RootsTech 2019—It’s a Wrap!

After 4 days of family history and genealogy immersion, it’s a wrap! RootsTech was filled with inspiring keynotes, educational sessions, a dynamic Expo Hall, and great entertainment. Jason Hewlett was back as emcee, who entertained us with musical impressions and song parodies, including a song titled, Let It Go. [I link to this particular video at the request of a few mothers who know. Jason was kind enough to direct me to this recording when I asked about it on Twitter. Thank you, Jason!]

After the keynote, there was an opportunity to interview Thom Reed, Michael B. Moore, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, and Martin Luther King III.

In his keynote address, Steve Rockwood said what many of us know: “Family history is NOT a spectator sport. Nothing really happens until you act.” The focus this year was on healing that which needs healing within families. Steve Rockwood surprised many by inviting Elder David A. Bednar of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the stage to announce a $2 million contribution to the International African American Museum Center for Family History (@IAAMCFH) to be built in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is the port to which many enslaved people arrived. Construction for the Center will begin mid-2019 with an estimated completion date in 2021. Audience members laughed when Elder Bednar said that the Church no longer issues checks, but the electronic transfer would take place tomorrow. By now the transaction is history.

Patricia Heaton graced the stage on Thursday with talk of family, Hollywood, and motherhood. The audience laughed when she shared how guests in parents’ home responded to her mother’s prayers at the dinner table. She also spoke of her perfect shoe size (6) and how she was sent to Milan as a shoe model. This many seem like a small insignificant piece of trivia but I noticed that on the heels of The Edge Effect, a shoe theme was being made manifest this year. 

The following day Saroo Brierley chronicled his miraculous journey for the RootsTech audience. I had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Saroo. I asked him about a book that I heard is being written about his two mothers. His face brightened as he spoke of Sue Brierley, his adoptive mum. She is in the process of writing this book. She kept detailed diaries of their family’s experience while he was growing up and he said that her story laid the foundation for his story. He hopes that the book will be released in about a year, but could provide no further information. 

Jake Shimabukuro speaks with his whole soul through his music and his shoes entertain me. He said that he only plays one ukulele at any given time rather than have many models. He discussed how an instrument needs to learn to respond to the artist and that this takes practice. Of Japanese descent, he mentioned in the interview that a television program wanted to discover his roots. A few months later the show came back and said that they could not find anything, although he knows the cities in Japan where the paper trail ends.  

And for many participants, the sessions offered at RootsTech hold out hope for answers to scaling those brick walls encountered in pursuit of our family’s history. I statistically evaluated my own RootsTech attendance and discovered that I only made it to 42% of the sessions I selected. How about you? You can still download the syllabi from the RootsTech app

Unlike last year, there appeared to be sufficient room in just about every session. The one exception was Relative Race; this session is like a family reunion that takes place each year since 2016 and attendance continues to grow. So next year … 

And not to disappoint fans, but the news at the conference is that the show will once again return to one season per year! Relative Race Season 5 begins Sunday, March 10th, but Season 6 may begin airing as late as Fall 2020. 

I’ve found that RootsTech brings together an international community of genealogists and family historians. Not only were all 50 of the United States represented, but 38 different countries. There is nowhere in the world like it! Visiting with others can be just as educational as attending a session. Nevertheless, I have already started watching the recorded sessions at RootsTech.org and the virtual pass is still available for purchase. The field of family history and genealogy is synonymous with lifelong learning.

Speaking of which, the DNA Learning Center was a popular choice for many participants. The purpose of the Center in the Expo Hall was to educate those in attendance about the basics of DNA. This opportunity was independent of any particular company and answered such questions as, “What types of DNA are tested for ancestry purposes?, What can I do with my DNA results?, and What in the world is a centimorgan (cM)?” This center was only a month in its planning. With such short notice and evident success, I think this is an element of the RootsTech conference that is here to stay. 

Connecting through music and dance was the theme of this year’s entertainment. The Edge Effect’s excellent performance and DNA reveal, and Derek Hough performing with the award-winning BYU Ballroom team, provided tired minds with a little mental refreshment. If you happened to miss the performances, The Edge Effect was recorded during Wednesday’s session.

There were over 100 entries submitted to the RootsTech FilmFest in 3 categories: youth, amateur, and professional. The prize winners have been announced, but the 12 finalists’ projects are available on RootsTechFilmFest.org.

The winners:

On the final day of the conference I had the opportunity to sit down with Jen Allen, Director of Events, about RootsTech 2019. It was interesting to have her compare and reflect on this year’s successes in light of last year’s fiascos. The introduction of PowerHour, larger rooms for sessions, no badge scanning—with the exception of labs and booths in the Expo Hall, increased the numbers of session per day, lunch for all participants on the first day when food services are not open for business, the Ask Me Anything Crew in turquoise, the Roots Crew in pink, and the DNA Basics Learning Center were all new. Even the keynote sessions were later in the day to allow participants the option of sleeping in rather than miss one pillar of the conference plan. Last year, she knew on day one what needed to change. This year she is satisfied from the initial feedback.The changes have been well received. Nevertheless, the RootsTech team reviews every evaluation and it will only be after this exercise that decisions will be made about RootsTech 2020. So when you receive your survey, complete it and submit it. The team has proven that they listen.

Amy Archibald and children

On a personal note, I would like to thank Amy Archibald who kept ambassadors up-to-date throughout the year. I would also like to thank Anne Metcalf and Virginio Baptista for all that they did to support the ambassadors in their respective duties during the conference. Anne continually provided timely updates and reminders concerning interviews. Virginio was there to film and photograph moments that may not have been captured otherwise. Thank you! You were awesome!

Anne Metcalf and Virginio Baptista

Now it’s on to RootsTech London! It will be held October 24-26, 2019 at the ExCel Centre. This 3 day conference will feature 150 sessions, keynote speakers, the Expo Hall, and evening entertainment. Unlike Salt Lake City, RootsTech London will not offer lab classes or host a Family Discovery Day this year. Registration is now open! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am designated as an official ambassador to the RootsTech Conference and RootsTech London. As such, I am provided complimentary admission and other services to accomplish my duties. 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.”

© 2019 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.