Wednesday, February 10, 2016

#RootsTech Friday: Taza, Huzzah, Extravaganza, Advertize

Josh and Naomi Davis (Love Taza)The first Friday keynote was presented by husband and wife team, Josh and Naomi Davis. Naomi Davis, known by millions of readers online as “Taza,” started her blog Love Taza in 2007, writing about their newlywed life in New York City while finishing her BFA at the Juilliard School. The blog started as her digital diary. Naomi and Josh told attendees that each of us has a story. Inspiring stories are not just from the past; they are happening today. If we share our stories with the world, we will uplift others and others will uplift us.

A recording of Josh and Naomi’s presentation was not made available. To read some articles about it, see the FamilySearch Blog, the Deseret News,, and Bernice Bennett’s YouTube interview.

RootsTech announced that registrations had exceeded 26,000 from a record 37 countries, including Myanmar and Afghanistan. RootsTech also announced the results of Thursday night’s Freedmen’s Bureau Index-A-Thon. The event’s goal was to index 900 batches in 90 minutes. In the end, a total of 1,937 batches were indexed! These records are not easy to index, so congratulations to all who participated! Huzzah!

Friday night was the MyHeritage Extravaganza. (Okay, I admit it. MyHeritage called it a party. But party doesn’t contain a “z.”) MyHeritage invited team members, bloggers, partners, and friends. They shared this slide show with me and invited me to share it with you. Click to view:

The MyHeritage RootsTech 2016 party

Friday Findmypast made an announcement during the keynote session. 

Findmypast and FamilySearch are collaborating on a U.S. marriage collection.Findmypast and FamilySearch are collaborating to publish the most comprehensive collection of U.S. marriages available online. They will cover 2,800 counties and go back as far as 1650. When completed, the collection will contain 100 million records and more than 450 million names. Findmypast has launched the collection with 33 million records. I didn’t catch a timeline for when the remaining 67 million will be complete.

The collection is free from now until Valentine’s Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

#RootsTech: Bruce Feiler – Understand the Desert

Author Bruce Feiler addresses RootsTech 2016“You can’t understand the Biblical story, I’ve come to realize, without understanding the desert,” said Bruce Feiler. Bruce was one of the Thursday morning keynote presenters at RootsTech 2016. Bruce Feiler is a New York Times best-selling author, columnist, and frequent contributor to NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. His most recent book is The Secrets of Happy Families.

“The greatest breakthroughs [of people in the Bible] occur, not when they are comfortable, not in the best of times, but when they are in the wilderness, in the worst of times,” he said. The writers of the Bible elected to include the stories of hard times and we should do the same.

Bruce said that “the one secret ingredient that high functioning families have in common is: they talk—a lot. … They talk about what it means to be part of a family.”

Tell your family history to your children. Bruce wrote about that in the New York Times story titled “The Stories that Bind Us.” ( : 15 March 2013.)

The article told about researchers at Emory University—Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush—who gave children a series of tests. They asked them questions like: “Do you know where your grandparents were born? Do you know an aunt or uncle who had an illness they overcame? Do you know where your parents went to high school? What was happening in your parents’ lives around the time that you were born?”

They found that doing well on this test “was the number one predictor of a child’s emotional well-being and the belief that they could affect the world around them. It was the number one predictor of a child’s happiness.”

Marshall Duke told Bruce that “these children have a sense that they are part of an intergenerational self, a narrative that goes back deep in time, so that when they have difficulties, they know that someone in their family also had difficulties.”

Bruce characterized family stories into three types. Ascending: He came to America with nothing, worked hard, and became successful. Descending: He was well off, the stock market crashed, and he lost everything. Oscillating: Things were good. They went bad. She overcame and things were good again.

“The children who understand that they come from an oscillating narrative know that when they hit hardships—and they will hit hardships—they know that they can get through them, that they can push through—not because of what they saw in a movie or a book—because of people in their own family.”

It made me think of a two minute video from RootsTech 2014. Watch it with Bruce’s words in mind.

Click to watch "Every Family Has A Story, Discover Yours"

Monday, February 8, 2016

From #RootsTech to @pamadison

Paula Williams Madison speaks to regular and social media writers at RootsTech 2016.Paula,

I wanted to drop you this private note (although, all things considered, it may not be so private).

Thank you for speaking with me in the media center at RootsTech last week. You shared the special closeness you felt, even when young, with a grandfather whom you had never met and for whom you knew little about. I wanted to say, “Yes! We genealogists get it! We hear them too!”

Thank you for sharing your documentary with us at the media dinner. You told us afterwards that your coworkers would readily say that you were a woman who does not cry. That gave greater impact to two scenes. When you traveled to Jamaica and found your grandfather’s shop, and stood in the room where he would have held your mother before they were separated forever, you began to cry. I did too. I wanted to jump up and say, “Yes! We genealogists get it! We feel sacred spaces too!”

When you moved heaven and earth to track down your Grandpa Lowe, and stood before his final resting place, you sobbed. I wanted to put my arms around you and whisper quietly, “yes, we understand. We have been here too.”

And I wanted to say, “Welcome, my sister. You didn’t find yourself just one family; you found yourself two.”


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Watch the Final Day of #RootsTech and Family Discovery Day

clip_image002 Dear friends,

I just wanted to remind you of the final day of live streaming from RootsTech. Streaming begins at 8:30 am MST (10:30 EST, 7:30 PST).

Today is also Family Discovery Day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Live streaming begins at 1:00 pm MST (3:00 EST, 12:00 PST).

Look for further RootsTech reports next week, starting Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 5, 2016

#RootsTech is a Gathering of Heart Specialists

RootsTech is a gathering of heart specialists“RootsTech is a gathering of heart specialists,” said Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch.

Steve was one of the opening day’s keynote speakers at RootsTech 2016. He began by asking each of us to think of a family story. He told us what we just did was family history. He then gave us 60 seconds to share the story with the person sitting next to us.

RootsTech attendees sharing stories with each otherHe then asked us to think about what we felt as we told our story. When we share stories we feel love, joy, peace—sometimes even sadness, “I believe you can be inspiring to your family members,” he told us. “Your family needs what you have.”
Steve told us that FamilySearch’s vision is to continuously improve these five experiences:

FamilySearch Five Focus Experiences

  1. Discovery. There have recently been a 482% increase in teens discovering their family history.
  2. Family Tree. Family Tree now has over 1 billion persons.
  3. Searchable records.
  4. Memories. There are now over 10 million memories in
  5. Contextual help. This needs to address the needs of the younger generations in the ways that work best for them. That is probably through their peers.

RootsTech attendees dawned surgeon's masks showing they are heart specialists.Steve advised us to reach out to people’s hearts. When he was an eight year old boy he had to have heart surgery. “You are, in a way, heart specialists.” We are the heart doctors in our families. Just as Steve’s doctor didn’t need to turn him into a heart doctor in order to fix his heart, we don’t need to turn our family members into genealogists in order to touch their hearts.

Start small. Steve told us to think about the story we thought of at the beginning of his presentation. He then asked us to think about a family member who needs to hear that story. “Go talk to them today.” Do it in person. Or call. Or Skype. But try to tell the story in less than a minute.

Then ask them to share a story.


Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, addresses RootsTech opening session.RootsTech 2016 By the Numbers

  • 25,000 - people registered
  • 50 – states represented by attendees (RootsTech finally got all 50!)
  • 40 - countries
  • 4,000 – teenage attendees registered
  • 3,000 – registered 8 to 12 year olds
  • 360+ - exhibiters
  • 125,000 - expected live streaming audience
  • 1,500 - Family Discovery Days last year rebroadcasting some sessions from RootsTech
  • 250,000 – attendees to the Family Discovery Days

#RootsTech in #Hog Heaven


I suppose hog aficionados knew exactly what they were hearing the moment the growl roared from the back of the cavernous convention hall. A large Harley came rumbling down the aisle and up onto the stage. A rather large, scruffy looking biker dismounted and took the mic.

“Every American family has its own unique heritage.”

Every American Ride aficionado knew exactly who they were listening to: Stan Ellsworth, the biker turned history teacher, host of a BYUtv television show.

“Maybe your family’s like mine and came over in the 1600s,” he said. Or maybe your family came in the 1700s and gave their blood to create this nation. Or maybe your family came from China and helped build the west. He went on to mention a dozen other immigration scenarios.

And some are still coming, seeking freedom, he said. “It’s the hope of every human heart. And it’s the birthright of every American.”

Our families have had their own story to tell. “Stories of sacrifice, dedication, and perseverance.” And they want them told. They want them remembered. “You can find your heroes. You can find your own heritage. You can find your roots,” he said. “So kick a leg over and begin to discover your families own, unique, American ride.”

#RootsTech: Finding Samuel Lowe

Paula Williams Madison addresses RootsTech 2016.“One of the reasons I am here is to let you [genealogists] know, from one person’s experience, how you have changed my life,” said Paula Williams Madison during the opening keynote session at RootsTech 2016. Paula is a retired executive from NBCUniversal and parent company, General Electric. She was named one of the “75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine in 2005.

When she says that what we do has changed her life, she is not exaggerating.

Not long after her retirement in 2011, Paula began to wonder about her Chinese ancestry. “Chinese family?!?” This obviously African American woman doesn’t look Chinese!

Paula had promised her mother, Nell Vera Lowe, to seek out her Chinese family. Nell’s parents, a Hakka Chinese shopkeeper in Jamaica named Samuel Lowe, and a black Jamaican woman named Albertha Campbell, had become estranged when Nell was only three.

To try and learn more about her grandfather and the Hakka people, Paula traveled to a Hakka reunion in Toronto in the spring of 2012. A genealogist there suggested she consult She went to the site, typed in all she knew about her grandfather, and up popped Samuel Lowe on a passenger list. There he was.

A search that she expected to take quite some time, started to move very quickly. In August of that same year, she was on her way to China to meet newly discovered aunts and uncles who had had no idea that Nell had even existed. Perhaps to steel her for disappointment, her husband asked her, “What do you expect to happen when they meet you?” She didn’t know what to say.

“You know you’re black,” he told her.

“I knew that I was a Lowe and they would want me as much as I wanted them.”

And so it was. Color didn’t matter. Nationality didn’t matter. Distance didn’t matter. She was family, and that was all that mattered.

“It never would have been possible, except for you,” she said, motioning to us in the audience. “You got the ball rolling and in less than six weeks I was no longer floating. When that happened, my mother was claimed.”

Paula Williams Madison introduces us to her mother, Nell.
Paula introduces us to her mother.


Paula has written a book and produced a documentary about her experience. For more information, visit Watch Paula’s keynote address on YouTube.

Live streaming of RootsTech sessions continues today at 8:30 am, MST. For more information, see “RootsTech Posts Syllabi, Streaming Schedule.”