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.”

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Help at Home Right Now! #RootsTech Freedmen’s Bureau Index-A-Thon

The Freedmen's Bureau Index-A-Thon

At half-past the hour (7:30 pm MST), about 10 minutes from now, you are invited to participate in the Freemen’s Bureau Project Index-A-Thon. The goal is to do 900 batches in 90 minutes.

While this is happening live at RootsTech (in the computer labs), you can help out wherever you are at!

Visit and the project website at

#InnovatorSummit at #RootsTech - Business Sense for Family History Entrepreneurs

Ken Krogue was a keynote at the 2016 Innovator Summit in Salt Lake City.Ken Krogue was a keynote at the 2016 Innovator Summit in Salt Lake City. Ken is the president and founder of insidesales. He previously worked at Franklin Covey, and Infobases, where he worked with Paul and Dan, the founders of Ken shared some business sense for entrepreneurs. A couple of points rang especially true from my history.

Ken advised that entrepreneurs “go sell something.” That is to say, get out there and get revenues coming in. Don’t wait for a product to be perfect. Start selling it as soon as it gives value to consumers.

Raise money only when you don’t need it. In my experience, investors demand, and usually get, significant ownership in a company in exchange for money. This occurs because companies don’t seek money until they are desperate. If you ask for money only when you don’t need it, investors have to settle for less or you can walk away.

Ken made a point that is tough for a weekend blogger to utilize. Orin Hatch, a senator from Utah, once shared the 2,500 rule. Orin had figured out that for each letter he gets from a constituent, there are 2,500 others who feel the exact same way. The takeaway for entrepreneurs: every comment on your blog or social media outlet is important. Respond to each one. And do so quickly. The average company response time to a web-based lead is 39 hours! People don’t come to the web to wait that long. If you don’t respond quickly enough, they are going to go somewhere else. If you can respond within five minutes or less, you’ll be able to reach 92% of those people.

After sharing many other points of advice, he shared a couple of genealogy experiences. He had been working on his Krogue line for about two years and had hit a brick wall in Denmark in the 1700s. (See the arrow on the left in the pedigree, below.) He decided to work on one of the wife’s line instead and worked his way back to a Sode family (the arrow on the right). An exchange student from Denmark was staying in his neighborhood and her name was Sode. So he talked to her and she said that her grandmother was a big researcher in genealogy. She called her grandmother and her grandmother said, “Yes, we are related. In fact, I have 210 pages of family history and genealogy of your line!” And to think that this young lady was just two blocks away.

Ken Krogue pedigree brick wall and Sode ancestor

“How does that happen?” Ken asked. “Well, those are the kinds of adventures that happen when you get involved in family history.”

#InnovatorSummit at #RootsTech – Inside-out and Upside-down

Steve Rockwood of FamilySearch looks at problems inside-out and upside-down.As a prelude to #RootsTech, the 2016 Innovator Summit began yesterday in Salt Lake City. The opening keynotes were given by Steven Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, and Ken Krogue, cofounder of

Steve Rookwood said that innovators make a living by looking at different ways to approach things. FamilySearch was looking at things differently when they came up with the “crazy” idea of a shared, public family tree. Looking at things differently is something Steve’s done in his career. He likes to solve problems by looking at them “inside-out and upside-down.” (Hence the joke his staff played on him by projecting his first slide upside-down.) In 1990 he and partner, Jim Ball, created Alpine Axis in Golden, Colorado. They had the idea of creating call center technology for a center that wasn’t a center at all. They developed technology that allowed workers to work out of their homes. Calls coming into an 800 number would be routed out to the employees in their own homes.

Now as the new CEO of FamilySearch, it is a skill he is bringing to his work. Prior to becoming CEO, he served as a vice president over international concerns and as part of his responsibilities lived outside the United States. He comes to his new position as, in a way, an outsider looking in. Steve identified five areas FamilySearch is focusing on: discovery, family tree, searchable records, memories, and contextual help.

Everyone has positive feelings about family history. If someone becomes engaged, they develop skills. With those skills, they produce results. What would our industry be like if we could extend engagement to teenagers and millennials? What if we learned how to bring others into our circle, providing them the feelings, skills, and results that we experience?

What would our industry be like if we could integrate family history into our everyday lives, like we do in subtle ways with math?

Let’s grow the family history space. Let’s bring family history out, to weave it into the fabric of everyday life.

Tune In Now to #RootsTech Online


Just a reminder. RootsTech is being broadcast live,starting today at 8:30 am, MST (10:30 EST, 7:30 PST).

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

#BYU Family History Technology Workshop

Amy Harris gave her wish list to developers and researchers at the BYU Family History Technology Workshop.Before #RootsTech, before #InnovatorSummit, there was the Brigham Young University Family History Technology Workshop. Now in its 16th year, the one day workshop brings together developers and researchers tackling some of genealogy’s most thorny challenges.

Amy Harris, an associate professor of history at BYU and an accredited genealogist, provided the workshop’s keynote yesterday. Amy currently serves as the director of the Family History Program at BYU. She spoke to the topic “A Genealogist's Technological Wish List: Teaching, Filtering, and Mapping.”

“We are engaged in similar work,” Amy said of genealogists and technologists. “We are solving puzzles or mysteries.” Amy went through her wish list of things she wished technology would do to improve the work of historians and genealogists.

Amy wishes applications could be more instructional, teaching users to be better. It doesn’t have to be FamilySearch that makes the FamilySearch website more usable. It could be a popup app that explained in which situations a record collection might be useful. Developers wouldn’t need to develop the instructional resources. It could point users to existing resources. Apps could help with situation-specific research problems, walking users through the process of figuring out which records should be used at each step of the process.

She wished there were instructional OCR technology. She wished there was help for citation standards. She wished there was technology helping users evaluate record hints in Ancestry or FamilySearch trees. She wished tree software better assisted users work through the challenges of naming schemes that didn’t carry the same surname from one generation to the next.

Amy wishes programs helped users understand and use changing jurisdictions. It would be great to have an app that showed all the different jurisdictions for a place, overlaying the boundaries on a map and allowing for boundaries that changed over time. Just a few examples of different jurisdictions in England are civil registration districts, poor law unions, Church of England parishes and dioceses, and Quaker monthly meeting boundaries.

In short, Amy wishes there were apps that were informed by advanced research methodology and helped users utilize them.

For Technology: Some Problems, Some Solutions

Welcome to the 2016 BYU Family History Technology WorkshopAfter the opening keynote yesterday, speakers at the BYU 2016 Family History Technology Workshop gave rapid-fire, five-minute presentations for the remainder of the morning, first on genealogy problems needing technology solutions and then on some new genealogy technology solutions for genealogists.

Some Problems

Dallan Quass talked about judging tree quality. There are a lot of bad online trees. When you look at an online tree, how do you tell how good it is? Dallan feels it should be possible to apply computer technology to identify tree quality. Machine learning could examine the number of sources, including their type and variety, the number of warnings, the specificity of dates, the number of people in the file (too many signal the work of name gatherers), and how many of them are early people.

Mark Clement said there was a need for technology to help handle duplicates in Family Tree. New users find duplicates very confusing and disheartening when they see that message: “Merging is a complex process…” Mark said, “I think that this is a prime place where computer technology could assist.”

James Tanner complained about the lack of data transfer technology. There are hundreds of places where genealogical data files exist. If I put my data on MyHeritage, what do I do if I want to move it to another tree? Or how do I exchange a copy with another person? There needs to be standards for data exchange and GEDCOM is broken!

Heath Nielson spoke to several problems extracting data from Historical Documents. One of the biggest problems is image quality. There should be metrics produced as soon as a camera operator takes a picture. This could immediately alert them to the need to retake an image. Another issue is duplicate images. FamilySearch has done some work to see if it could be identified automatically. Another problem is identifying a zone of interest in a document, such as an obituary on a newspaper page. Image enhancement is an issue. Handwriting recognition of historical documents still presents a challenge.

Scott Woodfield addressed the 2016 BYU Family History Technology Workshop.Scott Woodfield spoke to the topic: “I Have No Control over My Own Information.” His mother was disheartened recently when someone changed her father’s name in Family Tree. Sometime in the past pencil and paper were replaced by PAF. Then PAF was replaced with Family Tree. This was characterized as a good thing, but users have the perception that “bad” people are out there changing their information. This triggers the fight or flee response. Users either enter into toggle wars, or they give up using Family Tree. Users believe they are the best job and that they have loss of control of their information. Some possible solutions are to give a personal view, to use branching version control, or enable better communication between users.

Some Technologies

About a dozen presenters talked about their new technologies and products. Most were applications that captured multimedia (video, audio, or photos), shared it (with flexible privacy), and preserved it. A couple unlocked memories and informed the recipient at some future time. Studio by Legacy Republic includes a scanner for photo albums.

Wesley Eames showed AncestorCloud, a website that allows users to post a need for some research, along with how much they are willing to pay. Researchers can then accept jobs of interest. They are still working the kinks out; about 1% of requests end in dispute.

James Tanner showed The Family History Guide – This site teaches users how to use the FamilySearch website. It features a structured, sequenced way of approaching the subject of genealogy. Learning resources are scattered all over the web and all over The Family History Guide breaks learning down into measurable resources. It also includes lesson plans for teaching family history.

Joshua Mathias showed Grandma's Pie, a website that shows your ancestors’ nationalities as a pie chart.

The Ancestry Insider's ancestor nationality pie chart

Kevin King showed a concept under development, Wheel of Family Fortune. As the user guesses letters, more information comes up to teach players about their ancestors. Kevin hopes games will get younger people interested in genealogy.


Justin Rasband and Tom Sederberg showed One Page Genealogy, which tries to solve the problem of packing together a family tree chart and still making it look good. You can download the chart as a PDF for printing. Click on a person to change the size of the person’s box, or that of their generation, or the whole chart. By using boxes of different sizes, you can best utilize the space.

Still to come: presentations by FamilySearch employees. Be warned, however. I may not be able to write them up until after Innovator Summit and RootsTech. Innovator Summit started today and RootsTech is close on its heals.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Family Tree Maker to Live On

Whoa! I’ve been at the BYU Family History Technology Workshop all day today (2 February 2016) and only now saw I received this announcement from Ancestry earlier today:

New Family Tree Maker Options
By: Kendall Hulet

Since our Family Tree Maker announcement last December, we have continued to actively explore ways to develop and support Family Tree Maker and ensure you have choices to preserve your work in ways that matter to you.

Today, I am pleased to announce two options for desktop software that will work with Ancestry.

Software MacKiev is acquiring Family Tree MakerSoftware MacKiev

Software MacKiev, with whom we have a long-standing relationship, is acquiring the Family Tree Maker software line as publisher for both Mac and Windows versions. Software MacKiev has been the developer of Family Tree Maker for Mac for more than six years and is thrilled at the opportunity to publish future versions of Family Tree Maker for Mac and Windows.

This new agreement means you will receive software updates and new versions from Software MacKiev, and have the ability to purchase new versions of Family Tree Maker from Software MacKiev as they are released.   You will have continued access to Ancestry Hints, Ancestry searches, and be able to save your tree on Ancestry with Family Tree Maker moving forward.


We have made an agreement with RootsMagic, a leading genealogy desktop software program publisher, to connect Ancestry with the RootsMagic software by the end of 2016. With this new relationship, RootsMagic can serve as your desktop family tree software, while having access to Ancestry hints, Ancestry searches, and the ability to save your tree on Ancestry.

We have heard your concerns and are working to provide the solutions you requested. These new agreements will make it possible to preserve your work on Ancestry and Family Tree Maker and enable future features and benefits to help you discover your family history. Be assured that Ancestry, in cooperation with Software MacKiev and RootsMagic, will continue to support you as you discover your family history.

We ask for your patience as we work diligently through all the details to make these solutions available. Be sure to check back on our blog as we share more information about Family Tree Maker in the next few months.

For more information on Software MacKiev and RootsMagic, click below:

Wrangling Syllabi With the #RootsTech App

Accessing conference syllabi on a smart phone or tablet at a conference is sometimes an iffy proposition, with uncertain Wi-Fi connections. At the time I wrote this (on Monday), accessing the RootsTech 2016 syllabi on an iPhone was down right painful. The method seems to be a bandaid approach, so maybe it will be fixed before you read this. Just in case, let me tell you how it is done. Then let me tell you what you should do instead.

Accessing the syllabi on the conference app requires secret knowledge available only to select initiates. Or you have to have come across the tweet by Lydia Jones. Here are the magic steps:

Tap on General Info.
Tap on General Info.

Tap on FAQ.
Tap on FAQ.

Tap on the menu icon.
Tap on the menu icon.

Tap on RootsTech.
Tap on RootsTech.

Tap on Class Syllabus.
Tap on Class Syllabus.

Tap on the section header containing the desired class.
Tap on the section header containing the desired class.

Tap on the class number. This will bring up the syllabus if it is in PDF format. There may also be an “Additional Document” link. View it as well, however, the ones I checked were either class outlines, or Word documents corresponding to the PDF file. I’m guessing the Word docs will not display correctly in the app.
Tap on the class number.

Once you are done viewing a syllabus, tapping the back arrow takes you all the way back to the FAQ step. What a pain! Hopefully, by the time you read this they will do what the NGS conference app does. For the NGS conference, you tapped on the session in the schedule, then clicked a convenient link right there next to the class description, room number, and note taking link.

In a separate article I will show you what I recommend you do, even if RootsTech fixes the app.

#RootsTech Syllabus Whispering on a Smart Phone or Tablet

Rather than wrangling your syllabi in the RootsTech app, I recommend using mostly free cloud storage or document apps to manage your syllabi. Some of the advantages are:

  • It doesn’t require Wi-Fi or a data connection at the conference, if you set things up correctly beforehand.
  • You have the syllabi in your possession even after the RootsTech 2016 webpages and app are gone.
  • You can take notes right on the syllabus.
  • If the syllabus is not in PDF format, you can convert it beforehand, or load an app capable of displaying it. I ran into one syllabus in Word format. There may be others.

I’ll illustrate the general principles with apps I’m familiar with, but others work similarly.

To get to the syllabus list:

1.  In your browser, start at 2.  Tap on the menu icon. If you screen is wide enough, there is no menu icon and you skip this step. 3.  Tap the RootsTech menu. 4.  Tap Class Syllabus. 5.  Tap the desired class number to open its syllabus.


Most of the syllabi are in PDF format and the Safari browser knows how to display them. Notice, however, that above the document are two links: “Open in…” and “Open in ‘iBooks.’” iBooks is the Apple book reading program and supports PDF documents. If you open the document in iBooks, iBooks will store a copy on the device. It can then be accessed without an Internet connection. Once you’ve opened all the desired syllabi in iBooks, select them and move them into a category such as “RootsTech 2016.”

  2016-02-01 17.10.29

While viewing the document in your browser, tap “Open in…” to copy and open the document in other apps.


Other document readers besides iBooks can keep local copies of documents. Examples include Google Play Books, Kindle, and Adobe Acrobat. I like to have the syllabi available on all my devices, so I copy them to the cloud. Cloud storage apps include Dropbox, Evernote, Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. I use Dropbox. Dropbox knows how to display PDF files as well as Word and other Microsoft formats. Many apps are capable of reading documents from Dropbox, including Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. Dropbox makes it easy to rename documents, which I found difficult to do in the document readers.

When viewing a syllabi in the browser, I tap “Open in…,” then “Copy to Dropbox,” and then I save them to a folder such as “RootsTech 2016.”

2016-02-01 17.09.39  2016-02-01 17.09.45

There is a big gotcha with cloud storage apps. They may not keep local copies of documents unless told to do so. (Some, like Evernote, may also require that you upgrade to a paid account.) To keep a local copy of a Dropbox document, tap the circle to the right of the filename. (See examples in the screen capture, above.) Tap “Make Available Offline” (shown below, left). A purple pip indicates a document is or will be available offline (shown below, right). View the document before going offline to guarantee that it has downloaded.

2016-02-01 17.09.50  2016-02-01 17.09.55

Different apps have different strengths and weaknesses. Adobe Acrobat has powerful PDF annotation features such as attaching notes, highlighting, inking, and labeling, as shown below left. (The yellow balloon icon contains the note shown below, right.) Once a session is over, an annotated PDF document can be stored back to Dropbox.

2016-02-01 17.17.16 2016-02-01 17.15.13

Myko Clelland’s syllabus for “My Ancestors are from Britain…” is in Word Format. Tap “Open in ‘Word’” and Safari copies the document to Word.

2016-02-01 17.19.16 2016-02-01 17.21.18 

Word has two views, Print Layout View (below, left) and Reflow View (below, right). I struggle to edit Word documents on my phone, but it is possible.

 2016-02-01 17.21.29 2016-02-01 17.22.14

For PDF files, the reflow mode of Readdly Documents impressed me. Readdly reflow mode can change the font and the font size. Ron Tanner’s syllabus, below left, is easily read in Readdly, below, right.

 2016-02-01 20.48.41

There’s no need to man handle your syllabi when gentle persuasion will do the trick. Use the (mostly) free, intelligent choices available for your smart phone or tablet.