertise about social media and how to use the different forms effectively.
Along with the keynotes, RootsTech attendees will be able to hear from the Crescent Super Band, featuring Ryan Inness, and Lower Lights, a popular gospel and folk band.
More information about speakers, entertainers, classes, and how to register at RootsTech can be found at RootsTech.org.
RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, is a global conference celebrating families across generations, where people of all ages are inspired to discover and share their memories and connections. This annual event has become the largest of its kind in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants worldwide.
Wow, the power of stories! This was the response to many who attended the keynote address on the second day of the 46th annual Conference on Family History and Genealogy. T. C. Christensen, a writer, director, and producer, shared his experience in the creation of the movie Ephraim’s Rescue to a full house. His remarks were titled, “I Am Ready Now — Lessons from the Life of Ephraim K. Hanks.” If you haven’t already heard, this man’s story is amazing! I won’t reveal the plot, but I will say that this man wrote two personal histories and both are lost. It is only because a man named Andrew Jenson interviewed Ephraim in June of 1891, and other fragments of recorded history, that we can know Ephraim’s story.
T. C. Christensen remarked that, “in making a film, the research is everything!” Journals that were kept are the reason we know about this man. He also shared how the demographics of the time period brought power and impact to the story.
Besides the cast, Christensen recruited descendants of the rescued pioneers as movie extras. He said that they filmed one winter scene in the summer for safety reasons and even then the waters were treacherous. “We can’t do in the movies what they did in life. We are wimps!” He said that those descendants would say during filming, “if my ancestors did this for real, I can do this for five hours.” The excerpts we viewed brought many to tears. The legacy of Ephraim’s story testifies that great things can happen when preparation meets opportunity.
As for today, conference participants will have the opportunity to hear from David E. Rencher, chief genealogical officer for FamilySearch International, on “The Role of FamilySearch in a Worldwide Community.” After his keynote address, participants will have the choice of seven tracks with classes that will discuss United States, British, Scandinavian, Canadian, Estonian, and French research, methodology, digital tools, and FamilySearch products and programs.
The vender prize drawings, which in the past have been held on Friday, will be held TODAY at 1:00 p.m. in room 2254 of the conference center. Participants MUST be present to win.
Throughout the day FamilySearch will continue to provide scanning opportunities for photos, and collect books that will be scanned and made available online after the conference.
The computer lab will be open with a dozen computers provided by FamilySearch for use by those attending the conference this week.
Incline Software, the makers of Ancestral Quest, and Heritage Makers, a publishing program, will demonstrate their wares from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. in rooms 2254 and 2295, respectively. Added to the program is a demonstration by Ancestor Cloud, a social media program for genealogy, that will be held in room 2267.
The story is told of a recently wedded young woman who turned to her mother and with a smile proclaimed, “Oh mom, I’m finally at the end of all my troubles!” The mother wisely responded, “I know dear, but which end?”  Similar statements are made after events like RootsTech 2014, and beg the question, is it over, or has it just begun? The perspective one takes about an event can make all the difference in the outcome.
RootsTech is an event that requires a lot of planning. Registration begins toward the end of the summer and, as anticipation builds, would-be participants arrange their schedules, book hotel reservations, and make travel plans. It’s all part of the story. Finally the time arrives and attendees happily fill their days with classes, presentations, networking, socializing, and performances. When it’s over, everyone involved leaves exhausted, armed with new information, new skills, and new friends. Is it over or has it just begun? If you participated this year, are you back to your routine? Did your participation in RootsTech 2014 make a difference in your life? If so or if not, what’s your RootsTech 2014 story?
Depending on your genealogy and family history goals, RootsTech 2014 was a treasure trove of information and ideas. All of us have our routines to get back to and all of us have genealogy and family history goals. I hope that attending RootsTech 2014 made a difference in your life, whether you attended at the venue or virtually. If you did not attend the conference this year, why not begin today? A number of sessions, including the general sessions from each morning, may be viewed on-line at your leisure and the syllabus, which you can download, covers many other sessions that were not recorded.
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The young woman getting married was actually in the middle of a journey that she hoped would last forever. For all of us involved in genealogy and family history, I hope that the conclusion of the RootsTech 2014 conference was not an end, but somewhere in the middle of an incredible year of genealogy and family history discoveries that ultimately will be preserved and shared.
By the way, if you plan to attend RootsTech 2015, reserve February 11-15 on your calendar. This conference will be held in conjunction with the conference for the Federation of Genealogical Societies at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah and is conveniently located within walking distance of the Family History Library. Reserving extra days for research is advisable.
Judy G. Russell opened Friday’s General Session, like a typical Scotch-Irish, with a story. She referred to an article that stated that oral history can disappear in three generations and stressed that it is important that our history be passed down purposely and accurately. After Judy G. Russell, Dr. Spencer Wells addressed the audience. Dr. Wells is in charge of the National Genographic Project that studies the deep history of humankind. Wells shared his introduction to family history and genetics. His name is not really Spencer Wells; it’s Russ Spencer Wells, IV and as a boy he wanted to know the first Russ, a great grandfather. This was only the beginning. I highly recommend watching this session at RootsTech.org.
There were a number of sessions on Friday. I attended D. Joshua Taylor’s presentation entitled “Capturing and #SharingStories in 140 Characters or Less” where he gave an overview of the many social media options for sharing stories. It may be a bit overwhelming to someone just beginning their family history quest so Taylor cautioned attendees to choose one or two possibilities and consider those options in more depth.
Friday Night at the Library Pizza Party
In the evening, conference participants had an opportunity to attend Friday Night at the Library and the pizza party on-site for those who pre-registered. The delayed broadcast of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games was televised for for those in attendance.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
RootsTech hosted three different sessions on Saturday with alternate schedules: the General Session, the Family Discovery Day, and the Youth Discovery Day. Although there were many more youth and adults, the larger venue and alternate schedules helped control the crowds.
Todd and Koreen Hansen
Saturday’s General Session included Todd Hansen of the BYUtv series The Story Trek and Stephanie Nielsen of the NieNie Dialogues. Although I had seen commercials advertising The Story Trek, I had never watched an episode. I was delighted to know that every story told is aired on the show. Todd Hansen believes that everyone has a story. He said that he has found that the person who thinks he has the least compelling story is the most interesting. The Story Trek is the ultimate reality show. As far as his own story, the one he chose to tell the audience was how he arrived on stage at RootsTech. Although incomplete, it included generations of decisions and he told it from present day to the historic beginnings. A novel approach. He made the point that with the current world population and only one of him, with four stories per show, it would take him four million years to record every person’s story. He commented that the chances of him knocking on a specific door are “ridiculously slim.” His message was clear. Tell your story. Take one step at a time. If you only have a piece of paper, make it a goal tomorrow to buy a pen.
Stephanie Nielsen of the NieNie Dialogues and Heaven is Here addresses her audience at RootsTech 2014
Stephanie Nielson is the wife of Christian, mother of Claire, Jane, Oliver, Nicholas, Charlotte, and the author of Heaven is Here and the NieNie Dialogues. Her courage, faith, tenacity, and many prayers brought her to the RootsTech stage to share her story. It is a story about love. It is a story about a horrific accident that claimed the life of one. It is a story about her desire to be a mother. It is a testimony of God’s blessings. I could write more, in fact I will, but I encourage you to watch the video broadcast at RootsTech.org and read her memoir.
I listened to Evan Carroll lecture on “What Happens to Your Digital Assets After You Die?” He raised significant issues concerning our digital life, areas for consideration, and suggestions for a plan of action. Read more about it in the coming days on FamilySearch.org and check out his book, Your Digital Afterlife, which was recommended by Chris Dancy during the keynote presentation at the RootsTech 2014 Innovator Summit.
I ran into this family on their way to see Studio C. They were so excited!
Saturday seemed like my busiest day as conferences collided. As day three of the full-access conference continued, I ran into many attending the Family Discovery Day and Youth Discovery Day. Bright orange and lime green backpacks helped youth identify their assigned groups.
Along with all the classes families and youth attended, BYUtv’s Studio C made an appearance for autographs and a presentation that contained highlights from the upcoming season beginning April 7th. The RootTech 2014 audience was one of the largest the cast has ever addressed. The youth clamored for the t-shirt give-a-ways that were part of the program.
The crowd waiting for autographs from the Studio C cast.
Why is Jeremy showing me his watch? You’ll have to read the rest of this post to find out :)
Studio C all lined up greeting their public!
The Jeremy Warner showed me his watch displaying a picture of his darling newborn Felix and, during the presentation, displayed a three-generation photo of himself with his father holding his son. Another photo showed little Felix with a mustache :-) Congratulations to Jeremy and his wife on the birth of their son only one week before this event. In addition, those in attendance at the Studio C event were allowed to tweet questions to the cast. My question was simply, ‘Why was Jeremy coming between Stephen and Whitney on stage?’ It was the impetus for a tender moment of Stephen and Whitney holding hands over Jeremy’s lap, a prelude to Valentine’s Day. Jeremy claimed to be a marriage counselor. I checked. No, he’s not, but he is an actor, which is close enough :-)
Dune, a service dog in training, and her family. It was a delight to meet so many furfriends and their families at RootsTech 2014!
For the closing session of Youth Discovery Day, Elder Neil L. Andersen encouraged the youth to find their cousins. He introduced a new song, which was partially performed live, and demonstrated Puzzilla, a program that shows not only direct progenitors, but their children, too. This program attempts to show a possible missing child or marriage of a child and assists with descendancy research. If you would like to learn more about this FamilySearch Certified program click here.
RootsTech 2014 was a wonderful conference that had so much to offer anyone interested in genealogy and family history. You may still download the syllabus and watch the recordings of over a dozen sessions at RootsTech.org. I would like to extend a personal thank you to the leaders, staff, and volunteers who planned, organized, and executed such a splendid conference. RootsTech 2015 is scheduled for next February! Local hotels are already accepting reservations. Besides having the Family History Library nearby as a local distraction during next year’s conference, the Federation of Genealogical Societies will also be in town. If you’re passionate about genealogy and family history you may just find that Salt Lake City is where you will want to be February 11th through the 15th in 2015.