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 https://rootstech.org/ 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 jenny@jennyjresearch.com 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)
  • Filae.com (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.



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Discover more about your ancestors and you'll discover more about yourself.


Saturday’s keynote was the Peter Pan of music: Donny Osmond.  I’m not saying that he isn’t grown up, it’s just that he hasn’t grown old. At just under 62, he looks no older than mid 40s. Yet he has ten grandchildren and a career in the music industry spanning five decades.  This didn’t always look like it would be the case. When he was 21 he was told that his career was over, that he was a “has been”. He is glad he didn’t listen to those advisors.

When you study your family history you learn which side of your family bequeathed you not only your hair & eye colour, or nose shape, but also out attitudes and character traits. And he credits the tenacity, the work ethic and the “never say never” attitude he got from his ancestors with giving him the determination to keep going in the fickle music industry. Donny told us the story of his life and of those ancestors.

Donny standing in front of a picture of
Elizabeth Williams & Thomas Davis,
his great-great grandparents
Elizabeth Williams, his great-great grandmother from Wales, is one of those influences. She had grown up in Wales, and then converted to the Mormon faith and moved to the States, where they lived in a two-roomed log cabin.  She never went to school, and couldn’t read or write, but she was determined to do what she could to give her children an education and a better life.
George Virl Osmond
The other ancestor whose attitudes influenced him enormously was called Virl. He lost his father when he was just six weeks old, had two step-fathers over time, and was kicked out of home by one of those step-fathers when he was just a teenager. He went to the local store to see if there was any work, but there wasn’t. So he asked to storekeeper if he could borrow a broom. Every day he swept the porch clean and greeted every customer. At night he slept on that porch. He was in survival mode, living on just bread and milk. Occasionally he would get hold of some tomato ketchup and add it to water, calling it tomato soup.

Virl eventually married and the couple’s first two children were born completely deaf. The doctors advised them not to have any more children. But they went on to have nine children, and Donny was the seventh of those.  From six-weeks of age, Virl had prevailed over all sorts of adversity and subsequently did all he could to make sure his children had a better life.

RootsTech attendees lining up to meet Donny
We inherit our personality, attitudes, creativity and sense of humour from our families, not just our DNA.  Donny has been in a unique situation in that almost his entire life has been lived out in the public eye and documented and recorded. But we need to make sure WE document the stories and experiences of OUR lives, no matter how quirky or funny, and we should document them before time runs out. Your descendants deserve to know who you were, what you were like and what you experienced. The most insignificant thing to you could be the most valuable to your descendants.  Donny told us how he keeps a file of the baby-words his children used to say.  I keep one too, though my son would kill me if I ever shared it outside the immediate family. One day he may feel differently.

Donny left us with one important thought: when you discover more about your ancestors you discover more about yourself.


Donny and his wife with his descendants

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.




Thursday, October 24, 2019

Walk the ground your ancestors walked to truly understand them


The keynote speaker for the first day of RootsTech London 2019 was TV historian Dan Snow. He told us that we are all here because of history, we are all a little part of a great continuum from the past to the present. Growing up, history was a big part of his family life. His childhood was spent visiting historic places and cemeteries, and his love of history developed. Even more influential was his maternal grandmother: an Indian-born Welsh woman living in Ontario and married to a Scot.  When he was young all her grandchildren would visit and at night she would tell them stories about their family. She told them they were descended from King Arthur, Llewellyn and Owain Glendower.  While this may not be true, it did instil in them a love of history, and their family’s history.

She told them stories about their ancestor who started in very humble circumstances in north Wales and became the only Prime Minister of the UK for whom English was a second language: David Lloyd George.

Dan’s father was descended from a man who hated Lloyd George: Lt General Sir Thomas Snow. Snow was in charge of a section of the line on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. That section was highly unsuccessful in their goals and suffered huge casualties.  While the battle was going on Snow was safely miles behind the lines in a Château, completely out of contact with the reality of what was going on.  His men advanced to enemy lines, and then got caught behind the enemy. They fought bravely, once their ammunition ran out they used their rifles as clubs and then their fists. The majority of them died. General Snow reported “I regret to inform you that the men lacked offensive spirit.”

While Dan did not feel that his great-grandfather was anymore culpable than any of the other British Generals, it is this one statement that he is ashamed of. Having had the opportunity to be in that château, and to read the journal and letters that his great-grandfather wrote in the place that he wrote them was a powerful experience. To actually walk the ground that your ancestors walked, to be in the places and buildings that they were in brings it all to life. On our family history journey we will find people who were deeply imperfect, and events that were unpalatable. But this is all part of that continuum of history and part of what made us who we are.



Dan's talk was live-streamed and will be available on the RootsTech website soon.

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.