2018 RootsTech in review

Did you know I’m into family history?

Ok, so you’re not surprised that I take several days off work each year to go to a huge genealogical conference in Salt Lake City called RootsTech. It was held last week, February 28-March 3. Some people ask me why I keep going because they think I’m good at family history and that I should know everything by now. Hahahaha. #jokes

I’m barely scratching the surface with my knowledge and I learn many new things every year. Plus, technology is changing and you have to keep up with the kids, you know?

Also, I like hanging out with the 60+ crowd. Because that’s who goes to RootsTech conferences, if you’re wondering. There are a handful of us “youngsters” and I wish there were more. (For a few brief moments, though, as I looked around this year, I wondered, “Am I really 60 and no one is telling me?”)

RootsTech is simultaneously awesome and overwhelming. There’s so much connection and belonging and family and everything good in the universe, but then you learn about 600 million more records (literally) that you should be searching, and then even the time you are spending doesn’t seem like it’s nearly enough.

I also love running into family and friends at the conference. I usually reunite with many, many people I love.

This adorable couple served as missionaries in the CTM (Brasil Missionary Training Center) when I was there and I love them. And I love seeing them every year at RootsTech.
L to R: Liz, Calli, and Leslie. My mum, Leslie, decided to come with me this year and that was THE BEST. We had so much fun talking about our classes and what we’d learned. Plus, I’d been communicating with a 4th cousin about some research and she was in town for the conference so we connected with our new cuz Calli.

If you’ve ever thought about going, or if you just want some highlights, I am here to help.

Keynote Highlights

The keynotes are always amazing. Brandon Stanton kicked Thursday off. He’s the Humans of New York creator. You know, that small little social channel with 25 million followers. I’ve heard him speak before, but his story of learning to listen to people’s stories and help everyone feel heard and important is just awesome. We all belong.

Watch the full address here: https://www.rootstech.org/video/general-session-2018-brandon-stanton 

Scott Hamilton was super inspiring. He’s obviously an amazing figure skater (gold medalist at the Olympics in case you’re REALLY out of touch). He shared many stories of his adopted family and his journey to where he is today, many things he doesn’t regularly (or ever?) speak about. I was most impressed how open he was about his faith and his trust in God. The title of his newest memoir sounds super braggy, but…after listening to him, I may want to give it a read.

Watch the full address here: https://www.rootstech.org/scott-hamiltons-keynote-centers-on-love-family-and-identity 

Natalia Lafourcade…she is an adorable human being.

I just barely watched Coco two weeks ago and it is a genealogist’s dream movie. I fell in love with the “Remember Me” song and have been listening to the music video version on repeat. Well, guess what? Natalia is the singer. And she sang this for us, of course, along with several other songs. Her stories and personality were absolutely delightful. Plus, for those who haven’t been to RootsTech, genealogists always present keynote speakers with some history about their family and when she was presented with hers, her reaction was priceless. I’ll say it again. Adorable.

Listen to her songs and stories here: https://www.rootstech.org/video/general-session-2018-natalia-lafourcade

I have been told about 3000 times (ok, fine, 3 times) that I need to watch “Finding Your Roots” on PBS. I haven’t seen it yet, but you can bet your bottom dollar I will be watching it now. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the host of the show, which basically takes famous people and shows them their roots. Henry (we’re on a first-name basis now) has some incredible ideas to add curriculum to elementary schools that require children to discover their family history. I think it’s brilliant.

Watch the full address here: https://www.rootstech.org/video/general-session-2018-dr-henry-louis-gates-jr


I was invited (not sure how still) to a leadership session on family history. There were 3 apostles there, the Primary general president and like 7 Seventies and a presiding bishopric member. It was one of those sessions intended to pump you up about family history. I’m already there, so, you know, it was standard inspiration (it feels bad to say that, haha). Anyway, I did pay attention to some thoughts I had during the training, and I’m grateful that the Spirit is the best teacher because I came up with some things I really need to do to improve in my calling. I loved learning that from 2016-2017, every ordinance performed in the temple was a patron-submitted name, not from extraction. #cool. Elder Cook said we live in the most blessed time in all history and I believe it. A video they showed had a reminder from President Nelson that we all need to sacrifice more to be involved in family history and temple history. (It wasn’t this one but I can’t find the real one and this is the same sentiment: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2017-02-1000-a-sacrifice-of-time?lang=eng)

Other Class Highlights

I went to way too many classes and learned one million things. Here are the tops:

  • It’s worth it to go to multiple DNA classes every year. The technology and types of tests and companies are changing and competing, and it’s good to be on the up and up. I’m trying out 3 new tests this year for fun, so if you want some advice, ask me. JK, ask the experts. Diahan Southard and Paul Woodbury are my faves.
  • Ireland DOES have records. Sometimes I hear people have Irish ancestry and I shut down. I shall be more brave now.
  • In England, midwives were allowed to baptize children if the child was sickly and not expected to live until a priest could get there. Cool! They were recorded as private baptisms.
  • The Norway Digital Archives updated their site last year and it’s SO MUCH BETTER for your Norwegian research. I actually feel like I might be able to dive back into that.
  • Don’t forget about probate records…17 million on Ancestry and growing.
  • Look in mortality schedules for missing children.
  • If you know where a person was baptized or married, you may be able to contact the church and ask for a copy of the record, which may have more info than the marriage certificate. Some churches often recorded the event and then would send a copy to the original church where the person was baptized, so you may be able to find that original church!
  • Funeral homes have records that they *might* let you get a copy of.
  • GEDMatch–upload your DNA from any company to match with people.
  • Organize your life, your stuff, your family’s stuff, your digital files, your DNA, and your family’s DNA. When it comes to family history, if it doesn’t bring you joy, don’t throw it out. Digitize it and give it to someone who likes old stuff, aka me. Plz. Thx.
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