I manage to get to RootsTech only every other year, and this was just my second time to attend. While this was a briefer visit than the first, I continue to be impressed by the goals of the conference … and in sync with them for the most part. It’s a huge undertaking and remarkably well carried out.
My biggest challenge is staying organized and deciding which among many attractive options I should be engaging at any given moment. The sessions ranged from mildly helpful to just what I wanted.
This year the FamilySearch app allowed us to see if we were related to anyone at the conference. I had 298 matches, ranging from 5th – 10th cousins, none of whom were known to me personally. All were from just two or three lines in my family history. With newly acquired email addresses, though, I hope we can exchange information. Because I blogged every day, I’ll just let these slide shows be my final reflections.
The keynotes were excellent, and I regret that I missed Henry Louis Gates, Jr. live, but I needed to return home. I look forward to catching him on video. Brandon Stanton and Scott Hamilton did not disappoint. Both were authentic and warm and touching and wise. I will remember their stories. I also enjoyed and was inspired by Steve Rockwood’s reflections and the panel on the future of genealogy.
I think I learned more this year than I did in 2016. Maybe in family history, the more you know, the better prepared you are to learn from the sessions. Attendees are diverse in experience, but it’s often helpful to hear things you think you know told in a different way. In two days, I was able to attend sessions both on DNA and traditional research methods. In 2016, I focused on the storytelling sessions, but I satisfied that interest this year through the keynotes and visits to the Expo Hall. As I said, deciding among appealing options is one of the challenges of RootsTech.
I was more strategic in my visits to the Expo Hall this year, knowing from experience that it is somewhat overwhelming. I did a general walkthrough, then returned the next day with specific questions for RootsMagic and Family Tree DNA, both of which were helpful in solving my problems. I later went through again, looking for less obvious booths and innovative products and services. One example is Four Bears Books, which creates custom children’s books about specific ancestors. How great an idea is that?
FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY
I didn’t do much sightseeing this year, but I did make it to the Capitol grounds and the Family History Library. The time allotted for the library is never enough. I am still mildly awed by all that is available there. In just part of an afternoon, I barely scratched the surface. While I generally chastise myself for not going in with specific questions to answer, I’d like to make a case for the value of just browsing in the library. I simply took the elevator to the third floor, walked to the Iowa shelves, and found more than I could possibly view in the time I’d allotted. While the discipline of specific questions is a great foundation, browsing allows you to find information you might not have thought to look for otherwise. It’s incredible what they’ve collected there.
There’s much to love about RootsTech, and I would encourage anyone interested in family history who has a chance to go to give it a try. While I noticed a bit more glitchiness this year, it’s still less than you’d ordinarily expect for an undertaking of this magnitude. I missed the charging stations of 2016 but should have remembered my mobile charger. More abundant seating in the common areas would be a nice touch, but no doubt that would interfere with moving thousands of people about. The crowds were overwhelming at times, but you can’t have everything, and I’ll give the organizers some benefit of the doubt for choosing the best of the options.
Mostly, I love the multi-generational character of RootsTech. It’s great to see the younger people involved, along with the insight of older generations. I appreciate that RootsTech values the storytelling aspect of family history … not to the detriment of quality research, but as an ultimate goal of it. And there is learning provided for every level of experience. If you get a chance to go, then go … it’s worth the time. (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and 2016‘s reflections.)