How do I begin to summarize the incredible weekend that was RootsTech?? I had a wonderful time meeting new people, learning new research strategies, hearing fantastic speakers and enjoying the gorgeous city of Salt Lake. I am so appreciative of the RootsTech organizers for offering the student discount that made my trip feasible on a grad school budget. I haven’t even left for the airport yet, but I’m going to summarize my favorite parts of the weekend with The RootsTech Awards 2017!
Best Keynote Speech
While all the speakers were fabulous and touching, I thought Drew and Jonathan Scott of The Property Brothers were the most entertaining. They had interesting stories, great visuals and the best stage presence. I loved hearing the story of how their parents met, their own childhoods and their careers. Of course, I could relate to their Scottish roots and their obsession with Scottish history! I am really looking forward to seeing what speakers RootsTech 2018 will have in store.
Honorable mention goes to LaVar Burton for bringing to life my childhood memories of Reading Rainbow, his touching stories about his mother and his joyful reaction to receiving his family tree.
Best Session Speaker
I attended two of Judy G. Russell’s (aka The Legal Genealogist) presentations this weekend and she was wonderful, as always. I attended both “When Worlds Collide” about resolving conflicting evidence and “Copyright Law for Genealogists” about, well, copyright law obviously. Although both topics had the potential for dry, boring presentations, Judy was lively and entertaining. I came away from both feeling more knowledgeable about the subjects and familiar with new resources. I would highly recommend anyone take advantage of an opportunity to hear her speak in person or via webinar!
Of all the interesting sessions I attended, the one that stands out the most is a presentation that Dr. Bruce Durie gave about Scottish records. Several of my lines have ended at Scottish immigrants and I’ve been unsure how to proceed. Bruce provided some excellent explanations of the websites available for Scottish records and their contents. Now I feel confident moving forward with my research knowing I won’t be throwing away money on websites I don’t understand. I hope to see more presentations by him next year.
Best Expo Hall Find
Via a promoted tweet I learned a company was at RootsTech called Living Tags. The tweet said they were giving away their $100 product for FREE during the weekend, so of course I made a beeline for their booth not even knowing what they sold! The fantastic guys at the booth explained Living Tags makes metal QR codes that can be permanently attached to headstones (or anything else you can imagine) and when visitors scan the codes they will be taken to a memorial page you have created for the person buried there. You could also create a page for a building, monument, headstone…anything you can think of! We also got a sneak peek of a project they are working on where web pages could be linked to headstones via geotags rather than QR codes. That means you wouldn’t need to physically attach anything to the place for the memorial page to be located, just scanning the vicinity with the app would bring up the page! I think this is a really exciting concept and I’m eager to see where they take it. Please go check them out and give them your support!
Can you believe Ancestry was giving away DNA kits for only $49??? I was floored when I saw that! I was one of the first people in the expo hall because I left the opening session a little early. I hopped right to the front of the line and picked up the maximum 5 kits. I am so excited to use them for both my parents’ siblings! Throughout the weekend there was a constant line, sometimes of 50+ people waiting to buy DNA tests at the 2 registers they had. Of course since the limit was only 5 per transaction plenty of people got back in line and walked away with 20+ kits! Insanity!
Best Extra-Curricular Event
I attended all the evening events (at least for a few minutes) as well as a sponsored lunch, lab session and a quick visit to the Family History Library. Without a doubt the best event was the concert, “Music: It Runs in the Family,” featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III. As someone who was a “theatre kid” in high school I was thrilled to hear an evening of show tunes from musicals I worked on or watched. Even better were the stories and videos that wove together the story of Andy’s ancestors and brought the entire event to life. It was truly a fantastic event in a gorgeous building.
All-in-all this was an unforgettable weekend. I am already eager to book my travel arrangements for next year’s conference, which will be held February 28th – March 3rd. I hope if you haven’t been able to attend RootsTech before you will find a way to attend next year’s event. It certainly will be hard to live up to this year, but I have no doubt the organizers will manage to exceed the new standard they have set.
See you next time Salt Lake City!