Friday, February 12, 2016

Serendipity at #RootsTech

imageHere’s an Instagram post by Risa Terburg Baker about a serendipitous friend she made last week at RootsTech. Thanks, Risa, for letting me share this.

When you go to Roots Tech, and meet a friend named Stacy Julian. You like her so much that you eat lunch with her 2 days in a row. Then you go to the class she is teaching, and she speaks to your creative family oriented craft loving mama heart. During class she starts talking about her great great great great grandpa, Alexander Hill. The story is familiar. You think Wait a minute... That's my great great great great grandpa too! You think, "I was drawn to her for a reason." Happy day at RootsTech! #RootsTech #RootsTech2016 #rootstechforever #FamilyIsEverything #FamilyHistory

Thanks, Risa, for letting me share.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

#RootsTech: David Isay – Only 40 Minutes Left to Live

2016 RootsTech Friday Keynote: David Isay “If I had 40 minutes left to live, what would I say to this person sitting across from me?” That’s how David Isay explained the essence of a StoryCorp interview. David was a Friday keynote speaker at RootsTech 2016.

David founded StoryCorps about a dozen years ago. He put a booth in Grand Central Terminal where you could bring a loved one—a parent, a grandparent, a child—or someone else you respect. The StoryCorps facilitator sits the two of you in the booth, opposite one another. For 40 minutes you pose questions to your loved one and listen to the answers. At the end of the 40 minutes, one copy of the recording goes home with you, and a second copy is preserved at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. Your great-great-great-great-grandchildren will be able to learn about your grandmother, hearing her own words and in her own voice. So far, 65,000 interviews have been archived. “It is the largest collection of human voice ever gathered,” David said. Weekly, millions of listeners experience a few of these stories on NPR’s Morning Edition.

David said that the setting gives you license to say things you don’t normally get to say. “A lot of tissue gets used up in the booth,” he told us. David shared clips from several examples. It was true. A lot of tissues were used (or at least needed) in the audience.

Carly Dreher interviewed her grandfather Lyle Link, who was 90, about growing up on his family’s farm. “I’m terribly, terribly lonesome.”

“Because of the nature of what happens in the StoryCorp booth, I feel like we’re collecting the wisdom of humanity,” David told us.

Lynn Weaver was interviewed by his daughter Kimberly and honored his father, Ted. Ted Weaver was a janitor in Knoxville, Tennessee. But he was a brilliant, kind parent. Lynn went on to become chairman of surgery, Morehouse School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

After this interview, David quoted a scripture: “And he shall turn the heart of the father to the children, and the children to their fathers.” (As an aside, the importance of this verse of scripture to Mormons is attested by its appearance in all four volumes of scripture canonized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is, perhaps, the only verse having this distinction.)

Wil Smith and his daughter Olivia. Wil remembers college as a single Dad.

Wil had just been diagnosed with cancer at the time of the interview and has since passed away.

Marine Corporal Zach Skiles was deployed to Iraq in 2003 at the start of the United States invasion. When he returned home, Zach found it difficult to hold down a job and soon after found himself homeless. He was interviewed by his father, Scott.

The StoryCorps website has what David called a question generator, where you can find questions that, in their experience, lead to successful interviews. I thought perhaps any of us could utilize it for doing our own interviewing. You could use the FamilySearch Memories app to save the recording on Or you could utilize upcoming features of Or do a video interview.

Later, David told us about the StoryCorps app. It is available from the Apple App Store and Google Play. If you go with StoryCorp, you can have the recording sent to the Library of Congress and shared online with the world.

Mary Johnson spoke with Oshea Israel, the man who murdered her son.

Twelve year old Josh has Asperger’s Syndrome. Like many children with Asperger’s, he has an obsession. He is obsessed with bugs. He interviewed his mother, Sarah. “Did I turn out to be the son you wanted when I was born? Did I meet your expectations?”

David closed with a quote from Mary Lou Canacki, a nun in Philadelphia. “It’s impossible not to love someone whose stories you’ve heard.”

To learn more about StoryCorp, visit To watch David’s keynote on YouTube, visit

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.”