Thursday, February 27, 2020

RootsTech 2020: I'm Back in Salt Lake City!

Yes, it's that time of year:  time to travel to beautiful Salt Lake City and join something like 25,000 other genealogists for that over-the-top production known as RootsTech!

I'm here because I was again fortunate enough to have the program committee accept one of my presentations for the conference.  My talk isn't until Saturday, however, so I have been attending other people's talks and learning all sorts of interesting things.

The conference started Wednesday morning, bright and early at 8:00 a.m., but I decided I couldn't face the world quite that early.  9:00 sounded much more reasonable.  That's when I went to a discussion session organized by FamilySearch.  They were talking to people who volunteer in their communities doing things related to genealogy.  The idea seems to be to find ways volunteers can help each other, both in joining forces and in sharing ideas.  It was an interesting and refreshing way to start the day.  I look forward to seeing what comes of it.

After I enjoyed a leisurely buffet lunch, I attended an informative session with Lara Diamond, who spoke on how to find relatives in Russian-language records if you don't speak (or read) Russian.  She discussed why it's helpful to learn how to recognize terms and your ancestors' names so you can identify them in records (coincidentally, some of the points I will be making in my Saturday presentation).  She also mentioned Genealogical Translations, a free translation group on Facebook that appears to have replaced one that was closed last year, which was great news.

Thursday morning at the conference once more started at 8:00, but I still couldn't make myself get going.  This time I began my day at 9:30 with Thom Reed's presentation about a FamilySearch initiative called Reclaiming Our African Roots.  One focus is preserving records and collecting oral histories in several sub-Saharan countries, many of which were the sources of people captured for the historic slave trade.  As much as I have enjoyed working with Thom over the past few years in relation to Freedmen's Bureau records, and while I hope the initiative does well, I have to admit I was frustrated at the use of marketing hype and imprecise terms used to generate enthusiasm.

An interesting and potentially very useful talk was given by Amy Williams, an academic at Cornell University, who spoke about a method to reconstruct an ancestor's genome by using the DNA of that person's children.  I'm hoping to be able to use the process to put together my mother's genome using my DNA and that of my two siblings, but I need to get conversant in Linux first.  The program used is not currently designed to conduct the process using DNA from half-siblings but might be in the future, so maybe one day I'll be able to do the same for my grandfather using the DNA from three of his children, each of whom had a different mother.  That could be extremely helpful in my search to find his biological father.

Of course, one of the best things about going to conferences is getting to see your genealogy friends face to face.  So far I've been lucky enough to run into Thomas MacEntee, Luana Darby, Sheri Fenley, Elizabeth O'Neal, Tierra Cotton-Kellow, Alice Burch of Utah AAHGS, Randy Seaver, Robinn Magid, and Nicka Smith (in addition to Lara and Thom) and finally have met Ellen Kowitt, Kim Thurman, and Rebecca Koford in person.  I can hardly wait to see who I run into during the rest of the conference!

Tierra and Janice at Wednesday's ProGen gathering


  1. Janice is was great to see you again. We miss you since your move up north!

    1. It was good to see you too! I miss everyone down there, but all my grandchildren are here!


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