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 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 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


  1. It was Rocky Road Fudge, wasn't it?

    1. Gosh. That makes a whole lot more sense. Thanks for the catch. I guess it shows you hear what you want to hear.

  2. I suggest YOU go back and watch the Presentation - ROCKY ROAD is FUDGE - NOT ICE CREAM !!! Chocolate Fudge with Nuts and Marshmallows!! His mother wouldn't have shipped his Christmas present to Argentina by BOAT if it was Ice Cream!!

    1. Screaming at me? Really? It's not the end of the world.

  3. Definitely rocky road fudge. He even said it was 5 weeks old and still good.

  4. It was refreshing to hear Steve acknowledge that the irresponsible changes to Family Tree are a major issue. It will be interesting to see if FamilySearch actually does anything to address this issue. It seems that in the past their only response was that "community is the answer" and it's up to other Family Tree users to patrol the system and fix all the irresponsible changes, similar to Wikipedia. But that model doesn't seem to be working very well since in most cases there is only a single user, or more likely no one, watching the records and that single user gets burned out continually trying to repair all the damage.


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