When the RootsTech/FGS conference opened Thursday morning at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, February 12, close to 22,000 attendees were there to learn, mingle, and teach other passionate genealogists from around the country and around the world (35 countries in total). It was the largest group of people interested in finding dead people that many of us had ever seen in one location. It was great to see such high energy and excitement from so many, including an extra 5,000 children, ages 8 and up, who attended Family Discovery Day the last day of the conference. The three days of the conference were jam-packed.
On day 1, the NEHGS crew went to a VIP breakfast hosted by Findmypast, which featured a presentation by CEO Annelies Van Den Belt and Business Development Manager D. Joshua Taylor. After, we moved to one of the large auditoriums, where we attended the keynote talk by Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch International. Brimhall emphasized the importance of partnerships when creating comprehensive genealogical databases. Specifically, he mentioned partnerships with Ancestry.com, currently helping FHL to index 80 million Mexican vital records; FindMyPast; MyHeritage; and Global Family Reunion. He also announced the new partnership between FamilySearch and NEHGS as well as a new FamilySearch program, Museum of Me.
We were so busy at our booth that I had time to attend only one talk during the three days of the conference: an FGS talk by Deborah A. Abbott, Ph.D., that reviewed the United States Federal Census. This introductory talk gave tips on using the census for both beginners and intermediate researchers.
On day 2, the keynote speakers were former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter, Jenna Bush Hager. Mrs. Bush spoke about the importance of family and reading, and encouraged attendees to make time for their families, no matter how much chaos may surround their lives.
Later on day 2, NEHGS sponsored a sold-out lunch, at which Ginevra Morse, NEHGS Director of Education, and Andy Hanson-Dvoracek, Web Content Coordinator, presented Genealogy in your Pajamas. The talk incorporated a genealogical take on Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine. Later that day, Chief Genealogist David Allen Lambert, gave a RootsTech talk about Getting the Most out of NEHGS Online.
On day 3, keynote speaker Donny Osmond stressed the need for families to share their stories, and warned, “If we don’t document our moments, we’ll forget them. And then we’ll lose them forever.” That seemed a fitting lead-in to the presentation Publishing Director Penny Stratton gave later that day, Using Microsoft for Writing a Family History.
In the midst of the busy conference—at which we sold record numbers of books; demonstrated our website; and conversed with hundreds and hundreds of amateur and professional genealogists alike—I and my colleagues managed to squeeze in a few more hours at the FHL. But the biggest discovery I made was that I’m part of an immense population of family historians. Visiting other booths and seeing software, books, and services relating to genealogy; hearing family stories from the attendees; and just viewing the masses of people eager to research their ancestry, I realized that I am part of an incredible community. Because whatever your background, your religion/race/ethnicity, or your current family dynamic, everyone has an ancestor, everyone has a family history. And genealogists have the wonderful chance to help families reconnect with lost generations and retell forgotten family stories. I am proud to be a part of this community. I will always remember my first impressions from this trip, and I look forward to attending RootsTech 2016!