Friday, February 13, 2015

Rootstech official opening

Rootstech has now officially opened. I was privileged to be amongst those given a preview tour of the Expo Hall this morning before it all started. It is HUGE. The expo covers two giant exhibition halls and has 170 exhibitors. Rootstech itself is 35% bigger than last year with 21,927 registered attendees.  There are people from 37 countries and 49 states (there are no attendees from West Virginia).

A tiny part of the Expo Hall

After the tour we were escorted to our reserved seats ready to watch the keynote speeches.

Steve Rockwood, VP of FamilySearch, introduced each of the speakers.  First appearance was a message from Josh Taylor, Kenyatta Berry and Mary Tedesco from The Genealogy Roadshow about the campaign to "Preserve the Pensions", by which they mean the pension records for the War of 1812.  So far over 50% of the target amount has already been raised. Once it is done, these records will be digitised and put online for free.

Next on stage was Denis Brimhall, the CEO of FamilySearch International.

FamilySearch have been busy indexing more records, adding hints to the FamilySearch Family Tree, and partnering with Ancestry, findmypast and MyHeritage in order to make more records available and accessible.  One example is Mexican civil registration records. FamilySearch had scanned them, but Ancestry are using their Spanish-speaking indexers to index the records and make them accessible.

Denis then read a letter from a woman who had pieced together much of her tree - each of the partner sites had a piece of the puzzle that helped her build her tree.  This is such a true situation - you CANNOT rely on just one source to find your data.  Even if you have an Ancestry subscription, you should consult findmypast and other sites.  English censuses are a good example of why this is so.  You may not be able to find your missing ancestor on one site, but another (which uses a different version of name variants) might show them up.  And of course, some data sets are only available on one site.

He then described the "Museum of Me", which is the FamilySearch Discovery centre, which I discussed in a previous blog.  There will be a new Discovery Centre in Pittsburgh, focusing on the Revolutionary War, and they are also looking to open one in London.

The main speaker of the day was Tan Le, a Vietnamese boat person who came to Australia in 1982, became Young Australian of the Year in 1998, and was one of the founders of the start-up company Emotiv, specialising in brain-computer interfaces.

She spoke of her family's history using a metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle, with bits of it coming together as time passed.  She started with the death of her grandfather after the fall of Saigon, then moved to her mother's marriage and the birth of two daughters, to their escape from Vietnam by boat.  The risks were enormous - capture by the Vietnamese forces, ship wreck, failure of the boat's engines, or capture by pirates.  Her mother carried with her a vial of poison in case of capture, not wanting her daughters, her mother or herself to suffer after such capture. Tan's father stayed behind in case they were captured and needed him to get them out. But, luckily, they made it to a Malaysian oil rig, and three moths later three generations of women were able to settle in Melbourne. Ironically it was her father who was captured and gaoled for ten years.

She went on to describe her life and career, and when she talked of her grandmother's death her voice broke at the memory.  And at the same time many of the audience needed to wipe a tear from their eyes (including me).  She very much deserved the standing ovation she received.  A wonderful speaker with a powerful story.

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