RootsTech is the largest genealogy and family history conference in the world. It’s held in the Salt Palace conference center in Salt Lake City every winter and in London in the fall.
It was Charlie’s and my first time ever attending this four-day event. Here are our first impressions and takeaways—and why we think ALL family historians should attend at least once!
The Conference Center Was HUGE
There were probably close to about 10,000 people attending so it was very exciting and also a bit overwhelming—especially to first timers like us. Thankfully, RootsTech was prepared for newbies.
There were helpers everywhere in blue tee shirts emblazoned with the words “Ask Me Anything.” Another group of people had pink tee shirts that said “Spreading Joy.” These were the folks who walked around handing out candy and snacks and water. Their entire job was to make you feel appreciated and to serve you in any way they could.
It wasn’t just the helpers that were so terrific. All the attendees we met were delightful. We were reminded again what amazing people family historians really are. Charlie said it well: “I think people who care about family and family history are just nice people.”
Charlie Discovers Genealogy
Charlie and I have been focused on family history and telling our family stories for many, many years but we’re newer to the whole genealogy approach, especially the software. So while we were there Charlie took a deep dive into FamilySearch, a free site with software that helps you trace your family tree.
Charlie discovered that on his father’s side he has relatives that go all the way back to Jamestown in 1607, and even more relatives who came during the wave of early migration to the Massachusetts and Virginia area during the early 1600s.
That exciting discovery kept Charlie busy for quite awhile. We’d go back to the hotel and there he’d be with his phone and Family Search app working on his family tree and making new discoveries. “I can see why this is so addictive!” he says.
When Charlie got stumped trying to research his grandparents on his mother’s side, he decided to get help at the Expo Center where you could sit down at a computer in the Computer Cafe and work on FamilySearch.com. A wonderful lady and self-proclaimed genealogy geek spent over an hour helping Charlie get started with his “nonexistent” line.
“My head was spinning pretty fast,” says Charlie, “over all the things she knew about FamilySearch. She actually helped me get my mom’s side worked out a little bit. It was just so nice of her to spend that much time with me!”
Expo Vendors And Booths
In the Expo Center there were big vendors like Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, Family Tree Maker, and so on. And then there were a lot of people who are small mom and pop family history and genealogy businesses as well. We got to meet a lot of people who have software and products that help historians work on their family history and present it in beautiful ways.
Conference Theme: The Story Of You
While Charlie focused more on genealogy, I was exploring the booths and classes on telling your family stories. I was pleased to see RootsTech speakers and presenters addressing the huge need to get stories from living people before it’s too late.
Almost every presenter who taught storytelling talked about their regret over missing out on getting some of the family history because of waiting too long. They were urging us, “Tell your stories now.”
That really resonated with me because that’s our message at FamilyHistoryHero.com—to not only get your photos out of the boxes and get them scanned, but to do the most important part, which is telling the stories.
On the Expo floor there were several companies who were trying to deal with that very issue, trying to make it easier for people to tell their stories.
Would We Go Again?
Yes! Absolutely! If you ever think about going to a RootsTech conference our advice is: Do it! You never know what will happen.
We both bought a DNA kit from MyHeritage because they offered a show special we couldn’t refuse. It was my first time getting tested, and I’m very interested to find out the results.
We also learned so much and came home excited and ready to move ahead with our storytelling AND genealogy.
So if you get a chance to go next year… Do It!
By the way, if you’re not on my email list be sure to sign up so you don’t miss valuable updates on preserving your family history!