My third trip to RootsTech was the best one yet. I attended some of the best sessions I’ve ever been to and caught up with many friends from Twitter, Facebook, and past conferences.
I was pleased with a number of the changes that were made from the last two years, including the addition of new and larger rooms for sessions, more recordings, and badges mailed in advance. Everything ran more smoothly than the infamous Badge Scanning Debacle of 2018. Although all the sessions I selected were well-attended, only at one session were people turned away because all the seats were full.
Last week I wrote about my plan to pack light for the trip and each day, which was resounding success. In fact, I could have packed even lighter! I didn’t need my own water bottle since my hotel provided complimentary bottled water in the room. I didn’t even wear a coat most days due to the mild weather and the short distance to the door of the Salt Palace. I didn’t carry around the bag I received when checking in and I didn’t miss it. I got along just fine with my little purse and my little notebook.
Let’s get on with the Second [Not-So] Annual RootsTech Awards show!
[To catch up on the First RootsTech Awards, read: Wrapping Up RootsTech 2017]
Best Keynote Speech
This one wasn’t even a contest. Saroo Brierley was without a doubt the keynote I was most looking forward to this year, and he didn’t disappoint. I’m fascinated by his story and especially his message of empowerment. Over and over again Saroo reached points in his life where he could have given up, and no one would have blamed him for giving up after all the hardship he faced, but over and over again he chose to chart his own course instead. Admittedly, I haven’t read his book, or even watched the movie, but both are on my to-do list.
Although not technically a keynote speaker, the guest appearances by Michael B. Moore and Martin Luther King III were a delightful surprise. The work Mr. Moore and his staff are doing to open the International African American Museum is a tremendous contribution to American and world history!
Best Session Speaker
This year I attended two fantastic lectures by Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG. The first was “Digging Deeper: Voter Registrations” and the second was “The Problem with Porters: Men of the Same Name.” I appreciated that these sessions were at a more advanced level than many of the sessions offered at RootsTech. Rebecca does a great job of organizing her presentation in a logical manner. She balances direct instruction with example cases to make her points. I also love her use of textual record, microfilm, and online record symbols throughout a presentation to illustrate her emphasis on the importance of seeking offline sources. I hope I have the opportunity to attend many more of her presentations in the future!
I was very excited to attend the session “Scanning Photos with your Digital Camera” by Peter Krogh. He displayed and discussed a variety of tools and set ups that could be used to scan things like over-sized items, books, photographs, and negatives. After reading Archive Photography: How to photograph oversize photos, curled documents, and heirloom treasures by Gary W. Clark last year, I have been eager to try out using a camera and a copy stand for scanning. The book did not get into specifics about the type of equipment to try so I appreciate that Peter Krogh pointed attendees to his website where he lists suggested equipment. In fact, his entire approach to digitizing his photos really resonated with me. The audience gasped when he opened his Lightroom software and it reported he had over 59,000 photos in his library but I thought it was great. He has even divided his images into record groups! I love it! I am definitely planning to buy his ebook on Digital Asset Management, The DAM Book 3.0, so I can learn more.
Best Expo Hall Find
Although it is not new to me, I must take this opportunity to plug Reclaim the Records. I am so glad that founder Brooke Ganz had a booth this year to spread the word about the work the organization is doing. If you aren’t familiar with Reclaim the Records, they are non-profit that uses state and federal Freedom of Information laws to obtain genealogical records and indexes. You can learn more about them and support them on their website: ReclaimTheRecords.org
Honorable mention goes to Permanent.org. This is also a non-profit helping people preserve their digital data in perpetuity using an endowment model. Individuals pay a one-time fee, some of which is invested to support the long-term maintenance of their data. Portions of this fee also go toward supporting digital preservation initiatives focused on preserving cultural heritage. You would probably use this site differently than your typical file sharing cloud storage program. This is for the stuff that needs to last and would probably be better as a catastrophic back-up of your most precious files as well as files that might have enduring value beyond your family. Having a little bit of knowledge about the archival preservation aspect of digital storage, I think what Permanent.org is doing is wonderful. From my conversation with their representatives, it sounds like they have big plans for the future and I’m interested to see how they grow.
Disappointingly, RootsTech did not hold an Innovators Showcase this year. I really missed having the opportunity to learn about up-and-coming technology in the genealogy community. I wasn’t the only one to make this comment during the conference and I hope the organizers will consider bringing it back next year.
I only bought one thing this year, and that was this adorable RootsTech scarf! I saw someone wearing one on Wednesday and made a beeline to the booth during the Expo Hall preview night to buy one for myself. I can’t wait to wear it for what’s left of the Northern Indiana winter!
Best Extra-Curricular Event
This year I did not attend any of the after-hours sponsored activities, however, I did go to several meet-ups for online communities. My favorite was the Virtual Genealogical Association meet-up. I had an opportunity to get to know a lot of new people. We enjoyed good food and great conversation. If you haven’t already joined the VGA, it is definitely worth the membership fee. By joining you will have access to quality webinars as well as exclusive Facebook groups and a number of discounts.
Best Lab **New Category**
New to the [not so] annual RootsTech awards is the Best Lab category. This year I attended two of the optional paid lab sessions, one was a “Visual phasing workshop” by Stephanie Saylor and my favorite was “Creating a DNA Triangulation Table” by Andrew Lee. Although the topic was fairly complex and technical for most of the attendees, Andrew guided the group over every hurdle with ease. Even though I had attempted this process on my own, I definitely left with a few new tricks…and some interesting leads to follow up on. I did not attend any labs last year, but I know that in 2017 the lab I attended was only an hour, which felt far too short. This year the labs were 2.5 hours. Despite taking up two sessions of time, I much prefer the longer format. Both of the labs I attended could easily have run longer!
RootsTech never fails to inspire me to develop new presentations of my own. Whether it’s thinking about how I would have approached a topic differently or an unanswered question that I want to address, I always end up opening PowerPoint on the plane ride home to outline a new lecture. Maybe I’ll even submit one or two for next year! It remains to be seen whether RootsTech 2020 will be in the cards for me, but I hope to be back next year.
I hope you had a great RootsTech, or #notatRootsTech! If you had a favorite part of the conference please share your comments. I’d love to hear what sessions and speakers you enjoyed!