RootsTech Is Coming March 2-4, 2023

Good news! RootsTech is back in person as well as virtual, Thursday, March 2nd through Saturday, March 4th, 2023! More good news! The ticket price for all three days onsite at the Salt Palace Convention Center decreased to $98 with the Expo Hall now free and virtual attendance also free!

What’s the advantage to being onsite? There will be a few more presentations available onsite and the Expo Hall will host hands-on demonstrations. One of the major benefits for avid family historians is access to the Family History Library and in-person research assistance.

For those who register for virtual attendance, there will be over 200 new on-demand sessions, main stage presentations and keynote speakers, online research consultations and a virtual expo hall. You can read more about it here.

I have loved watching the conference AND the Salt Palace Convention Center grow as genealogy and technology intertwine. The conference is a little less “techie” as developers are usually found in the Expo Hall now and not hosting sessions themselves. Unconferencing, where groups gathered in classrooms at specific times to discuss wishlists, is somewhat a thing of the past, although many informal gatherings do take place. 

RootsTech has become a little more vibrant as these transitions have created a more user-friendly experience. Now in its 13th year, RootsTech, with the past theme “Connect. Belong.” has become its own family with the conference as its annual reunion. It’s been a joy to watch this family grow!

This year’s theme is “Uniting.” Whether or not your family roots leave you feeling warm and cozy, it’s helpful to know where you come from so you can set sights on who you want to be and where you want to go. 

Similar to last year, I am facilitating a panel discussion titled, “Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in the Family History Community.” Last year the panel discussed bullying, Find-a-Grave policies (and its abbreviation), copyright, contract law (terms of service), investigative genetic genealogy (IGG), societies, and the many roles that genealogists fulfill in our community. Judy Russell’s closing remarks wrapped it up: “Let’s do it right to protect everything for the future.” The recording is available via this link or at

“Let’s do it right to protect everything for the future.” 

Judy G. Russell, “Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in an Online World,” RootsTech 2022

Ethics may be considered an “eat your vegetables” kind of topic, BUT it is foundational to facilitate sharing, collaborating and enjoying new discoveries. It is “uniting” when individuals follow the ethical code.

If last year is any indication and polls accurate, Find-a-Grave may qualify for a session of its own. The pain close family members suffer as their loved one’s memorial is hijacked and held hostage by a “gamer” is the greatest ethical complaint in the family history and genealogy community. Many influencers continue to encourage Find-a-Grave and its parent company, Ancestry, to modify this particular policy to abate these relational violations. The more stories we share, the more we increase awareness and understanding as we become proactive in protecting the legacy of our loved ones.

Last year attendees shared in chat many ethical experiences and it was reported that the session was very helpful. So, in preparation for RootsTech 2023, would you share your ethical concerns that can be addressed by the panel in March? I can be contacted via the Let’s Talk Family History link. (Examples of what has been helpful and/or what not been helpful are welcome.)  Let us learn from one another and, as Judy says, “Let’s do it right to protect everything for the future.”  

Whether you decide to attend in person or virtually, don’t forget to register today!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am designated as an official influencer and compensated speaker for RootsTech 2023. Nevertheless, I have been with RootsTech since its inception and with its predecessor for many years as a paid participant. As always, my coverage and opinions are my own and are not affected by my current status. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

© 2022 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

“Here Rests in Honored Glory…”

It’s Sunday, April 25th, a day that those of us in the United States have dubbed DNA Day, especially in the genealogical community. We celebrate the 25th because J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick published an article in Nature on this day in 1953. Its title is, “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.”

In honor of the 50th anniversary of this discovery the United States Congress pass a resolution. It said,

S. CON. RES. 10

“Whereas April 25, 2003, will mark the 50th anniversary of the description of the double-helix structure of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick, considered by many to be one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th Century;

Whereas, in April 2003, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium will place the essentially completed sequence of the human genome in public databases, and thereby complete all of the original goals of the Human Genome Project;

Whereas, in April 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health in the Department of Health and Human Services will unveil a new plan for the future of genomics research;

Whereas, April 2003 marks 50 years of DNA discovery during which scientists in the United States and many other countries, fueled by curiosity and armed with ingenuity, have unraveled the mysteries of human heredity and deciphered the genetic code linking one generation to the next;

Whereas, an understanding of DNA and the human genome has already fueled remarkable scientific, medical, and economic advances; and

Whereas, an understanding of DNA and the human genome hold great promise to improve the health and well being of all Americans: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the Congress—

  1. designates April 2003 as ‘‘Human Genome Month’’ in order to recognize and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the outstanding accomplishment of describing the structure of DNA, the essential completion of the sequence of the human genome, and the development of a plan for the future of genomics;
  2. designates April 25 as ‘‘DNA Day’’ in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the description of the structure of DNA on April 25, 1953; and
  3. recommends that schools, museums, cultural organizations, and other educational institutions across the nation recognize Human Genome Month and DNA Day and carry out appropriate activities centered on human genomics, using information and materials provided through the National Human Genome Research Institute and through other entities.”

Fast forward to 2013 when the 113th Congress passed H. Res. 180 in honor of the 60th anniversary:

H. RES. 180

Recognizing the sequencing of the human genome as one of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the past 100 years and expressing support for the designation of April 25, 2013, as “DNA Day”.


April 25, 2013

Ms. Slaughter (for herself, Mr. Burgess, Ms. Schakowsky, and Ms. Speier) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce


Recognizing the sequencing of the human genome as one of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the past 100 years and expressing support for the designation of April 25, 2013, as “DNA Day”.

  • Whereas April 25, 2013, is the 60th anniversary of the publication of the description of the double-helical structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the scientific journal Nature by James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick, which is considered by many to be one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century;
  • Whereas their discovery launched a field of inquiry that explained how DNA encoded biological information and how this information is duplicated and passed from generation to generation, forming the stream of life that connects us all to our ancestors and to our descendants;
  • Whereas this field of inquiry in turn was crucial to the founding and continued growth of the field of biotechnology and of genomics, which have led to historic scientific advances for the world, advances in which the people of the United States have played a leading role and from which they have realized significant benefits;
  • Whereas from 1990 to 2003, genomic research centers in the United States and around the world worked together on the Human Genome Project, which elucidated the sequence of the human genome, the genetic blueprint of the human body, and made that data available publicly;
  • Whereas April 14, 2013, marked the 10th anniversary of the Human Genome Project’s completion;
  • Whereas the sequencing of the human genome has already fostered research discoveries that have led to advances in medicine, and as genome sequencing becomes faster and less expensive, will enable researchers to further improve human health and medical care;
  • Whereas the cost and time needed to sequence a human genome has decreased rapidly, from $1,000,000,000 and 6 to 8 years during the Human Genome Project to less than $5,000 and 2 to 3 days in 2013;
  • Whereas in 1990, when the Human Genome Project began, there were only 4 FDA-approved drugs with pharmacogenomic information on their labels, and then by 2013, this number had increased to over 100;
  • Whereas a study conducted by the Battelle Institute found that for every dollar of United States Federal investment in the Human Genome Project, there was $141 in economic activity generated in return;
  • Whereas the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health has provided an exemplary model for social responsibility in scientific research, by devoting significant resources and leadership to studying the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomics research;
  • Whereas genomic medicine will be enhanced by increasing the public’s awareness and understanding of genomics; and
  • Whereas April 25, 2013, is an appropriate day to designate as “DNA Day” in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the publication describing the structure of DNA on April 25, 1953: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) recognizes the sequencing of the human genome as one of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the past 100 years;

(2) honors the 60th anniversary of the outstanding accomplishment of describing the structure of DNA and the 10th anniversary of completing the Human Genome Project;

(3) supports the designation of “DNA Day”; and

(4) encourages schools, museums, cultural organizations, and other educational institutions in the United States to recognize “DNA Day” with appropriate programs and activities centered on human genomics.

As I mentioned in my presentation for RootsTech Connect, the world of genetic genealogy has collided with both medicine and law enforcement, although both of these fields have been using DNA longer than genealogists. It is the way we, as genealogists, analyze and correlate the genetic information that has become useful to these other disciplines.

But DNA’s impact continues to expand. A recent article in the New York Times (NYT) discusses the benefit to using genetic genealogy to identify fallen soldiers and bring them home. It is in line with the United States Army’s values espoused in “The Soldier’s Creed,”

“I will never leave a fallen comrade.”

Since World War II the Defense Department has sought to recover and identify America’s soldiers. From the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery to the graves labeled “Known But to God” in the 26 permanent American military cemeteries through the world, we now have a new way that these soldiers can be identified.

Currently the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) outlines the procedure as follows:

“Scientists use a variety of techniques to establish the identification of unaccounted-for individuals, including analysis of skeletal remains and sampling mitochondrial DNA. They also analyze material evidence, personal effects and life support equipment. The agency medical examiner evaluates these overlapping lines of evidence in an effort to identify the remains…”

“The lab uses mtDNA in about three-quarters of its cases…This sequence is compared with sequences from family reference samples provided by living individuals who are maternally related to the unidentified American…Generally, all persons of the same maternal line have the same mtDNA sequences. Since these sequences are rare but not unique within the general population, they cannot stand alone as evidence for identification. In addition to the factors previously mentioned, each separate line of evidence must be examined at the lab and correlated with all historical evidence. All reports undergo a thorough peer review process that includes an external review by independent experts.”

But, is there a better way? According to the NYT article, Timothy McMahon thinks so. He oversees DNA identification of the remains for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. He is quoted as saying, “The technology is there—we just have to develop the policy to use it.”

Ed Huffine, who headed testing of remains from past wars for the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in the 1990s added, “Right now they are doing it backward, so you have policy getting in the way of science…”

“Switching to DNA-first will be faster, cheaper and produce better results,” he said. “It just makes sense.”

Given that in 2013 Congress lauded the savings provided by the “United States Federal investment in the Human Genome Project” and that, according to Battelle Institute’s study, “there was $141 in economic activity generated in return” for every dollar invested, isn’t it time to re-evaluate methods, update procedures, and return identity to our fallen soldiers?

The NYT article highlighted a 16-year-old soldier named Private Melton Futch of the 92nd Infantry Division. His grave is marked similar to the photograph I took posted above; it might even be his grave. I’ve been to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery multiple times and it’s a place of solemn education for me. There are 490 unidentified soldiers in 488 graves in this one cemetery. Then there is Normandy American Cemetery, where the average age of a soldier was 24 years. The age of my son when we visited. It was a poignant moment for this mother.

Each unidentified soldier that lay in these graves or elsewhere made the ultimate sacrifice. Can we not expedite their identification by authorizing the use of investigative genetic genealogy (IGG)?

What do you think?

© 2021 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved

How Many Surnames…? It All Depends

A friend asked on Twitter, “How many distinct Surnames [sic] should we have each generation in a perfect pedigree? In 10 generations we have 1024 direct ancestors with how many distinct Surnames [sic]?”

My immediate response was the classic genealogical answer, “It depends.” It still is. Contrary to an idea that circulates within the community, there is no one right way to research. There are standards and best practices. It’s also true that there is no one right answer to this question of numbers. Why?

First, the words used to form questions matter. Words have different meanings to different people dependent on known usage in culture and community. My study of English and other languages provided many opportunities to learn lessons related to miscommunication based on the nuance of words. 

So, what about surnames? First, to answer her question I needed to verify what she meant by “perfect.” A basic dictionary search defined it as 1) having all the required or desired elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be, or 2) absolute, complete (used for emphasis). 

This alone did not define the meaning of the sentence. The answer would still be “it depends,” since “distinct” would also need to be defined, such as 1) recognizably different in nature from something else of a similar type, or 2) readily distinguishable by senses. 

She followed up with an example saying that [she and I] possess “two distinct, unique surnames.” This is a fact, but many, or most, surnames have variants. “Broderick” has many. I was surprised upon a quick search that her surname has at least four. I had to ask, should these varied spellings be included in the computation?

And then, what about those individuals who don’t have surnames? I’ve met people that do not have surnames even in today’s world. How would they count?

There are other factors to consider. With the advancement of DNA, is the pedigree genetic or social? Autosomal DNA reaches back about 5-6 generations and a person does not inherit DNA from each of those ancestors; yDNA can confirm male lineage or reveal an NPE, commonly known as a non-paternal event or, preferred in genetic genealogy, not the parent expect. There is also mitochondrial DNA which reaches back in time and typically, from an American point of view, the surname changes each generation?

But, what happens when a Johnson marries a Johnson, a Tanner marries a Tanner or a Smolenyak marries a Smolenyak? Megan Smolenyak, former chief family historian at, the author of many books related to genealogy and so much more, married Brian Smolenyak. In a number of surname traditions she would be known as Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak or Megan Smolenyak2

Megan shared on her YouTube channel that her deep dive into DNA helped sort out the four Smolenyak families in the village of Osturňa in Slovakia and it has “saved [her] decades of research.” In this village there were four Smolenyak families that Megan believed shared a common ancestor. She obtained yDNA samples representing each of the four households. The results showed that none of these families were related. In her words, “not even close.” She said, “You could not find four people of European origin more distantly related than the four of us.” 

Later she conducted a village study that revealed that two of the four Smolenyak families aligned with two other distinct surnames—Homza and Vanecsko, one surname of which belongs to her husband’s line. With this information, would the new surname be added to the generational count?

As you can see by Megan’s example, the number of surnames found in a 10-generation family tree is not as straight forward as it appears. It depends on how you want to count surnames, and let’s not be myopic. From patronymics to pedigree collapse, DNA to endogamy and more, there are a number of reasons a definitive answer cannot be given. 

In my friend’s specific case, she could take all known factors into consideration and arrive at a reasonably accurate total, subject to change with further research. But, in the end, my friend received the answer she was anticipating:

Every new wife adds a new surname. Every odd number in an ahnentafel [German for “ancestor table”] is a new surname. I think this means 512 surnames in your example, all the odd numbers between 1 and 1024, which is half of the total. 

As you might have noticed, there was no initial example and many assumptions must be made to create this as a textbook case. I still don’t know if it’s a genetic or social family tree. Or, if variant spellings count. If I were to guess I would say, “probably not”, but, then again, I could be wrong.

The human family is complicated. Genealogy is not a one-size-fits-all pursuit. Surnames are just one example. I still remember the woman I met years ago who shared how difficult it was to live in our American society without a surname. It wasn’t something she anticipated. But, in reality, we must remember that even without a surname, she counts.

If you’re interested in learning more about surnames, I wrote two posts for the RootsTech blog in 2017 that will be of interest: “What’s in a Surname?” and “What is a Surname Distribution Map?” 

And, finally, the U.S. Census Bureau compiled a list of the most prolific surnames in America. The most recent data is from 2010. Are your surnames found in the top 100 on this list? Let me know. 

  1. Smith
  2. Johnson
  3. Williams
  4. Brown
  5. Jones
  6. Garcia
  7. Miller
  8. Davis
  9. Rodriguez
  10. Martinez
  11. Hernandez
  12. Lopez
  13. Gonzalez
  14. Wilson
  15. Anderson
  16. Thomas
  17. Taylor
  18. Moore
  19. Jackson
  20. Martin
  21. Lee
  22. Perez
  23. Thompson
  24. White
  25. Harris
  26. Sanchez
  27. Clark
  28. Ramirez
  29. Lewis
  30. Robinson
  31. Walker
  32. Young
  33. Allen
  34. King
  35. Wright
  36. Scott
  37. Torres
  38. Nguyen
  39. Hill
  40. Flores
  41. Green
  42. Adams
  43. Nelson
  44. Baker
  45. Hall
  46. Rivera
  47. Campbell
  48. Mitchell
  49. Carter
  50. Roberts
  51. Gomez
  52. Phillips
  53. Evans
  54. Turner
  55. Diaz
  56. Parker
  57. Cruz
  58. Edwards
  59. Collins
  60. Reyes
  61. Stewart
  62. Morris
  63. Morales
  64. Murphy
  65. Cook
  66. Rogers
  67. Gutierrez
  68. Ortiz
  69. Morgan
  70. Cooper
  71. Peterson
  72. Bailey
  73. Reed
  74. Kelly
  75. Howard
  76. Ramos
  77. Kim
  78. Cox
  79. Ward
  80. Richardson
  81. Watson
  82. Brooks
  83. Chavez
  84. Wood
  85. James
  86. Bennett
  87. Gray
  88. Mendoza
  89. Ruiz
  90. Hughs
  91. Price
  92. Alvarez
  93. Castillo
  94. Sanders
  95. Patel
  96. Myers
  97. Long
  98. Ross
  99. Foster
  100. Jimenez

© 2021 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

St Patrick’s Day Research Seminar Reprise

May your blessings outnumber

The Shamrocks that grow.

And may trouble avoid you

Wherever you go.🍀

On Wednesday, March 17th, the Family History Library hosted a free all-day seminar focused on Irish family history. Although I had other leprechauns to catch that day, I logged in at the top o’ the morning to find a pot of gold for someone beginning Irish research. The good news is that the recordings from these sessions are available for a limited time on the Family History Library Facebook page.

The day began with a keynote presentation by David E. Rencher, CGO+ who serves as the Family History Library’s director. His session was titled, “Three things I wish I’d known when I started my Irish research!” 

Spoiler Alert! Here are the three things he wished he had known:

First, the Irish enjoy the stability of surnames. Finding clusters of surnames can help a researcher focus on a specific geographic region of Ireland. If the researcher has the surnames of husband and wife to cross reference, it can leverage the power of intersection to narrow the search even more. Rencher used an example of two surnames he knew of a married couple who had children in Ireland. By using the geographic clues, he was able to narrow the search so that he found the family in the third parish. A great time saver! To be honest, it might not help with Murphys or Kellys, but check out John Grenham’s website. Enter an Irish surname and a distribution map will appear along with other information including variant spellings. This website offers a limited free surname search as well as subscription features, so check it out!

Second, early in his career Rencher was influenced by co-workers when they told him “[a]ll the records in Ireland were destroyed.” This is one of the myths in genealogy. It is true that the Public Record Office experienced a fire in 1922 that destroyed many records that would aid genealogical research, but there are records that help compensate for this record loss. 

So, what were the key record losses?

  • The 1821-1851 Irish Censuses (a few fragments for some counties survive). In 1821 Ireland began to enumerate every person in the household and took note of who had died. It is a significant loss! 
  • Two-thirds of the parish registers of the Church of Ireland
  • Original wills and administrations dating to the 1500s (fragments and copies did survive)
  • Court records prior to 1900

But, there was a massive effort to recover lost information so there are potential substitutes. Rencher briefly discussed the work of antiquarians and genealogists who made abstracts and transcriptions from the records housed in the Public Record Office before that fateful date. These files are listed on Family Search wiki, “Irish Genealogical Collections by County,” by the name of the collection (antiquarian), its repository(ies), whether or not the collection is found at the Family History Library, and the associated diocese(s).🍀

Finally, Rencher wished that he had paid attention to friends, associates, and neighbors, commonly referred to in genealogy as the FAN club. He admonished listeners to note the factors that brought their people to America. If they landed in New York and head to Kansas, there was a reason. He recommended that a researcher note all those who served as witnesses, godparents, etc, and the localities from which they came. The social circle might just hold the clue needed to advance the research.

Other sessions currently available on the Family History Library Facebook page are:

Once again, these presentations are available for a limited time. Although St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated one day each year, ancestors can be found all year long!

Good Luck!!! 🍀

© 2021 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

The Story of “The Dirty Little Irish Kid” Revisited

Wishing you a pot o’ gold,
And all the joy your heart can hold.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I first heard the story of “the dirty little Irish kid” a number of years ago. It was once again brought to my attention as this St. Patrick’s Day approached. It is a common story told locally among descendants and throughout the world by church leaders. One version goes like this:

“Many years ago an elder who served a mission [for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] in the British Isles said at the end of his labors, “I think my mission has been a failure. I have labored all my days as a missionary here and I have only baptized one dirty little Irish kid. That is all I baptized.” Years later, after his return to his home in Montana, he had a visitor come to his home who asked, “Are you the elder who served a mission in the British Isles in 1873?” “Yes.” Then the man went on, “And do you remember having said that you thought your mission was a failure because you had only baptized one dirty little Irish kid?” He said, “Yes.” The visitor put out his hand and said, “I would like to shake hands with you. My name is Charles A. Callis, of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am that dirty little Irish kid that you baptized on your mission.”

This story first caught my attention because of my connection as a descendant of Irish immigrants. I am familiar with the poverty and struggles that my ancestors had to overcome. Who is not impressed when someone is able to overcome the challenges of life? And, to do it alone, wow!

I was awed by how this young, supposedly orphaned, child was able to make such a religious commitment, immigrate to America, and rose among the ranks in church leadership. I was also disturbed from the first time I heard this story that the former missionary would profess failure or claim success based on statistics. Spiritual work is not a sales position. It’s not something that can be tallied. Spiritual work is intangible. The only measurement that would have, should have, counted is that this young boy’s life improved because of this missionary’s service. Somehow, somewhere, this missionary misunderstood. It wasn’t about him at all.

Not only that, when I finally decided I wanted to know a bit more about this Irish boy, I learned that I had it wrong. Charles Albert Callis was born on May 4, 1865 in South Dublin to English parents. This was true. But, when Charles’s father died in Dublin in 1867 at the age of 27, his widowed mother, with four children in tow, moved back to England. It was there on a Liverpool bridge that the missionaries noticed a little boy out after dark and offered to walk him home. It was at this boy’s home that they met Susannah Callis, the boy’s mother. The family was then taught, baptized,  and, shortly thereafter, immigrated to Utah. Not quite the orphan I thought, even though the definition of “orphan” is dependent on time and place. To the missionary, this single mother and her children were forgotten or discounted except for “the dirty little Irish kid”—at least the way the story is told.

By age 16, Charles worked in the coal mines of Utah twelve hours a day to help support his family. I wonder if this is where the “dirty” descriptor was acquired. According to reports, he took interest in learning and ultimately, through the support of a mentor and self-study, passed two bar exams. As an attorney and a missionary, he became a great asset to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nephi Jensen once wrote of this “dirty little Irish kid: “C. A. Callis in many respects [is] a very remarkable man. He is one of those heroic souls who have come up from the depths…

“His personality is not striking. His appearance gives you no true idea of the caliber of the man. He is undersized and there is nothing prepossessing about his countenance. But when he commences to talk you begin to enlarge your estimation of him. His voice is soft, round, and full. There is a charm in it. You listen and soon discover that you are not in the presence of an ordinary man.

“He is a leader. He does things without being told. Nor does he stick tenaciously by the past. He is always discovering new ways of doing things. While others are waiting for opportunities to do good he is making them.”[1]

I’m still in awe of “the dirty little Irish kid” and all that Charles Albert Callis achieved in his lifetime. I just wonder about his mother’s loss and her influence upon her children, his sisters’s stories, and if, in the end, this family was happy.

From this example, are there any lessons to be gleaned about how we tell our family stories and how we listen to the stories written or told by others?


[1] Nephi Jensen Journal, July 1907, pp. 65–67, Archives & Manuscripts, BYU. Quoted in Richard E. Bennett, “Elder Charles A. Callis: Twentieth-Century Missionary”; accessed 16 March 2021:


Ancestors: How did they live? Who did they love? What did they learn?

Three questions. Three questions that Steve Rockwood, CEO at FamilySearch International, asked in his closing remarks at RootsTech Connect. How did your ancestors live? Who did they love? And, what did they learn? This is the expanded vision at FamilySearch as this work continues to go forward. The organization is committed to assisting people, using its combined resources, in transforming the name of an ancestor into real person. A pinch. A dash. Voilà! The real story.

Rockwood shared that FamilySearch has helped people make connections to their ancestors for over 125 years, but he believes that this is only one-third of its mission. Past, present, and future, FamilySearch seeks to connect each person to a record and the records to each other to create one family tree. One family. He says it’s “all about stories.” 

In 2016, Rockwood compared genealogists and family historians to heart specialists. You can read about it here and here.  In this session he suggests that those involved in this work can turn, change, and heal hearts by exploring the questions in the title of this post as they pertain to our ancestors:

How did our ancestors live?

Who did our ancestors love?

What did our ancestors learn?

I might add that we ask ourselves:

How do we live?

Who do we love?

What are we learning?

We might also want to look to our posterity and ask:

How will they live?

Who will they love?

What will they learn?

Steve Rockwood went on to say, “Your real story matters. Your story deserves to be remembered. It’s your story that has lasting value.” 

Do you agree?

During RootsTech Connect I checked out the mosaic—a family portrait of attendees. When I zoomed out, I saw an artistic rendition of a world map. When I zoomed in, I saw individual portraits of friends, colleagues, and people I’ve never met. We make up the world. We each have a story. Since our stories make up our world, let’s assist one another and write some good ones, you know, ones with happy endings! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am designated as an official ambassador and compensated speaker at  RootsTech Connect. Nevertheless, I have been with RootsTech since its inception and with its predecessor for many years as a paid participant. As always, my coverage and opinions are my own and are not affected by my current status. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

© 2021 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over—RootsTech Connect

The last few days over one million attendees from over 200 countries and territories attended RootsTech Connect! This portion of the conference was LIVE with speakers and vendors available to chat with attendees about their topics or products. There were also a few live Zoom events that took place. Thanks to the Connection-Experiment’s Desktop Diner, and based on one of my presentations, I added an item to the menu of breakout rooms, “Eat Your Vegetables—Ethical Considerations.” I realize this topic might not be fun nor entertaining, but it is foundational to all credible family history research.

At one point #RootsTechConnect was trending on social media channels. Old friends were reconnecting while those new, about 89% of the conference, were making connections for the first time. Relatives at RootsTech was a popular activity. So many cousins, so little time! Many focused on the keynote sessions. These are now recorded and available for viewing. Paul Chiddicks, author of the blog, The Chiddicks Family Tree, shared in his review of the conference and a very tender moment made possible by technology introduced at the conference. Check it out! If you want to be part of the genealogy Twitter universe, follow Paul @chiddickstree. He’s one of the best!

Since there are more than 800 25-or-less minute sessions available for viewing this next year, there is still time to register for a Family Search account. Just follow the prompts from the website. You will need an account to create a personal playlist. Chat will also be available until later this week.

For an account, here’s the process once you arrive at the website and click Sign In. You’ll be redirected to the second screen. Once there select “Create a Free Account” and you’ll be on your way to a year’s worth of free educational and industry content. Don’t forget to read the terms of use or the privacy notice. If you choose not to register for an account, you can still enjoy the sessions with limitations.

In closing, I would like to share a post written by fellow ambassador and speaker, Taralyn Parker. She had this to say about RootsTech Connect on Instagram. I hope it resonates with you as it did with me:

We have to give ourselves permission to do the parts of family history that we love. What speaks to you? What tugs at your heartstrings? Lean into it and don’t worry about fitting into someone else’s mold. The family history community needs you because we are literally all part of the human family. We need each other’s stories, skills, memories, research abilities, photos, and expertise. We need a shoulder to cry on when the past is painful. We need a cheering section when a brick wall comes tumbling down. We need each other. The work and joy of family history cannot be completed alone. Whether you are just starting to explore or you have been carrying the genealogical torch for years, there is room at the table for you. I’m grateful for the acceptance I have found with my quirky love of research and social media savvy skills. Inviting you to link arms with me so we can learn and share together. Please save and share if this speaks to you! What parts of family history are you leaning into after @rootstechofficial?

So, what are you leaning into after RootsTech Connect? Who did you connect with? What did you experience?

Finally, I’d like to give a shoutout to RootsTech, FamilySearch International, and the sponsors of this year’s global conference! It truly is amazing what has been accomplished in such a short period of time!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I am designated as an official ambassador and compensated speaker at  RootsTech Connect. Nevertheless, I have been with RootsTech since its inception and with its predecessor for many years as a paid participant. As always, my coverage and opinions are my own and are not affected by my current status. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

© 2021 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

RootsTech Connect Begins February 24th–25th Depending on Your Time Zone!

The RootsTech team began with one goal: to bring joy to all people. After ten years of exponential growth in the genealogical community, the team was required to cancel plans for in-person events in London and Salt Lake City due to the pandemic. But, this did not stop them.

Thanks to technology, the 4-pillar RootsTech plan became RootsTech Connect—a virtual, interactive conference with lasting opportunities. In fact, the opportunities will last for at least one full year!

This global event has local offerings with keynote speakers from around the world sharing their messages around the clock. Sports, music, theatre, and inspiration will speak from the Main Stage at All of this will begin on Wednesday, February 24th or Thursday, February 25th, depending on your time zone. If you are in Salt Lake City, this means that the festivities begin Wednesday at 5 p.m. MT with the Expo Hall preview while sessions will be launched at 9 p.m. in the same time zone. If you are in London the Expo Hall opens just as Wednesday turns into Thursday with sessions launching at 4 a.m. On Thursday in Sydney, sessions launch at 3 p.m. with the Expo Hall opening for review at 11 a.m. that same day! (See schedule below.)

If the time zones don’t confuse you just a bit, how about the fact that eleven languages will be engaged, plus additional languages for other learning opportunities. Specifics will be provided on the website when RootsTech Connect launches.

As of meetings held this week, RootsTech Connect is approaching 325,000 total registrants from almost 225 countries and territories! Approximately 90% of those registered will be attending for the first time. The good news is that there is room for more to join. If you haven’t already done so, register! (After you finish reading this post, of course!)

A sneak peek at the website indicates that all registrants will be treated to a global educational experience. There are 746 sessions and 280 vignettes with tips and tricks to assist you in accomplishing your family history goals. Not sure what to watch first? Look for the Guide Me instructions on the website.

RootsTech is all about connection. From its earliest days “unconferencing”, informal meetups to discuss aspects of genealogy, happened. The RootsTech team found a way to make it happen virtually. There will be chat rooms for each session. All you will need to do is click Connect on the session you watched to leave your question or comment. Speakers will visit chat rooms to answer questions and discuss the topic for the duration of the conference. You will be able to communicate with other attendees, exhibitors, and cousins, if you are participating in Relatives at RootsTech. These opportunities will disappear after the conference so plan your schedule accordingly.

Registration now requires that you create a FamilySearch account. If you have an account or register for an account, you will have the opportunity to create a playlist, chat with speakers, exhibitors, and other attendees, and participate in Relatives at RootsTech. For the latter opportunity, you must also upload or input your family tree. You are not required to provide a family tree to register for an account. If you’re new to genealogy, you just might not have one.

It is important to note that even if someone at RootsTech does NOT show up on your Relatives at RootsTech list, they might still be your relative. This is an opt-in system that requires a person to have a tree. Also, errors exist and not all parent-child relationships are verified, so your connection is only as accurate as that branch on the FamilySearch FamilyTree.

Regardless, always read the terms of service and other policies. Although you would be limited without an account, you will still be able to view the main stage, the sessions and the Expo Hall.

The RootsTech team began with one goal: to bring joy to all people.

Let me know how RootsTech Connect brings joy to YOU!

Wishing you all the best!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am designated as an official ambassador and compensated speaker at  RootsTech Connect. Nevertheless, I have been with RootsTech since its inception and with its predecessor for many years as a paid participant. As always, my coverage and opinions are my own and are not affected by my current status. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

© 2021 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

Who’s Going to Win Your Family History Bowl?

I probably take the analogy of football to genealogy too far, but sometimes you just have to interject the game to break up the monotony. If not football, something else. Say “genealogy” or “family history” and watch eyes roll. Then again, say “football” and you might just witness the same response. 

But, over the years I have found that the best researchers are those who can think outside the box, call audibles, and scramble to avoid being sacked. Their approach is rarely replicated, each bringing their own to the game. Don’t get me wrong. There are standards and skills that make the game what it is, but each researcher has a style of his or her own. Like on the field, a successful player in the field of genealogy and family history is true to themselves, plays by the rules, and has an impeccable work ethic. 

For the first time in NFL history the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Kansas City Chiefs for Super Bowl LV at their own stadium. Talk about home field advantage! With one exception—the world is still in the midst of a pandemic so there will be limited fans in the stadium. Win or lose, tomorrow it’s over, only for 32 teams to get ready for another season this coming Fall and to once again compete to arrive at the Super Bowl—Groundhog Day, NFL style!

This brings me to the 31-32[1] key individuals in your first five generations. Are there any that are the focus of your Family History Bowl? Is there some family history project you’d like to complete in the coming days, months, or year? If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that a person can become overwhelmed when they take on too much at any given time. Imagine a quarterback attempting to sling a Hail Mary for every. single. play. It would just be too much and the defense would kill them!

One key to success in football and genealogy is pacing. In genealogy, similar to a team making a first down and maintaining possession until making that touchdown, a researcher must do the same. Each touchdown is another score that wins that Family History Bowl. 

So, what is a first down play?

It depends on your genealogical journey. Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will tell you that their genealogy is researched back to Adam or as far as records will take them. I’m not sure how true it is or if the claims have been verified. Some lineages have been verified. Some have not. FamilySearch had a Medieval Families Unit that focused on pre-1500 A.D. lineages. It closed in 1996. There are plans to rework the data but these plans are projected to be accomplished in the distant future. Latter-day Saints with this dilemma, i.e., the research is finished, have been counseled to know their lineage and learn their ancestors’s stories. The rest of us have work to do in this arena. [And, those with *completed* lineages can focus on other aspects of *the work*, such as assist the poor, the needy, the sick, and the afflicted.]

If you have not collected what you know and know what has been verified, this is the place to start. Once you update what you know, my general advice is to make SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

Genealogy and family history goals typically begin with anchoring an ancestor to three dates and places—birth, marriage, and death—a tripod. Call this “core” information. In sports, the conditioned core of an athlete serves as a base to prevent injury among other benefits. In genealogy, the core serves to prevent errors always building on the last verified fact working back in time. 

So, what would be a S-M-A-R-T goal? Here’s an example of a genealogy first-down:

Diana Fink was born on 8 January 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri. Who were Diana’s parents? 

This first down question can be answered by going to the Missouri Digital Heritage website.[2]

We learn from this abstract that Diana’s parents were Louis and Amelia Fink and that both parents were born in St. Louis. We also learn Diana’s middle name, Adell, and that she was born at 2926 Montgomery St. with the certificate returned by Mrs. Bollhagen. 

Remember—this is just an abstract. The reference to the original is given at the top of the page. I also glanced through the list of Fink candidates and recognized that Louis and Amelia Fink also had a son, Louis, on 15 March 1900 in St. Louis and this should be noted. 

It is always recommended to trace back to the record closest to the original, with preference for the original, so you would want to request an actual copy of Diana’s birth certificate as well as a copy of Louis’s birth certificate. One record might contain additional information or more information than the other.

Does this meet the criteria of a SMART goal?

S—Specific—yes, Who were Diana’s parents?

M—Measurable—yes, acquired names of her parents from birth index: Louis and Amelia Fink. [I would send for copy of the original. It should also be noted that only DNA testing can confirm the biological relationship.]

A—Achievable—yes, thanks to the Missouri Digital Heritage website and access to a copy of the original

R—Relevant—yes, for family history

T—Time-bound—yes, in this case, it took me less than a couple of minutes, but, then again, games have been won in 8 seconds

As you can see, this search would qualify as a first down. There are other records you’d want to search to consider it “reasonably exhaustive” research and from which you might glean additional information. This handy chart can coach you on what records to seek to answer your specific research questions.

So, who’s going to win your Family History Bowl? You are!

Cheering you on from the bleachers!

If you have any questions, contact me.


[1] Thirty-one, if you’re single; thirty-two, if married

[2] Use your favorite search engine or the FamilySearch Wiki to learn what records are available in your particular area of research.

Copyright ©2021 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

International Greek Ancestry Conference is this Weekend—And, It’s Free!

When I saw the program for this week’s International Greek Ancestry Conference, I just had to share this great opportunity. If you and/or someone you know have Greek heritage, this conference is for you! No registration is required. Check out the details below:

A free, virtual genealogy conference sponsored by Greek Ancestry and Hellenic Genealogy Geek will be presented on January 29-31. The conference will be live-streamed and recorded on the Greek Ancestry YouTube channel. No registration is needed; just click on the YouTube link to participate.

The purpose of this conference is to share information that will be relevant to both beginning and advanced researchers which will assist them in their quest to learn more about their family history.  Our sessions are presented by professional historians as well as seasoned genealogy researchers who have volunteered their time to share their expertise and knowledge.

The Greek Ancestry website has details on the presenters and sesssions. Please click on this Conference page link to access.

The agenda for the conference is below. All times given are Eastern Standard Time. The international times for each session are on the second half of the document.

If you already have plans for this weekend, don’t be disappointed! All sessions will be recorded and placed on the Greek Ancestry YouTube channel. Enjoy!


Copyright ©2021 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.