Monday, March 5, 2018

RootsTech 2018

RootsTech, RootsTech, were all that I had hoped you'd be!

Well, now that I'm back in Virginia after nearly a week in Salt Lake City, Utah, I finally have a moment to reflect on my time there. I was there for a four day long genealogy conference - RootsTech 2018. Whether you were there in SLC at #RootsTech, or #NotAtRootsTech, here's a glimpse at this awesome week through my eyes.

This was my first view of SLC. Just...WOW! 

I'm from the East Coast, so I've never seen mountains like the mountains in Utah. Just gorgeous! Once I got past the shock of the natural beauty of the place, I went to the Salt Palace Convention Center to check in. That's when it got real! I was at a place with thousands of people gathered to share their passion for family history and genealogy. The theme for the week was "Connect. Belong." and each day was filled with opportunities to connect with a range of fellow genealogists, from professional to beginner. 

Newfound cousins - fellow descendants of William Brewster of the Mayflower.

My new friend Teresa and I were just a little excited to meet Crista Cowan from Ancestry!

I finally met Sylvain, my friend from France!

The NextGen Genealogy Network meetup

This week, I met all sorts of people! I met bloggers and professional genealogists. I met speakers and podcasters I've listened to for nearly two years. I met with members of NextGen, a network of young genealogists from around the world. Now, it's totally possible to do genealogy on your own. You can research your ancestors and be content with just gathering the information you're seeking. But the richness of community comes from being pushed to go further, from being pulled up by others' experience and expertise. Collaboration in genealogy is vital to turn simple research into a rich and living story. These are some of the faces of our community, and I'm blessed to belong to such a fun group of folks!

The Expo Hall

But I didn't just fly across the country to meet people - even as important as connections are! I went to learn...and learn I did! The Expo Hall was packed with hundreds of exhibitors - new vendors, innovators in technology and family history, and even the big companies like Ancestry and 23andme. I got to meet people who work in this field, from professional researchers to those who make products that bring family history to life.

The schedule for the week was jam-packed! There were classes all day, and for each time slot I had to choose from nearly 20 classes. This was the hardest part: which class do I choose?! Here was my schedule:

- Real-World Examples of the Frustrations of Endogamy - Lara Diamond
- 'Deed' You Hear About These Underutilized Records? - Amie Bowser Tennant
- Digital Library on American Slavery & More - Diane L. Richard
- Introduction to Autosomal DNA Chromosome Matching - Tim Janzen
- Decoding Freedom Papers to Uncover Family Connections - Michael N. Henderson
- The National Archives Website - Richard G. Sayre
- Use an Ancestor's FAN Club to Get Past Brick Walls - Drew Smith
- Bankruptcy to Equity: Using Federal Court Records - Michael L. Strauss
- Tracing Slave and Slaveowner Ancestors with DNA and Genealogy - Nicka Smith
- Search All the Jurisdictions and Find More Records - Laurie Werner Castillo
- Tips & Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting - Katherine Schober
- Using Ancestry Tools to Meet the Genealogical Proof Standard - Crista Cowan
- Finding Elusive Records at FamilySearch - Robert Kehrer
- Misbegotten Children: Tracing the Lives of Our Illegitimate Ancestors - Peggy Clemens Lauritzen
- Sources to Research Confederate Soldiers Online - Nicole Dyer

I chose classes that I thought would help me either locate hard-to-find records, or those that taught strategies and research techniques I can incorporate in my research today. And after four days of class, I have 28 pages of notes!

Henry Louis Gates Jr. & CeCe Moore

Each day, we had keynote speakers that got us excited for the day ahead. Brandon Stanton spoke about his experience sharing everyday people's stories with Humans of New York. Scott Hamilton shared his story of being an adoptee, his health struggles, and then becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist. But the last day...whew, the last day was amazing! Henry Louis Gates Jr. told his story of growing up in Maryland, becoming a professor, and then creating Finding Your Roots on PBS. CeCe Moore even took the stage to talk about the fast-growing industry surrounding Genetic Genealogy. But my favorite was the moving performance by the Mexican singer and songwriter Natalia Lafourcade.

Natalia Lafourcade!!!

I'll be honest: I had never heard of Natalia Lafourcade before Saturday. It turns out Natalia sings "Recuérdame" (Remember me) from Disney Pixar's film Coco. My friends keep telling me I need to see Coco because it tells a story about family and the bond that doesn't end with this life. Well you better believe I'll be seeing Coco soon now! I was blown away not only by her rich and sweet voice, and her heard-rending performance, but also by her humble demeanor that she brought to the stage. She sang "Danza de Gardenias," "Hasta la Raíz," and then performed live for the first time "Recuérdame." Her style is an enchanting fusion of pop and traditional Mexican folk. 

My Family. Mi Herencia.

RootsTech 2018 was filled with entertainment! Besides Natalia Lafourcade (my personal favorite!), there was also the opening and closing events of the conference. The opening night celebrated the 1940s with dance and music performed by groups from BYU. The closing event celebrated Latino dance and music in the LDS Conference Center. Both nights were impressive displays of art and heritage that inspired an even greater love for our loved ones and family.

Sunset on Sunday March 4th

The weather forecast had been calling for snow all week, and thankfully it held out until after the conference was finished. Where I was staying - up against the mountains - over a foot of snow fell overnight from Saturday into Sunday. I had to miss church unfortunately, but it was a beautiful conclusion to a wonderful week. As the sun set on Sunday, I concluded the week like I began it: with eyes glued to the natural beauty of Utah. 


I'm so grateful that I was able to attend RootsTech 2018! I learned tons, I met genealogists I had been learning from online, and I made new friends in the genealogy community. I feel less of an island today than I did a week ago. Today, I know I'm a part of a network of like-minded people yearning to build bridges and connect people. 

I have work to do not only in my own family research, but also to put to action the skills and methods I learned this past week. Hasta pronto, RootsTech! I'll see y'all in 2019!!

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