Wednesday, September 2, 2020

There is some incredibly EXCITING news about RootsTech 2021.

Ever since the first RootsTech conference in 2011, the conference has been taking place in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. Now the Covid virus has forced that to change.

But it’s a good change!  RootsTech 2021 will be a virtual online event called RootsTech Connect. It will have all the keynotes, classes, entertainment and even the Expo Hall of the Salt Lake City, but you will be able to access it all from your own home at your own pace. In 2021 RootsTech will come to YOU.

That means you don’t have to pay for airfare or accommodation. You don’t even have to pay for the conference itself, as it will be completely free! That’s a good price by anyone’s standards.

Having a free online RootsTech means that more people will be able to “attend” than ever before. It opens up the conference to those who can’t travel, those who can’t take time off work, and those who can’t afford to attend an in-person conference.

The conference will take place 25-27 Feb 2021 (not the previously advertised 3-6 Feb for the in-person conference).

Register for free at

Thursday, August 27, 2020

What's new at FamilySearch

RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City saw several announcements about FamilySearch.

What's new on FamilySearch session

The first is that FamilySearch have a big problem: they are filming new resources much faster than they are indexing them, so the backlog is getting greater and greater. They currently have 18 petabytes of records digitised (a petabyte is one thousand million million), which is 72 times bigger than the Library of Congress. Even with crowd-sourcing using their 310,000 indexers who add 2 million new names per day, the gap between the number of images captured and the number indexed is still growing. The problem has been exacerbated by the long time it was taking from photographing a record to getting it online (on average 249 days) as there were lots of things to be checked, metadata to develop and so on.

The really exciting news is that they have developed new processes which means it now takes only 24 hours to get new images online.  These are, of course, not indexed images.  To tackle the indexing bottleneck, FamilySearch is working on having the computer automatically read and index the text, along with relationships mentioned in the record. This is a process called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). FamilySearch are also working on computer handwriting recognition. This is progressing, but is not perfect, and neither is OCR. But now indexers and other users have the opportunity to correct incorrectly indexed entries. Not only does this make the record easier to find, but it teaches the computer about what is correct and what isn’t.

And don’t make the mistake of assuming the records being filmed and indexed are mainly American ones. More of the recent ones are European, but there are also records from South Africa, Asia and South America and even the Republic of the Congo. To find out the what is being added, click on “View the most recently added images” at, or enter a place of interest in the search box on that web page.

These moves will allow for rapid access to content, but indexing volunteers are still needed to index records which will serve to train the computers to get smarter and better at reading the records themselves.

Other announcement made at RootsTech relate to the FamilySearch Family Tree. Below is an interview with Ron Tanner from FamilySearch about the tree.

In summary, new relationship tags have been added. As well as being able to enter a marriage, divorce or annulment for a couple, the couple relationship can be tagged as “Common Law Marriage” or “Lived Together”.  You can also add a relationship fact to say that this couple never had any children.

A key aim for the FamilySearch Family Tree is to reduce the poor changes to the tree. If someone attempts to add a child to a couple that is listed as never having children, the system will generate a warning. Part of the strategy to stop these poor changes is to focus on “Hints” and “Possible Duplicates”, so that FamilySearch only shows those it things it thinks are perfect, not those it thinks “might be possible, but might not be correct”.

There is also a new merge function.  This will result in a multi-stage merge.
  1. Look
  2. Decide what to change
  3. Preview
  4. Give a reason and finish.
The process will give warnings if there are data problems, such as dates (e.g. date of birth) between the potential merge more than about 5 years different, birth and death more than 25 miles apart, and anything else that will create a data problem, such as having someone marry their own parent.

A bit of fun that has been added to FamilySearch is the integration of some of the features from the Discovery Centers into the online FamilySearch site.  These can be accessed from a new menu group at the top of the page entitled “Activities”.  This is only available through the web version, not through the App, though it can be used on a mobile device via a browser.

“My famous relatives” will be added to FamilySearch later this year.

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I received complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bore the cost of my return airfares from Australia and paid for my accommodation and meals.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

RootsTech starts tomorrow: A taste from the London conference

Tomorrow is the start of the 10th RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. While at RootsTech in London during 2019 I had a chance to interview Tamsin Todd & Ben Bennett from Findmypast. Click the image to watch the recording.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Time to get ready for RootsTech

Christmas is over, the New Year has come and gone, the Valentine's Day flowers are wilting, so now it's time to plan for the 10th RootsTech conference. In less than two weeks the event in Salt Lake City will be upon us.

RootsTech is the largest genealogy conference in the world, and this year it will take place 26-29 February at the Salt Palace Convention Centre. As a 10th anniversary is rather special, the General Session at 4.30pm on Wednesday will not have an invited Keynote speaker. Instead it we will have FamilySearch's Steve Rockwood and a look back at the past decade and how far the family history industry has come.

On the other days there will be Keynote Speakers, as usual: on Thursday there will be Leigh Anne Tuohy (who helped NFL player Michael Oher to rise to fame and whose story is told in the Academy Award winning film The Blind Side), on Friday David Kennerly (photographer of famous people and international conflicts) will be the Keynote, and Saturday's keynote will be Emmitt Smith (originally a footballer, and now a businessman and entrepreneur). More information about these people can be found on the RootsTech Speakers page.

In addition, the stand-up comedian Ryan Hamilton will perform on the Friday night.

All of this is included in your registration, along with the classes, admission to the Expo Hall, and the demos and short presentations in the Expo Hall.

If you have not yet registered, you can get a special discount until 11.59pm MST (Mountain Standard Time, i.e. Salt Lake City time) on 17 February. Use the code FLASH to save $40 off a 4-day pass or $20 off a 1-day pass.

If you can't make it to RootsTech in person, how about watching some of the live-streamed sessions? The schedule for these sessions is available online at this link. While the time these are on is not great if you are in Australia or New Zealand, they will be available online after the event and you will be able to watch them for free. The other option you might be interested in is the Virtual Pass. For $US129 the pass will allow you to watch another 30 recordings that will never be available for free. The list of them is available here.

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hear the Words Behind the Pictures at RootsTech

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but how many words could the man who took the pictures tell? The Keynote Speaker for Friday 28 February at the 2020 RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City will certainly be able to tell some stories. And it's not too late to enter my competition to win a free 4-day pass to RootsTech (see the details at my competition post here).
Although billed in the RootsTech press release as "David Hume Kennerly, Pulitzer Prize—winning White House photographer", his body of work is not restricted to US politics. In fact the website of the Center for Creative Photography, which hosts an archive of Kennerly's photos, says
"The tale of David Hume Kennerly’s career as a photojournalist began with documenting politicians and musicians who visited his hometown of Portland, Oregon in the 1960s. These beginnings spurred over five decades of globetrotting, as Kennerly lived witnessing our world through his camera lens."
As well as confronting photos from Vietnam, Cambodia and Jonestown, the archive includes pictures of Mick Jagger, Igor Stravinsky, Joe Frazier landing a blow on Muhammad Ali's head, Diana Ross, Mia Farrow and Dustin Hoffman, Miles Davis, and the set of the TV show Seinfeld.  One fascinating section of the archive is entitled "A Photojournalist's Life in Pictures", containing photos of Kennerley taken by other photographers, which shine a light of the mechanics of his photography.
Looking at this archive I am certain that Kennerly will have many interesting stories to tell when he Keynote's RootsTech's 10th conference in Salt Lake City on 26-29 February 2020.
Until 11:59 MST on 31 December you can register for a 4-day pass to RootsTech for only US$169 instead of US$299. Just use the promotion code HOLIDAY.

 Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Win a free pass to RootsTech 2020, or get a big discount on the registration

I am running a competition for one person to win a 4-day pass (valued at $299) for RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City.

If the winner has already purchased a RootsTech pass, they will get a full refund on their purchase price.

As there can only be one winner, if you haven't already purchased a pass, then for one week only (until 11.59pm December 9, MST) you can register for a 4-day pass, valued at US$299,  for only US$169. That's a saving of $130 dollars. Just register at using the promotional code THANKS.

But what about winning a free 4-day pass?  The pass includes
  • Over 300 classes
  • Keynote and General Sessions
  • Access to the Expo Hall
  • Evening Events.

It does NOT include paid lunches or paid labs.

In order to go into the draw to win, send an email to with the answer to the question below:

Who am I?
  1. I have been working professionally since I was five
  2. I married my childhood sweetheart when I was 21 and have 5 children and 10 grandchildren
  3. I have eight siblings and my two eldest brothers were born with severely impaired hearing
  4. I just completed a record eleven-year residency in Las Vegas
  5. I starred in Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, won Dancing With The Stars and was the runner up in The Masked Singer.
  6. I appeared as a Keynote speaker at both RootsTech 2015 in Salt Lake City and RootsTech London 2019

The competition will close at Midnight GMT on 22 December 2019.  The winner will be chosen at random from the correct entries.

Please note that the pass does not include food at the conference, any add-on purchases you make, travel to the conference, or accommodation during the conference.

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The same RootsTech, but also a different RootsTech

RootsTech London has been strangely familiar, but also very different.  It is not the same as RootsTech in Salt Lake City, yet in many ways it is.

One familiar aspect was meeting up with friends, though many people I am used to seeing in SLC were not at the London event, though a large number were. There were also friends who have never attended the Salt Lake City conferences.

Nick Barratt
The most obvious (and unsurprising) difference was the number of talks relevant to people with only UK ancestry.  While in SLC there are often more than one talk at any one time I would like to attend, in this case there were lots! Hence the delay in getting some of these blog posts out!  I loved the chance to hear several talks by Nick Barratt, as not only is he familiar to us all from TV, I am particularly interested in the medieval period and he is a medievalist by training.

Another difference was the number of European exhibitors. There was
  • Adam Research Centre (Arabian Peninsula)
  • American Ancestors
  • Belgium and Luxembourg Societies – Historie de Families
  • Bella Italia Genealogy (Italy)
  • Coret Genealogy (Dutch)
  • Coutot-Roehrig (European heirs research)
  • Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogisher Verbände (Germany)
  • Federation Française de Genealogie (French)
  • (French)
  • International Genealogy and Probate Service by Ukrainian Bar for Foreigh Affairs
  • My China Roots

In addition there were the usual stands: Ancestry, Findmypast, MyHeritage and so on.

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.