5 things I learned at RootsTech

5 things I learned from RootsTech

Family History Library

I’m still processing all I learned from last week’s RootsTech conference. But several main points are top of mind and I want to share them with you:

It’s all about story. Gathering names, birth dates and death dates is the backbone of genealogical research. But filling in the gaps with stories is what brings the research to life. That might mean interviewing relatives. But it also means searching for documents (like court and probate documents) that can provide valuable information to fill in the blanks.

Genealogists are generous. I heard a talk from Michael Cassara of DigiRoots who not only volunteers with Billion Graves to share information from the headstones of New York City’s Calvary Cemetery, he also buys old, identified photos from flea markets and tries to get them to the descendants of those pictured. How great is that? So inspirational. That kind of generosity inspired me to sign up as an obituaries indexer at FamilySearch.org.

It really is a small world. I met up with one of this blog’s readers (shout out to Lori Krause!), with whom I enjoyed sitting at the keynotes and having lunch daily. We’re both researching ancestors in tiny Vernon County, Missouri. (The population of the entire county is only twice the number of attendees at RootsTech.) I serendipitously sat next to a gentleman who had lived for 15 years in sparsely populated Franklin County, Washington, where my grandparents lived and where my grandfather published the newspaper. So it’s very likely he met my grandfather. It’s amazing to me that in a conference of 10,000 people, I met someone who had met my grandfather in the middle of nowhere. (Oh, and the above-mentioned Michael Cassara knows my husband’s first cousin, Joan Marcus. They both work in the Broadway theater world.)

A conference of 10,000 people doesn’t have to be overwhelming. RootsTech was so well organized that except when the keynote session ended the first day and I was in a crush of people, I never felt overwhelmed. There were no long lines. Registration was lightning fast. It was truly professional conference and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

I want to go back to the Family History Library. One evening, conference attendees were invited to the famed LDS Family History Library for research and pizza. Though the library staff were swamped, I was lucky enough to confer with professional genealogist Lyn Rasmusen who helped me confirm that my records on my great great grandfather, George Washington Adams, were correct. (I had stated worrying that I had him in the wrong regiment in the Civil War.) Just that little taste of the expertise and resources available at the library has me itching to go back!

Incidentally, the video archive of RootsTech 2014 talks is now available. There are 14 classes and 3 keynotes available for you to watch from the comfort of your home, free of charge. I’ll be watching the classes, since I didn’t see any of them live. The keynotes were all great. I encourage you to take advantage of this great resource!


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