Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Town Hall Meeting at #RootsTech – LDS Edition

(L to r) Shon Watkins, Stephen Valentine, Rod DeGiulio, and Craig Miller prepare for FamilySearch town hallThis is the third in a series of articles about FamilySearch executives’ town hall meeting during RootsTech 2017. The first of the series was about Records and Partners The second was about Family Tree. Today I am publishing all the questions and articles of interest primarily to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints..

As I warned before, I didn’t always capture correctly everything that was said. 

Q: With the change in calling names of family history consultants, what happens to family history center directors and family history centers?

A: First, we don’t plan on doing away with family history centers. The FHC is still a place to come and get 1 on 1 help. The title of “stake family history center director” is now “stake temple and family history consultant,” but a stake temple and family history consultant can still receive an additional assignment as a family history center director or stake indexing leader. All the callings have the same calling name, but can have additional assignments.

Note that none of you family history center directors were released.

Q: I am worried that with the name change, there will be too much emphasis on finding names. Does it overshadow doing all the family history part of our calling over the temple part of our calling?

A: With the name change, it focuses us with the end in mind, which is the temple. We are the seed of Abraham and we gather our families on both sides of the veil. How do temple and family history consultants help you gather your family on this and the other side of the veil? They do that by, not just finding a name. They think about what family member on this side of the veil can be helped. And now we have wonderful resources, like the consultant planner.

Q: Why do you not market free access to partner sites to LDS members?

A: In the person detail page, in the right panel you can search some partners. There are other partners that would like to be in that space as well. We need to do a better job of making you aware of the app gallery. We are going to do a number of campaigns this year. The partner access page is still there. Geneanet has been added.

Q: When are we going to see the bandwidth increases we were promised last year?

A: I sympathize. It is the church’s IT group that provides the ward and stake networks. I will tell you, you are the problem. When you walk into the chapel at 9:00 your phone detects the open network. All of a sudden your apps start updating. Every app you’ve allowed. That’s the first problem. Then at 11:00 the next ward comes in and now you have 600 people on a tiny network, just as the family history class starts in Sunday school. If you want to mitigate it immediately, turn off your apps or use your own data. That being said, the Church’s IT organization has bought new routers to be installed throughout the world over the next six months with the capability to white list or black list apps depending on the stake president in your stake. He will determine what method they will use to inhibit you from using your cell phone’s apps. Then you will get your bandwidth back to do family history. That is what is going on. It costs a lot of money to stop Facebook and iTunes and just updating the operating system on your phone, especially if they do it over a weekend. That is really problematic for the Church.

The church increases the bandwidth in buildings, but even though that happens, because of the adoption of more devices you still have the problems. So I would suggest there are a couple of good workarounds. First, lets have priesthood leaders work with the members, to say, “we have a few needs for that bandwidth, so let’s use it for those needs, and not personal needs of everyone.” Secondly, if you look at what was announced with temple and family history consultants, its all bout 1 on 1 personal assistance. If I were a temple and family history consultant, I would look at a class with just 1 on 1 people—a ratio of one helper for one patron. I can get through that class, a hundred people in a year’s time, but do it in a small class of one or two or three people or families at a time. At the end of the day, you will have given better service to more families without running into bandwidth problems the way we have today.

We’re dealing with a first world problem [literally]. Over the last couple of years as I have traveled around in Latin America, Africa, and other parts of the world, they would be very grateful for the bandwidth available to us. And this will be a huge expense for the church going forward to make the bandwidth available in some cases where the technology hasn’t matured enough yet. I’m thrilled that progress is being made here in North America. But please consider and pray for your brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who would be so grateful to have even what you have.

Q: What will this do for the apps, Family Tree and the Memories app?

A: We’re not going to turn off all apps, just Facebook and other problem apps. FamilySearch apps will still work.

Q: Are those routers going to family history centers that are separate from chapels?

A: They will go worldwide in all the facilities, including family history centers.

Family History Library March Free Webinars

WebinarThe Family History Library has released its schedule of free webinars for March 20017.

FamilySearch issued this press release about the month’s webinars:

Take advantage of 36 free family history classes and webinars in March 2017 through the world reknowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Attend in person or online. Check out the Denmark, England, Scotland, Sweden, Wales historic record classes, sessions on how to read records in Dutch and Portuguese, as well as sessions in Spanish.  Mark your calendars for events you want to join so you don't forget.

Classes offered online are noted as "Webinars". Webinar attendees need to click on the link next to the class title to attend the online class on the scheduled date and time. Those attending the Library in-person need to simply go to the room noted. Invite family and friends. All times are in Mountain Standard Time (MST). No registration is required.

Not able to attend a webinar live or in-person? Most sessions are taped and can be viewed later online at your convenience in the archive for Family History Library Classes and Webinars.




Wed, 1-Mar, 10:00 AM

Dutch Language Records Indexing (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 1-Mar, 1:00 PM

Ask Your United States Research Question (Beginner)

Webinar | 2nd North

Sat, 4-Mar, 1:00 PM

Recibiendo respuestas del Árbol Familiar (General) (Beginner)

Webinar | B1 Lab

Sat, 4-Mar, 2:00 PM

Recibiendo respuestas del Árbol Familiar (para miembros SUD) (Beginner)

Webinar | B1 Lab

Mon, 6-Mar, 10:00 AM

Using the FamilySearch Catalog Effectively (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 8-Mar, 10:00 AM

Indexing Leadership Training (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 8-Mar, 11:00 AM

British Case Study (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 8-Mar, 1:00 PM

The Value of Danish Military Levying Rolls (Beginner)

Webinar | B2 Lab

Wed, 8-Mar, 3:00 PM

Swedish Jurisdictions and the Records They Kept (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 8-Mar, 6:30 PM

Indexing Leadership Training (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Thur, 9-Mar, 11:00 AM

Research Logs (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B CL

Thur, 9-Mar, 1:00 PM

Starting Family Tree: Photos and Documents (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Mon, 13-Mar, 1:00 PM

Blessings and Curses of Tracing Welsh Ancestry (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Mon, 13-Mar, 2:00 PM

Welsh Naming Patterns and Customs (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Tue, 14-Mar, 1:00 PM

How to Trace England Ancestry Online (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Tue, 14-Mar, 2:00 PM

Tracing Non-Church of England Ancestry (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Tue, 14-Mar, 3:00 PM

Danish Census Records Online (Beginner)

Webinar | B2 Lab

Wed, 15-Mar, 10:00 AM

Portuguese Language Records Indexing (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 15-Mar, 1:00 PM

Scotland's 'Lost' Other Half: Tracing Difficult Ancestral Lines in Scotland's Non-Parochial (Church) Registers (Beginner)

 Webinar | Main B/C

Wed, 15-Mar, 2:00 PM

Using Church of Scotland Parochial Registers to Trace Scots Ancestry (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Thur, 16-Mar, 1:00 PM

Turning the Tables on Tracing Elusive Ancestry in England/Wales Civil Registration Records: How to Trace Ancestry Using Online BMD Indexes! (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Thur, 16-Mar, 2:00 PM

England Resources for Family History at FindMyPast (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Fri, 17-Mar, 9:00 AM

Tracing Irish Roman Catholic Ancestry (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Fri, 17-Mar, 10:00 AM

Finding Ancestry in Ireland Civil Registration Records (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Fri, 17-Mar, 11:00 AM

Ireland Census & Census Substitutes (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Fri, 17-Mar, 1:00 PM

The Scots-Irish: Plantation and Settlement of Ulster in the 17th Century (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Fri, 17-Mar, 2:00 PM

Key Websites for Tracing Ancestry in Ireland (Beginner)

Webinar | Main B/C

Sat, 18-Mar, 1:00 PM

¿Qué harías tú? (Beginner)

Webinar | B1 Lab

Mon, 20-Mar, 10:00 AM

Using the FamilySearch Catalog Effectively (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 22-Mar, 10:00 AM

Spanish Language Records Indexing (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 22-Mar, 2:00 PM

Exploring Danish Parish Registers (Beginner)

Webinar | B2 Lab

Thur, 23-Mar, 11:00 AM

Revolutionary War Records (Beginner)

Webinar | Main A CL

Thur, 23-Mar, 1:00 PM

Starting Family Tree: Open Questions and Answers (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Tue, 28-Mar, 1:00 PM

Q & A: Ask Your Own British Research Questions! (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Wed, 29-Mar, 10:00 AM

Italian Language Indexing (1½ hours) (Beginner)

Webinar | Main Lab

Thur, 30-Mar, 1:00 PM

Scandinavian Feast Days and Calendars (Beginner)

Webinar | B2 Lab

I received mixed messages about registering for the British classes. The press release above states that no registration is required. The wiki announcement at https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/British_Isles_Research_Seminar states that registration is required. My guess is that they won’t turn anyone away online. But if you come to Salt Lake to attend the British Isles Research Seminar in person, I would register beforehand as requested to reserve a seat in the classroom. Visit http://bit.ly/2il5Nhw to register.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Inside Edition Investigates Reliability of DNA Ethnicity Tests

Erica McGraw and sisters Nicole and Jaclyn tested with 23andMe.Identical triplets should have identical DNA, right? That is what Dr. David Ku of Universal Genetics told Inside Edition. Inside Edition used three sets of identical triplets and one rare set of identical quadruplets to test DNA ethnicity reports from 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and AncestryDNA. The results are a rude awakening.

(Select any image in this article to see the Inside Edition video on YouTube.)

One McGraw triplet in the 23andMe test had twice the amount of French and German ancestry as another. According to Family Tree DNA, British Isles ancestry in the Maynard triplets ranged from as low as 59% to as high as 70%. The AncestryDNA test returned a range of British ancestry differing by just 2%. The 23andMe results for the Pyfrom Quads, was the best, giving identical ethnicity.

The Maynard triplets tested with Family Tree DNA.So what gives?

First the idea that identical twins have identical DNA has been called into question in recent years. Last July, a scientist writing for the BBC said that mutations occur in DNA fast enough that “between 10 and 100 new mutations per person…occur early enough in embryonic development to be present in most cells in the body.” Keep in mind, however, that there are 3 billion base pairs. (See “Do Identical Twins have Identical Genes?” in Science Focus, The Online Home of BBC Focus Magazine.) A March 2008 article in The American Journal of Human Genetics reported a scientific study showing that DNA in identical twins is not identical. Something called copy-number variations can cause their DNA to diverge in material ways. (For a layman’s discussion of this study, see “Identical Twins' Genes Are Not Identical” in Scientific American.) Can these differences explain the results found by Inside Edition? I don’t know. It has been known for a while that epigenetics cause variations in identical twins, but epigenetics don’t change the underlying DNA.

New Jersey triplets tested with AncestryDNA.Second, it is possible that fraternal twins can look very similar. Particularly when young, it may require a DNA test to distinguish monozygotic (identical) and dizygotic (fraternal) twins/triplets/quadruplets. One of a couple of the triplets in the Inside Edition broadcast look different enough in the broadcast that to me they could conceivably (unintentional pun) be fraternal. Inside Edition did not disclose the estimated relationships found among them.

Third, the testing companies can’t control how carefully test takers follow instructions and avoid contamination. I imagine there are many common substances in our homes, our food, maybe even our water, that have the ability to contaminate a DNA sample. Can such contamination explain the differences found by Inside Edition?

The Pyfrom Quads took the test from 23andMe.Fourth, I have to believe there are processing errors at the laboratory. I don’t follow the industry, so I don’t know what typical error rates are.

Someone with more molecular biological knowledge than I have will have to weigh-in on what might explain the large differences seen among triplets in the Inside Edition test.

For more information, see “How Reliable Are Home DNA Ancestry Tests? Investigation Uses Triplets to Find Out” on the Inside Edition website.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Town Hall Meeting at #RootsTech – Tree Edition

(L to r) Shon Watkins, Stephen Valentine, Rod DeGiulio, and Craig Miller prepare for FamilySearch town hallThis is the second in a series of articles about FamilySearch executives’ town hall meeting during RootsTech 2017. Yesterday I published questions and answers pertaining to records. Today the topic is Family Tree.

As I warned yesterday, I didn’t always capture correctly everything that was said. What you’ll read below may or may not bear any resemblance to what was actually said.

Q: What happened with FamilySearch in 2012? A lot of changes in Family Tree are attributed to FamilySearch in that year.

A: Family Tree indicates 2012 because that year we migrated systems. It indicates FamilySearch contributed the information when we don’t know who contributed it. Long ago, back in the 70s and 80s and so forth, we received contributions for which we don’t have a valid user ID in our system. But since we require everything to have an owner, we assigned FamilySearch as the owner.

Q: Will FamilySearch ever have a place to post DNA results?

A: DNA is a valid record type. But we don’t want our Church members to feel like they are expected to spend $100 to fulfil their responsibilities. Having a place for DNA in the system is under advisement.

Q: There were a lot of questions on the ability of sharing living records. Why can’t we see living persons in FamilySearch.org? When are we going to have shared spaces for living persons?

A: We are currently inventing that new feature. It is going to be awhile because it is a big job to preserve privacy while allowing sharing, to keep private all those who wish to remain private, and make public all those who wish to be public. There’s a lot of legal work to do. There’s a lot of coding to do. It is going to be awhile. Stay tuned.

This is driven by the principle that individuals and families are the gatherers of their families. Since this is a family effort, lets make sure families can see both deceased and living information so they can do this as a family.

Q: I have added a lot of photos for the living. Why can’t other people see them?

A: The model with sharing will be that you can create a private space and invite people to go into that space. Everyone puts living persons in that space. Those persons are visible to everyone else in the space. A person can be members of multiple private spaces. When someone adds a photo, everyone can have access to the photo.

Q: [I didn’t catch the follow up question or most of the answer.]

A: If you tag a living person in a photograph, then it will be private. [I was a little confused at this point. I think that all photos and documents on FamilySearch are visible to anyone and everyone who has a URL to the photo or document. I think if a photo is tagged to both a living and a deceased person, then anyone can find the photo through the deceased person. What tagging a living person does, is hide the photo from Google’s search engine. At least that’s my understanding.]

Q: Why did you incorporate the name LDS Membership as a source in FamilySearch.org?

A: [Let me take a stab at a more detailed answer to this question than provided by Craig Miller.

You may recall that until June 2016, Family Tree was linked to the backend of the archaic NFS. NFS treated the LDS Church Membership database as if it were an actual user. When that pseudo-user made changes, those changes were attributed to “LDS Church Membership.” That is why FamilySearch incorporated that name as a source of changes in FamilySearch Family Tree.

Incidentally, once the link with NFS was broken, that pseudo-user ceased to exist. It no longer contributes or owns any data in Family Tree.]

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Town Hall Meeting at #RootsTech – Records Edition

(L to r) Shon Watkins, Stephen Valentine, Rod DeGiulio, and Craig Miller prepare for FamilySearch town hallFamilySearch executives held a town hall meeting during RootsTech 2017 and answered questions for an hour. Today I will write about the questions and answers pertaining to records, online or on microfilm, and partners.

Present were:

  • Steve Rockwood – President and Chief Executive Officer.
  • David Rencher – Chief Genealogical Officer.
  • Stephen Valentine – Vice president, partners and records. He handles record ingest and publication.
  • Rod DeGiulio –Vice president, priesthood and area support. He handles record acquisition and management of all FamilySearch employees outside the Salt Lake area.
  • Craig Miller – Vice president, product and engineering, including the website FamilySearch.org.
  • Shon Watkins – representing Diane Loosle, vice president, patron services. Diane’s division includes customer service, the Family History Library, and family history centers.

No one was representing the member and public outreach (marketing) division. They were busy doing some incidental project called RootsTech. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

I’m sure some of these people are senior vice presidents—maybe all of them—but the conference app didn’t list them or their titles.

I need to warn you that I was typing like a madman trying to take notes of what was asked and said. I didn’t do a very good job. Consequently, what you’ll read below may or may not bear any resemblance to what was actually said.

Q: Is there any way to suggest acquisitions, such as a small community in Germany?

A: There is a dedicated team that develops that strategy. Today, we don’t have the capacity to do lots of small archives, but we are experimenting with ways to do so. We have a Record Capture Kit, for example, that could be loaned to a local society.

Q: Paul Nauta of FamilySearch in early 2017 wrote that over 30% of the 2.4 million rolls of microfilms in the vault have been digitized and published. That seems low. Is he right?

A: About 50% of the vault has been digitized. We don’t ever say when we will be done, but we are making really good progress. We go in priority order, with vital records and civil registration and census being digitized first, pretty much from around the world. Those are primarily done.

Q: Why don’t I see all of them?

A: The reason for that is rights. In some cases, in some countries, we do not have the full rights to put all that content online. We can preserve it, sometimes we can even loan it on microfilm. We are working on the digital rights. That is something that Rod’s team is constantly working on, to improve our rights, and we are having lots of successes. We see laws change. We just had a huge opening in France; those laws are changing and we are starting to digitize. That’s on ongoing process. Over the next couple of years we are trying to wrap up digitization.

It isn’t going to take decades to finish digitizing the vault. We’re down to just a few years left until it will be done.

One of the drivers is just the incredible cost of microfilm. It just keeps going up and up and up. So even if we were in love with microfilm—and we’re not—price is pushing us to get this done much faster.

[This is TAI speaking, here: My understanding is that the manufacture of microfilm could cease almost without warning at any time. That could be really bad.]

Q: When will the microfilm of the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints be completed?

A: We actually already digitized and indexed it. That was been done as a closed indexing project several years ago. But it has not been released. We are working with the Church History Department who actually owns those records to see how we can get them available to you.

Q: [I couldn’t hear the question, something about removing films from the Family History Library?]

A: Only the films with your ancestors will be removed. We have a very complex algorithm that knows which films you need. Those are the films we remove. (Laughter)

As films become digital, we decide whether to leave them in the library or not. The films that need to be in the library because of rights, they will remain. It will keep changing.

Q: Some record sets that were once visible online are no longer visible once they were indexed. How come?

A: The only reason we would ever do that is rights. It’s that simple. It’s rare, but it happens. A law could change. We’re constantly working with our legal staff around the world. Data privacy laws change. That’s become more restrictive around the world, data privacy. And we do everything we possibly can to not turn those records off. But if we do, that would be the only reason.

Q. Why is it that Ancestry has a lot of those images that FamilySearch doesn’t? Why would other websites have records that we don’t?

A: We are more conservative than other companies. We are going to err on the side of protecting data privacy, more so than other companies are.

I’ll tell you, privacy laws are one of the most difficult things we have to work with. Every country is different, even in the United States every state is different. And it changes constantly. And so there will be collections that come and go. Fortunately, there are lot more that are coming available than those that are being taken away.

Be aware of some of the legislation on the issues that come up. It does work when we [discuss] and work with our congressmen and senators. But be aware that that is something you can help us with. Coalitions of genealogists have really helped. France is a great example of that, opening up access that was once much more restrictive.

Q: What are your plans for future partners?

A: We are always on the lookout for more partners. We are also looking for partners outside the traditional genealogy space to create a richer experience for you. And we’re eager to find partners in other countries. Geneanet is a new partner in France. We have the largest collection of Chinese genealogies outside china, so we are looking into a partner in China. If you are aware of partners, contact me.

Q: [One guy tried to ask a question and people kept interrupting him:] There is an extension from the Google app store, but it puts all the partners in there, it auto populates… Record Search? Record Search. Record Seek. Record Seek? Record Search. Search. It’s Record Search. There’s two different ones.

[I feel like I’m watching the Tonight Show.]

A: I’m not familiar with that one. So what was it called again?
Q: It’s called Record Search.
A: Record Search.
Q: It is a Google extension. Record Search.
A: Oh, it’s a Google extension. A Google extension, Record Search.

[Yup. They are definitely channeling Higgins and Fallon.]

Q: Any chance of a newspaper acquisition or collaboration?

A: We are working with some great newspaper companies and the obituaries you are now using on FamilySearch.org are due to a partnership with NewsBank. We want to bring more and more of that newspaper content. It is in the works.

Q: Have you contacted national libraries that call out those historical newspapers, many of which are public domain?

A: Yes. We are working to expand our newspaper holdings. Until two years ago we were doing nothing in the newspaper space, so this is a new area for us. We just did 26 million obituaries where the computer did the entire thing. OCR has been around a long time, but now we are using technology to understand the text. And we really want libraries outside of this country. Absolutely.

Q: As new partners are added to FamilySearch.org, how do you suggest we learn to use the partner’s technology?

A: Traditionally we have not done a lot to help use our partners products. We generally send you to the partner to learn. We are working on playing a bigger role, but the first thing will always be to go learn at the partner website. But where our two products interact, we are working on how to do that.



Tune in next time for more questions and answers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Passionate Genealogist is Core - Tim Sullivan at #RootsTech

Tim Sullivan at RootsTechI had the opportunity during RootsTech to sit down with Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of Ancestry. One of the things we discussed was the dichotomy between giving experienced users powerful tools while giving new users an engaging experience. I’ve always felt they compromised the power of core tools by watering them down to suit the new user.

Tim said the passionate genealogist is still the core of their business. DNA is proving to be a phenomenal way to interest new people. While they will give some thought to making core genealogy tools accessible to new users, they are allowing themselves to shift back, improving tools critical to the experienced user. DNA is expanding massively and it is giving them the opportunity and personnel to do some improvements on functionality for the serious genealogist. He mentioned adding intelligent hint prioritization, and “using our big tree to really improve the quality and relevance of hints.”

Tim went on to explain more about their Big Tree. Big Tree is an internal term they use for an effort they’ve been engaged in for many years to stitch together the millions of member trees on Ancestry.com. They are applying machine learning technologies and authority systems and are getting more accurate every day.

“That has always been a little bit of a holy grail, to find that one tree,” Tim said. They are taking a different approach than FamilySearch, but then again, their purposes are different. The Big Tree is not intended to be a product, but something that allows them to develop “some pretty cool capabilities.” One application is their new We’re Related app.

The We’re Related app is a free, entertaining tool for engaging more people in genealogy. “It’s just another way to get a whole new group of people inspired,” Tim said. “What we hope that does is lead them to want to become serious researchers.” The challenge is getting people connected into the Big Tree. Something like 2/3 of people downloading the app are able to connect to the Big Tree, even though they may not have an Ancestry Tree. This is why a Facebook account is instrumental. It helps Ancestry build out  living persons and their relationships. The other necessary step is for Ancestry to add famous living persons to the Big Tree and making certain their branches are correct.

We Remember is another product Ancestry is developing to attract a new audience into genealogy. Just announced at RootsTech, We Remember will allow people to create memorial pages for loved ones. Tim said that We Remember is not a replacement for obituaries. But about the time a loved one passes away there is a lot of energy and motivation to memorialize and capture their life. About a year ago they realized there could be  a better experience for doing this, so they built one. It is social and it is free. “Our goal is that this be very, very broadly adopted,” Tim said. I was, unfortunately, not able to attend the class where it was introduced, so I don’t have any details. While he didn’t give a release date, he said it would be soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ancestry UK Collection Free Through Monday, 20 February 2017

imageTo celebrate Presidents Day in the United States, Ancestry has opened up more than one billion records from its United Kingdom collection for free access. I jest a bit. Presidents Day and free UK access may just be a coincidence. (But it does makes me think of the meme that goes around on the 4th of July: “Happy Treason Day, Ungrateful colonials.”) To quote Ancestry:

Ancestry is opening up their site for you to explore more than 1 billion UK records—so you can find out if you're one of the 60 million plus Americans with British ancestry. It's for three days only, so now's the time to find those crown jewels hidden in your family tree.

To search the collection, click here. To see a list of the databases, click here.

Access to the records in the featured collections will be free from February 17, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. ET to February 20, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. ET. After the free access period ends, you will only be able to view the records in the featured collections using an Ancestry World Explorer or All Access paid membership.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Robert Kehrer’s Industry Trends and Outlook – #RootsTech

Robert Kehrer at RootsTech 2017Robert Kehrer, product manager at FamilySearch, took part of a panel discussion titled “Industry Trends and Outlook” at the Innovators Summit portion of RootsTech 2017. Robert wrestles with big data technology problems at FamilySearch.

One of the hardest things Robert faced in preparing his presentation was narrowing down the areas that he wanted to talk about. He narrowed things down to three categories of innovation: technology, process, and data.

The first technology innovation he sees coming is automated transcription—the ability of a computer to transcribe a document. There have been some recent advances, particularly in the area of handwriting recognition. Today automated transcription works well on typescript documents and pretty well on print handwriting. The ability to do recognize cursive writing is showing promise. However, there are really messy documents that automated transcription is not likely.

Robert Kehrer says automated transcription of some documents is harder based on handwriting style

Another area where technology innovation is happening is named entity recognition. A computer takes transcripted text and, using a process called natural language processing, picks out the names, dates, locations, relationships, and so forth. Progress is being made in this area.

Innovation is happening in neural networks and machine learning and is important in combination with automated transcription and named entity recognition. Machine learning is not difficult to understand when demonstrated with a simple example. Machine learning could make it possible to show the machine many images of the name William. Subsequently, when names are shown to the machine, it can pick out those that are William.

Robert Kehrer demystifies machine learning Robert Kehrer demystifies machine learning

Don’t think that these technologies are going to replace human indexers. These technologies must be trained using data indexed by people. And these technologies free up people to do what only people can do.

Innovation is happening in fuzzy search advancements. Fuzzy is a funny word that he used to refer to non-exact search results. This is familiar stuff like wildcards and name variants. Robert feels like there could be some innovation here less complicated than an artificial intelligence hint matching system but more sophisticated than the search engines of today.

DNA will and is having a massive impact on genealogy.

Process innovations are going to be important as well. Today, organizations have a centralized process for determining what records to acquire. Robert thinks we will see more distributed decision making on what collections to digitize. He envisions a world where local archives, libraries, church congregations (like LDS stakes and wards), and individuals take the responsibility to identify, digitize, and index collections. We see this a little already with apps like FamilySearch Memories or BillionGraves.

Data innovation was Robert’s final category. There is a lot of data out there that is highly valuable, but there is a risk that it will be lost. Records can be at-risk because of poor archival conditions, political instability, natural disaster, or scheduled destruction. India destroys their censuses before the decade is over. Lastly, there are hundreds of millions of “records” stored in memorized genealogies in certain cultures, many throughout Africa. FamilySearch has an active and growing program to capture these “oral genealogies.”

Robert Kehrer says some records are at risk because of poor archival condition. Robert Kehrer says some records are at risk because of political instability. Robert Kehrer says some records are at risk because of natural disaster Robert Kehrer says some records are at risk because of scheduled destruction

The last data innovation is one of Robert’s hopes. There is so much good genealogy data locked up in the record managers on genealogists’ computers. It is not shared freely. Robert envisions a world where tree data is more readily available and shared more freely among all the different sites. Websites could compete on best features, user experience, and records rather than on availability of member submitted trees.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Friday was African Heritage Day at #RootsTech 2017

RootsTech celebrated African Heritage Friday, 10 February 2017. Everyone is still talking about their highlight of RootsTech 2017, the moment when Thom Reed presented LeVar Burton the genealogy of his family. #NotADryEye

LeVar Burton overcome with emotion when Thom Reed shows him records of his ancestors, accompanied by host Nkoyo Iyamba

To watch the presentations and panel discussion that followed LeVar, see https://www.rootstech.org/videos/friday-morning-panel. Nkoyo Iyamba, Kenyatta Berry, Sherri Camp, and Melvin Collier participated.

Melvin Collier, Sherri Camp, Kenyatta Berry, and Nkoyo Iyamba at African Heritage Day, RootsTech 2017

Click to see “Life is Never Too Busy for What Matters Most” on YouTube.During the session we watched a two minute video entitled “Life is Never Too Busy for What Matters Most.” You can watch it on YouTube.

Two minute video wrap-up of African Heritage Day at RootsTech 2017Watch a two minute video wrap-up of African Heritage Day on YouTube.
See all the day’s sessions at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNiiKnlemIM, including LeVar Burton’s magnificent keynote. (See my summary, “LeVar Burton – The Power of Storytelling.”)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Steve Rockwood at #RootsTech: Personal Trees, Partners, Provender

Steve Rockwood eats fudge at RootsTech 2017Sorry about the weird word in the title. I needed a synonym for food that began with the letter P. No lie. Food was a big theme of Steve Rockwood’s keynote address. So much so, he ate Rocky Road fudge in front of us. Isn’t there some rule against that? If you eat in front of someone, you have to provide some for everyone? All 10,000 of us? That’s what my mother always taught me. In Steve’s case, his mother taught him to love Rocky Road fudge. All things considered, I’d take the fudge.

It is a Christmas tradition in the Rockwood household. Rocky Road fudge. Steve’s mother got the recipe from Grandma Rockwood. Still today, Steve’s mother sends a tin of fudge at every single Christmas. This past Christmas Steve’s wife was helping when Steve’s mom said to her, “Please make sure the tradition continues.” There in front of us all, Steve turned to his mother in the audience, and promised, “Mom, we will make sure that, and many other traditions, continue.

“What is your Rocky Road?” Steve asked us. As we think about those foods, smells, tastes, and memories flood back. Steve challenged us to upload our Rocky Road recipes to FamilySearch.org/recipes so that all the descendants of our Grandma Rockwood can have that same experience.

Stephen Valentine at RootsTech 2017Steve’s presentation had another big theme: partners, and for that portion of his presentation he called upon Stephen Valentine, a vice president at FamilySearch, to assist. Stephen said that FamilySearch is partnering to get more records published from around the world:

  • FamilySearch partnered with Ancestry to digital and publish civil records from Mexico.
  • FamilySearch is partnering with MyHeritage to grow by five times the number of Swedish, Danish, and Finnish records online, this year alone.
  • FamilySearch is partnering with Findmypast to publish millions of U.S. marriage records never before published.
  • FamilySearch is partnering with Geneanet in France to bring new opportunities forward.
  • FamilySearch is working with partners to provide access to FamilySearch’s collection of Chinese genealogies—the largest in the world outside of China.
  • FamilySearch is partnering with Brigham Young University to develop technology that has, so far, automatically indexed 26 million obituaries.

The final theme of Steve’s presentation was family trees.

FamilySearch has always marketed FamilySearch Family Tree—the one tree to uniquely document each person who has ever lived. Ron Tanner calls it “our tree” in contrast to “my tree.” What most people don’t know is that FamilySearch has both. For the first time to my knowledge, a FamilySearch executive—the president, no less—pointed out the existence of and recommended the use of FamilySearch “my trees.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Steve talked about Pando, “a clonal colony of a single male quaking aspen.” (Wikipedia) From the surface, Pando looks like a 106 acre forest of aspen trees. But all the trees are connected by a common root system. Pando is considered to be a single, living organism—the heaviest and perhaps the oldest living organism on Earth.

“After a hundred and twenty years of FamilySearch helping [people] discover and connect with their families, connect with their homelands, and now starting to build and share their trees, we’ve learned a few things,” Steve said. “We’ve learned that every single family tree, no matter how unique it is, is ultimately connected.” Our family trees are each a part of a much larger tree. We are cultivating, in a sense, a family history Pando.

Steve recommended that people go ahead and continue using the tree systems they currently use, but also contribute their information to FamilySearch Family Tree. He said that the community has freely used our records and freely used our centers, and “now we politely invite you to come and use the Tree.”

“This collaborative tree is pretty awesome,” Steve said.

Steve validated concerns that user contributions can be changed in Family Tree. “We hear you.” In addition to contributing to Family Tree, he invited everyone to upload and preserve their trees in the Genealogies section of FamilySearch.org. To submit your tree, click on Search > Genealogies and scroll down to the Submit Tree button. It can’t be edited, it is under your control, and FamilySearch will preserrve it indefinitely. And, it becomes part of the Pando.

To view Steve Rockwood’s presentation in its entirety, go to https://www.rootstech.org/videos/steve-rockwood-2017-thu.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tim Sullivan Announces AncestryDNA Genetic Communities at #RootsTech 2017

Tim Sullivan announces AncestryDNA genetic communitiesTim Sullivan, CEO and president of Ancestry announced this morning a new DNA feature called Genetic Communities. He gave us a quick, sneak peek at the product experience to be released next month.

“Think of the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates on steroids, and you’ll have a sense of what this i,s” Tim said. Tim explained that genetic communities are created by combining information from their database of three million genotypes with date and place information taken from trees attached to those samples. They discern population clusters and are able to discover migration patterns. They have identified 1,000 of these communities so far.

Tim showed three examples from his DNA. One of his genetic communities shows he has ancestry from the West part of County Kerry, Ireland. It was amazingly specific—and entirely consistent with the paper trail.

AncestryDNA maps genetic communities of your ancestors. This is "Irish of West Kerry."

Another feature provided by the experience is the plotting of migration patterns. Members of this genetic community migrated to places all over the United States, but primarily in the Northeast. The experience maps the migration and identifies possible, historic reasons.

AncestryDNA genetic communities track migrations

Tim is a member of another genetic community called “Early Settlers of New York.”

AncestryDNA maps genetic communities of your ancestors. This is "Early Settlers of New York."

Migration pattern for AncestryDNA genetic community, "Early Settlers of New York."

Tim showed a third example from his genetic communities, “French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence.”

AncestryDNA maps genetic communities of your ancestors. This is "French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence."

AncestryDNA genetic community migration map of "French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence."

As the size of the AncestryDNA database gets grows, the number of communities they will be able to identify will increase.

Existing customers will receive this experience with no need to retest or pay for another kit.

Watch LDS Family Discovery Day Live This Afternoon

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can watch a live stream of 2017 Family Discovery Day this afternoon, 11 February 2017.

Watch 2017 Family Discover Day Live!

Click here when the time comes to watch. All times are MST. Add two hours for Eastern time.



1:00 p.m.
(60 minutes)

President Russell M. Nelson and Sister Wendy Watson Nelson

2:15 PM
(60 minutes)

Vai Sikahema, Kalani Sitake, Sheri L. Dew

3:30 p.m.
(60 minutes)

Hank Smith

Following the live sessions, watch portions of the 9 February 2017 Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert, It's All in the Family, narrated by Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III featuring special guest artist Dallyn Vail Bayles.

Available on-demand

If you can’t watch live on Saturday, videos of the messages from Family Discovery Day will also be archived at lds.org/discoverfamily for later viewing in the following languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.


To see more information from the RootsTech 2017 website, click here.
For more information from the lds.org website, click here and click here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

LeVar Burton – The Power of Storytelling - #RootsTech 2017

LeVar Burton addresses RootsTech 2017LeVar Burton has been blessed by four story-telling mentors in his life.

The first was his mother, Erma Jean Christian. “I am the man that I am because my mother is the woman that she is.” LeVar said his mother was determined to see that he reached his full potential in life, “even if she had to kill me.” He said, “My mother taught me that there are no limits to what I could accomplish in life except those I, myself, impose.” The story his mother told him is that his journey in life would not be easy. He would face persecution and injustice,  just for the color of his skin. The story she told him, which he embraced, was that he was capable of triumphing over adversity and that he had the right to determine his destiny for himself.

Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, was an amazing storyteller and visionary. At a time when television rarely had characters who “looked like me,” Gene envisioned a future in which there was “a place for me.” Reading in general and science fiction in particular teaches us to be able to imagine. Our ability to imagine a better future is our superpower, LeVar said. There is a link between what we can imagine and what we can create. Through stories, we create a world that reflects who we are.

Alex Haley, author of Roots, had a tremendous impact on LeVar and on all of America. After Alex had told the story of his enslaved ancestors, it was impossible to ignore what had been done to an entire segment of our society. Said LeVar, “All of us truly stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Those willing to sacrifice and sweat and shed blood and even give that ultimate measure to ensure that their children and their children’s children might live in a world that values an individual not as a commodity to be bought and sold for labor, but as an accepted child of the Creator and worthy of the dignity and respect deserving of any human being.”

Fred Rogers, of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, was at a prestigious meeting at the White House. Fred asked everyone to close their eyes and think for one minute about a person who saw your full potential. LeVar did the same with us. Before the 60 seconds were up I was crying. It was a remarkable exercise. None of us make it through life on our own, LeVar told us. “We all need and have assistance on this journey.”

Following his remarks, Thom Reed of FamilySearch joined LeVar onstage and presented him a genealogy book that FamilySearch had prepared for him. LeVar was deeply touched. It was a remarkable, remarkable moment, one never to be forgotten. The entire session was, perhaps, the most memorable of all RootsTech history.

Thom Reed of FamilySearch presents LeVar Burton his genealogy

Watch #RootsTech 2017 Live: Saturday Schedule

Watch RootsTech 2017 live!Are you watching RootsTech 2017 live today? There are more sessions to see. Click here to start.

More will be streamed live tomorrow. When the time comes, click here to go to the RootsTech website. If you are having troubles, click here. All times are MST. Add two hours for Eastern time.


8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m. | RootsTech General Session
Speakers: Cece Moore, Buddy Valastro

11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. | Journaling Principles That Work
Speaker: Steve Reed

1:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m. | Don’t Just Be a Searcher, Be a Researcher
Speaker: Crista Cowan

3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. | Creating Google Alerts for Your Genealogy
Speaker: Katherine R. Wilson

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tabernacle Choir Provides Enchanting Evening for #RootsTech

Dallyn Vail Bayles sings with the Mormon Tabernacle ChoirThe plan was to write about the Thursday morning keynotes. That’s what you’re supposed to be reading right now. But I just returned from the RootsTech 2017 opening event, “Music: It Runs in the Family,” a celebration of music and family via the songs and stories of Oscar Hammerstein. It was amazing. It was “some enchanted evening.”

Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III shared the story of his family. Our programme included Andy’s family tree. I admit, that was the first time I’ve seen a family tree in a Tabernacle Choir programme. Andy was named after his grandfather, the Oscar Hammerstein of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame, who was, in turn, named after his grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein the first. Oscar the first had a great passion for opera and opened several opera houses in New York City. We learned how music descended through generations of the Hammerstein family. Music, truly ran in his family.

The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. We also heard the stories of several choir members who had parents, grandparents, or other family members sing in the choir, some for multiple generations. When asked to stand if they had other family members in the choir or orchestra, an impressive number of choir members stood. (Help me out, you who were there too. What would you say? Over three-quarters?) Truly, music runs in those families.

The Choir was joined by guest soloist, Dallyn Vail Bayles. Dallyn is a personal family favorite. The moment we heard it, we fell in love with his recording of “You Know Better Than I” from Joseph: King of Dreams. But it goes deeper than that. Dallyn was named after his grandfather, Vail Hatt. Vail was a dear family friend that we admired and miss very much.

There was laughter. There were tears (some were my own). It was truly, an enchanted evening of music and family.


Image: Dallyn Vail Bayles singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on 18 February 2014.

AncestryDNA Kit Available for $49 at #RootsTech

DNA at RootsTech 2017Ancestry is saying thank you to the RootsTech community by offering AncestryDNA kits for $49 exclusively for RootsTech 2017 attendees. The discounted price is only available in person at Ancestry’s RootsTech booth. There is a limit of five kits per customer due to demand. And they don’t know if they brought enough. They are available on a first-come basis until sold out.

“The community that FamilySearch has done such an incredible job building around Rootstech has been among our strongest and most important supporters and we wanted to do something to say, ‘thank you,’” said Tim Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of Ancestry. “We hope that attendees take advantage of this offer and join the more than three million others who are already participating in our DNA network. It’s a great opportunity to experience how much more we have to offer, whether you want to know more about yourself and where you come from or you want to connect with new, previously unknown relatives.”

AncestryDNA is normally available for $99. Two or three times a year it goes on special for $89. $49 is unheard of! Ancestry is only able to provide a limited number of kits each day, and they will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Liz Wiseman at #RootsTech Innovator Summit

Liz Wiseman keynoted the Innovator Summit at RootsTech 2017Liz Wiseman presented one of the keynote addresses at the Innovator Summit at RootsTech 2017. Liz is the president of The Wiseman Group. The Wiseman Group offers leadership training, team leadership workshops, and development programs. I assume what she shared comes from the training that she sells to corporations, so it wouldn’t be right for me to share very much of what she said. She spoke to the topic of “Rookie Smarts,” which is also the name of her book. 

“Is it possible, that we’re actually at our very best when we know the very least?” she asked.

When we were young, inexperienced, and naïve, we were able to accomplish incredible things and do so with great speed. Being incompetent is uncomfortable and we worked hard to end the discomfort. We asked questions. We asked for assistance. We brought in experts. We did so because we were desperate.

Audience discussion during Liz Wiseman Innovator Summit keynote - RootsTech 2017The premise of Liz’s presentation was that being a rookie is not a chronological attribute, but  a mode of behavior. When we slip into “veteran comfort zone,” we lose some of the edge we had as rookies. We need to identify what it was about ourselves when we were in rookie mode, and utilize it. Liz had us think back to a time when we were rookies and remember what we did that worked for us. Then she had us share that experience with the person next to us.

During the session, a thought was trying to coalesce in my mind, but wasn’t quite coming together. Then I read a tweet from Valerie Elkins: “True in genealogy research too. Look with new eyes.” Yes; that is what my brain was trying to tell me. Sometimes we become so comfortable with our brick walls, we lose our rookie edge.

We need to revisit our brick walls, applying rookie smarts.


For a 2-minute video recap of Innovators Summit see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4thI3Zvsls

Family History Enhances Lives - #RootsTech 2017

Steve Rockwood addresses Innovators Summit at RootsTech 2017.Today was Innovator Summit at RootsTech 2017. In the general session Steve Rockwood asked us to “imagine how we’ll treat each other when we know we’re all connected.” He invited us to take the opportunity while we’re here at RootsTech to see if we are connected to him. His father is Trulan van Rockwood (PID KW88-46X in FamilySearch Family Tree). If you find a connection, he wants you to stop by his house for dinner. Um. Maybe I misheard that part. At least stop him and tell him you’re related.

Family Tree has a handy “View My Relationship” link that you can use to see if you are related. (You must have first created a FamilySearch account and entered your tree.)

Steve, we are 9th cousins, once removed. What time is dinner?

He encouraged attendees to innovate and said, “Those are the opportunities we have to connect people with their families, to their homelands, and to the wonderful effects of family history in their lives.”

“Family history has the ability to enhance everyone’s life.”

Black History Month

Kente (Batik) Cloth in Market - Kumasi - GhanaFebruary is Black History Month in the United States. Ancestry’s Fold3 and FamilySearch’s #RootsTech are but two of the genealogical vendors celebrating it.

To remember the struggles, sacrifice, and service African Americans have made in the development and history of this country, Fold3 is giving free access to their Black History Collection during the month of February. The collection contains more than a million rare documents and photos. It is divided into several time periods: Slavery, The Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow Laws, World Wars, and the Civil Rights Movement. To search the collection, visit https://go.fold3.com/blackhistory/?xid=2089.

RootsTech 2017 is celebrating Black History Month with African Heritage Day on Friday, 10 February 2017.

Headlining the keynote session of African Heritage Day will be LeVar Burton. He’ll be sharing some of his own journey of family, storytelling, and the influence of African culture on his American experience.

In addition to Burton, accomplished African American genealogists, speakers, and authors Kenyatta Berry, Sherri Camp, and Melvin Collier will speak about their connection to their African roots and experiences that have kept them close to their ancestors.

The Cultural Celebration that evening from 5:30pm – 7:30pm in the Expo Hall will include the Jambo Africa, Heartbeat Burundi Drummers, an all male drumline cultural group. The group’s goal is to spread awareness of peace from traditional African drum music. For more information about attending RootsTech, visit Rootstech.org/rootstech-2017.

Image credit: Adam Jones.

Welcome, #RootsTech!

RootsTech, 8-11 February 2017 | Salt Palace | Salt Lake City, UT
RootsTech 2017 keynote presenters

Welcome RootsTech 2017!

Here are a few last minute notes and reminders:

RootsTech classes actually begin on Wednesday at 3:00pm. The last class Saturday is 3:00pm.

Live streaming begins Wednesday (this morning) at 9am MST with Innovator Summit sessions. See the schedule at Rootstech.org/live-stream-schedule and watch at Rootstech.org.

RootsTech check-in takes place in the South Lobby of the Salt Palace Convention Center. Come early to avoid long lines. Hours are

  • Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday—7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Saturday—7:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m.

Expo Hall hours are

  • Thursday, 9 February—10:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Friday, 10 February—10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, 11 February—10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Conference parking is available at

  • Convention center ($12-18 per day)
    South Lot – Enter off of 200 South between West Temple and 200 West (600 stalls).
    West Lot – Enter off of 300 West between 100 South and South Temple (400 stalls)
  • South Temple Street between 200 West and 300 West ($3-5 per day)
  • Joseph Smith Memorial Building ($10 per day) Enter westbound down ramp on South Temple Street just west of State Street.
  • City Creek Center (hourly up to $20 per day) See http://www.shopcitycreekcenter.com/m/parking

Avoid driving by taking mass transit. Visit RideUTA.com for transportation options.

AncestryDNA Settles Lawsuit, Advances Technology

Image of green strands of DNAAccording to a press release from OraSure Technologies, DNA Genotek and Ancestry.comDNA have settled a lawsuit. DNA Genotek sued Ancestry for patent infringement and breach of contract. As part of the agreement, DNA Genotek has granted Ancestry a license to some DNA Genotek patents related to spit-based DNA test kits. Ancestry has agreed to pay DNA Genotek $12.5 million, pay ongoing royalties, and grant DNA Genotek a royalty-free license to some Ancestry patents. For more information, see the “OraSure Technologies Announces Settlement of Litigation with Ancestry.comDNA” press release from OraSure Technologies.

On a positive note, Ancestry scientists have published a scientific article entitled “Clustering of 770 thousand genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America” in Nature Communications. Ancestry writes that their scientists have used data from 700,000 customers (who gave permission for scientific studies) to study post-colonial U.S. migration patterns. They have been able to identify clusters of individuals with subtle levels of relationship. They then turned to Ancestry Member Trees to identify what would explain the clustering. They found the clusters corresponded to detailed patterns of migration and settlement.

This research identifies population structure in North America, shaped by many different geographical and cultural factors, which has previously been difficult to determine at such a fine granularity from genetic data alone.

An Ancestry blog article identified an example of the kind of granularity possible:

Certain groups of individuals corresponded to descendants of Scandinavian or French Canadian immigrants to North America, and we even identified groups of descendants of settlers such as the individuals with ancestry in the Appalachians and in New Mexico who experienced geographic or cultural isolation within the US. The data also depicted movements and settlements across east-west and north-south gradients within the United States – and remarkably matches known history.

Ancestry says the technology allows a more detailed historical look at your recent ancestors and in coming months Ancestry will share findings “with each of you in a personalized experience.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#RootsTech 2017 Media Dinner

RootsTech 2017 signage on one of the Salt Palace Convention Center's "salt shakers"Tonight, RootsTech held its media dinner.

FamilySearch president and CEO, Steve Rockwood, introduced us to Nkoyo Iyamba. RootsTech has engaged her to host keynote sessions. FamilySearch’s Shipley Munson has done it in the past and told us no one is happier than he that they’ve hired a professional. Nkoyo is an Emmy award winning broadcast journalist. And she used to sing with Shipley in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Nkoyo will be joined by Jason Hewlett, an entertainer and really funny guy.

Shipley Munson shared some numbers illustrating how large RootsTech is this year.  This will be the largest RootsTech, ever. Earlier today registrations for Saturday’s Family Discovery Day hit capacity; they capped them at 30,000. They had to close registrations for Innovators Summit at 1,400. They expect 12,000 core RootsTech attendees, Thursday through Saturday. Attendees represent 43 countries. (Wow! I don’t think I could even name 43 countries.) Each year there is always one, and only one, state not represented. This year it is Nebraska.

Jen Allen addressed us. She is this year’s show manager. She walked us through the keynotes, events, and all things RootsTech. She has done an impressive, impressive, job. Thank you, Jen. Jen shared with us photos of this year’s main stage. It comes in three parts, a main stage, a living room off to one side and a kitchen off to the other.

RootsTech 2017 main stage has living room to one side of the stage RootsTech 2017 main stage has kitchen off to one side of the stage

Jen told us that RootsTech is going to supply some fun Snapchat something-or-others. (Sure. I know what a Snapchat is. Who wouldn’t want a something-or-other to use with their Snaps. Maybe she said template. Is there a something called a Snapchat template? Does it make your voice sound like a bee and your face look like a dog? ‘Cause I’m not too fond of the idea of everyone at RootsTech drooling and talking in high, squeaky voices.)

One of Jen’s slides indicated yet another way to win stuff. Follow @RootsTechConf on Twitter. Tweet with hashtag #RootsTech a selfie of yourself at or watching RootsTech. Winners will be selected randomly throughout the day.

Sketch of the Ancestry InsiderRootsTech brought in a couple of caricature artists for the media dinner. Kurt Francom sketched a picture of me. He was supposed to caricaturize me; instead, he did super-realism. Rats. It looks so much like a photograph, you can’t tell the difference. Well, I suppose it is about time to show you what I really look like.