Thursday, March 28, 2013

Final thoughts on Rootstech 2013

Rootstech has become a victim of its own success.  The number of attendees was well out of kilter with the sizes of the rooms available. Several times the sessions I wanted to go to were full, with standing room only.  On one occasion I managed to get into a popular session by arriving 15 minutes before it was due to start.  Already the room was nearly full.  I had to climb over many people to get to a seat, as they really packed the seats into the room. This is a real problem with the people who are bringing along trundle bags with their coats, packed lunches and whatever else they feel they can’t do without.  Organisers please note: we need more leg room between the rows of seats.

Trying to leave sessions that were in one of the 155 or 255 rooms was a nightmare, as people were queuing to get into the next session, so no one could get through the foyer area to either join another queue or go somewhere else.  There also seemed to be an issue that some sessions overran slightly, delaying the exodus from that room and the subsequent filling of it for the next session. Organisers please note:  Having attendees pre-register a preference for which sessions they wish to attend can help you work out whether to schedule that talk in a 50-seat room, a 200-seat room, the main hall, or whatever.  This has worked well at other conferences I have attended.  It doesn't mean people have to attend the sessions they originally put their names down for, but it helps gauge the level of attendance likely at each talk.  The other option some conferences use it to schedule some of the popular talks to run more than once.

On the first day, the Thursday, the main hall and the smaller rooms were so overheated (especially with all the bodies in them) that on one occasion it made me feel quite ill and faint, and I had to leave half way through the session – not easy to do when I had to clamber over many people to get out of my seat – a go back to my room for a break.  Thankfully it was better the other two days, so the problem had obviously been reported and addressed.  Organisers please note: Thank you for lowering the temperature for days two and three.

Enough has already been said about the problems with the Wi-Fi internet access, so I will not comment further.

This all sounds rather negative, and I don't feel that way about the conference at all.  I merely see these things I have raised as areas where improvement is possible.  I think that the organization was superb, and almost everything went very smoothly – a big achievement with 6700 pre-registered attendees and another 1900 students on the Saturday.  I also thought the variety of exhibitors in the Expo hall was really good.  Some of them were of more interest to me than others, but that's as you'd expect.

But far and away the most valuable aspect of Rootstech for me was the networking – getting to meet new people, and getting to catch up with some of those I don't see too often.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 3 Keynotes at Rootstech

The final keynote speeches of Rootstech started with David Pogue, Technology columnist from the New York Times.  His presentation was fantastic.  He talked about the way the technology market has been moving at a phenomenal rate.  He demonstrated an iPhone app, Ocarina, which simulates the South American instrument.  The app has four buttons on the screen that represent the finger holes, and to play it, you blow into the microphone.
He showed some augmented reality apps, including a subway app that recognises where your phone is pointing, and if it is pointing down to the street or footpath it shows you which subways (or underground lines) are beneath your feet, and if you point it up in front of you it shows you where to go to get to the station for each line.  There was another app for the colour blind.  Pointing it at an item of clothing displayed a colour name and allows the colour blind to coordinate an outfit.  There is an app that allows you to point to a building and see how many people in it are tweeting.  A really mind blowing app was “World Lens”.  You point the phone’s camera at some writing at it instantaneously translates it into English (or whatever language you specify).
This huge trend in apps is colliding with another huge trend – web 2.0 where the audience creates the material, eg facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube and so on.  Keeping up with all the changes and innovations is like trying to drink from a fire hose.
He finished up by playing a couple of songs on the piano.  These were popular songs where he had rewritten the words.  The first was the “Sounds of silence” about being on a phone queue, and the second was “I want an iPhone” (to the tune of “My Way”).  It was hysterical and the audience loved it and gave him a standing ovation.  I was standing next to The Ancestry Insider who said “I’d hate to be the MyHeritage Speaker”

He was referring to the second keynote, Ori Soen, Chief  Marketing Officer for My Heritage.  He had stepped in to replace the originally scheduled speaker, who could not attend, and introduced James Tanner (from the blog Genealogy’s Star) who talked about MyHeritage, how the process of loading your family tree works, and about the record matching (to people and resources) that can occur once you have entered people into your tree.
The Ancestry Insider was right.  David Pogue WAS a hard act to follow....

Keynote speakers Day 2 of Rootstech

Day two of Rootstech and there were two keynote speakers. The first was Jyl Pattee, who  was talking about the “WOW!” moments in our lives.  She was basically advocating a combination of Oral Histories, to capture other people’s “Wow” moments and writing down your own, so that all the memories will be captured for eternity. One really good idea she came up with is to capture the small moments when they occur in a blog.  This can become the basis for a book.  She entreated us not to wait til the end of the experience to record it as you won’t remember it all by then.
The second keynote speaker was Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of  He stressed that collaboration is the key to building your family history.  When you work with others you will achieve much more.  Naturally, he was advocating doing this by putting your family tree on Ancestry and then collaborating with people who find they match your tree.  He quoted one ancestry user who says that she “benefits from other people’s eyes looking at my tree and offering corrections”.  It forces her to get out her research, review it and make corrections.
So collaboration is absolutely key to success.  Ancestry try to create a space where beginners and experts can come together to work on their family history.  Then he made a shocking revelation: the trees on Ancestry are not always 100% accurate.  There are some mistakes. :) But ancestry thinks it is still worth those trees being there, as people can benefit from publishing their families and therefore getting the opportunity to correct their mistakes.
He also announced some new things that are coming to Ancestry.  The ones that we were told about were US based, but the audience was very excited to hear that US Probate records will be added (a collaboration with Familysearch).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mormon Tabernacle choir

The Mormon Tabernacle choir put on a special mini-concert for the Rootstech attendees on the Thursday night.  It called the concert "Land that I love: The immigration of Irving Berlin". 
I got there early with Liz and Peter Pidgeon and we got to hear part of their rehearsal, which was an incredible experience.  It is a fantastic venue with great acoustics.  Interestingly, the tabernacle was the first building completed in Temple Square
Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsing

Rootstech Day 1 - Keynotes

Yesterday was the start of Rootstech 2013.  The day started very early as bloggers were given a special tour of the expo hall and then shown to specially reserved seats in the main hall where the keynote talks were taking place.  It had actually been snowing outside, after having been a glorious sunny day two days before and only overcast on the previous day.  Fortunately, since I was staying at the Radisson which is right next door to the Salt Palace Conference Centre I could just put up with the cold and snow for the two minutes it took to get between the two, and thus not have to lug around a coat for the whole day.
The conference has 6700 registered attendees, and on the Saturday another 1900 young people will be coming in for a special youth stream of the conference.  That is a LOT of people, as the crush to get out of the hall after the keynotes attested.
Shipley Munson, head of Marketing for Familysearch International welcomed the attendees and then introduced each of the speakers.  The first of these was Dennis Brimhall, President & CEO of Familysearch.  His message was that Family History is all about family, and about those stories associated with the family.  Without them family history is only names, dates and places.
Dennis entreated us to ask ourselves what our great-great-grandchildren  would wish that we had done.  This would probably be to record the stories that are happening now, or have happened in our lives.
Dennis told us a story from his family, about his father’s experiences in World War II, when he was in a plane that was shot down over Germany.  His father was one of only two people to survive from that plane, and amazingly, someone from another plane had taken photos as the doomed plane burst into flames and plummeted to the ground.  Dennis’s father had not told him anything about this, but his daughter asked her grandfather about his experiences, and wrote a book about it, which meant that these stories would be preserved for the family.
The second speaker was Syd Leiberman, who told us stories about his family.  He was a great speaker and the audience really went with him to the places and events that he was talking about.  The final speaker was Josh Taylor, lead genealogist, 

And now for the talks....
Syd Lierberman giving his keynote address

Friday, March 22, 2013

Not finding something can be important too

Originally, when I booked for Rootstech, my plan for the Wednesday before the conference was to spend the day in the Family History Library doing my research.  Then it was announced that there would be talks by Else Churchill, Alec Tritton and Audrey Collins on various topics relating to UK genealogy.  So I decided to attend those, even though it would mean only a little time for research that day.  Sadly, Else Churchill and Alec Tritton’s flight from the UK was delayed and they missed their connecting flight to Salt Lake City and thus were not going to be there to give the talks.  Audrey Collins kindly stepped in to give an extra talk during the 2nd slot, as well as the talk she was already giving during the 3rd slot.  All this meant that there was some extra time for research during the 1st slot as well as after the talks.
As it was, I managed to have a very productive day.  Sometimes not finding something is as important as finding something.  I knew that my ancestor Joseph (or Joshua) Huddleston married Agnes Gibson in Aldingham in Lancashire in 1747.  I wanted to check the registers of that parish earlier to see if Joseph or Agnes had been baptised in that parish and thus find the names of their parents.  Well, they weren’t baptised in Aldingham. There were very few Gibson events there at all, and the small number of Huddleston event started relatively late.  I now know that those families came from somewhere else in Lancashire.  I just need to figure out where!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Salt Lake City Research

I arrived in Salt Lake City late Sunday afternoon, but too exhausted to do anything.  Today I have spent some very productive research time in the Family History Library.  I did some work towards going one generation further back on my husband’s side.  I had looked at baptisms from FreeREG and found that William Joicey (note the spelling – there are so many variants on Joyce I can’t believe it: some of them are here), his 6xg-grandfather, was baptised in Netherwitton on 5 Dec 1728 and his father was William.  The problem was trying to identify William senior’s father, as there were three potential Williams in the parish.  The first was baptised in 1700, son of Henry.  The second in 1703, also a son of Henry.  The third was baptised in 1705, the son of Nicholas.  Many web sites on Ancestry and online said that the William we were interested in was born c1700.  A couple of sites actually said he was the son of Henry.  But now that I have looked at the parish registers and found the burials I know that William son of Henry (the first of that name born to Henry) was buried in 1701.  So that narrows it down to two candidate fathers - Henry and Nicholas.  Now I need to find another way to work out which one is “mine”.
Apart from my research I spent lots of time meeting new people and talking to them.  I even got included in the tail end of a “Dear Myrtle” hangout on air in the morning.
Dear Myrtle during her hangout on Google+

 Some of the Patrons of the Family History Library