Friday, January 27, 2017

Are you ready for RootsTech?

RootsTech is nearly upon us again.  But are you ready for it?  A little preparation beforehand can pay itself back many times over.

Firstly, make sure you download the RootsTech App. It's free and available from iTunes or the Google App Store.  It will give you maps (still waiting on those), let you check out the exhibitors, speakers and the conference schedule, download the syllabus (the only way to do so this year) and make contact with other attendees. You can also use it to access the social media posts that are being made about RootsTech.

Randy Seaver has written a great blog post on how to access the syllabus material. You can find his post here

If you download the syllabus material for a talk you are attending you can make notes attached to that syllabus on your mobile device.  And you can flag talks that you want to attend and use the App to look at your schedule. I advise you to flag more than one talk at a given time (if you are interested in more than one) as sometimes a room will fill up, leaving you open to attend a different talk.

Speaking of the sessions you want to attend, I strongly recommend that you look at the list and make some decisions beforehand. With so many streams running in parallel it would be easy to miss something you are really interested in if you look at the schedule in a hurry just before the session is about to start.

If you will be using multiple devices (eg a phone and a tablet) don't forget to setup the multi-device sync from the settings.

But don't think that you have to spend all your time listening to the talks. The Expo Hall is a very worthwhile part of RootsTech. Not only are there many interesting vendors to look at, but many of them will have mini-talks at their boots. I know that Lisa Louise Cooke (from the Genealogy Gems Podcast) will be having talks, but in the past Ancestry, findmypast, MyHeritage and FamilySearch have also had them.

Don't forget the social events. Have you booked in for those you want to attend? There are two aspects to these – the entertainment value and the opportunity to meet new like-minded people who don't roll their eyes when you start talking about your family history.

If you are arriving before the conference or staying on after the conference why not use the opportunity to do some research at the Family History Library?  That's another area where preparation pays dividends.  Go through your family tree and see if there are any gaps you want to fill in or brick walls you want to breakdown. Or perhaps you have found relevant entries in an index (perhaps on FamilySearch, another web site, or a published transcript) and are intending to do the right thing and check the original source.  Make a list of all the things you want to check. I do mine in Evernote, but do whatever works for you. Add the FHL film number or book call number to each item. You can find these through the catalogue available on FamilySearch. While you are looking at the catalogue, see if they have anything unexpected for places you are interested in. As an example, they often have transcripts of headstones, which even if you are able to visit the cemetery might have weathered away since they were transcribed. And don't forget that some of the collections on FamilySearch cannot be accessed from home, only from a Family History Center.  There are many Kent collections that fit into this category to give just one example.

Now there are lots of things you'll need to make sure you bring:
  • Warm clothes – it WILL be cold and might very well snow. Don't forget gloves and a beanie
  • Comfy shoes – you'll be doing LOTS of walking and will be on your feet lots
  • Mobile phone – use it to access the RootsTech app, social media and stay in contact with friends. There is free wi-fi in the Salt Palace Convention Center and the Family History Library so overseas people don't need to worry about data access.
  • Tablet – similar uses to above, but also useful for taking notes in lectures and the library. You might also want to bring a bluetooth keyboard
  • Laptop – I have a lightweight laptop for travel and take it as well as my tablet partly because the keyboard is easier to type on and mostly in case the battery for one of these devices runs out. Which brings me to
  • Portable chargers – there are many of these on the market. They will generally all charge a phone, but not all will charge a tablet or iPad. Getting one with enough power will take care of that, but also charge a phone more quickly
  • Business cards – to keep in touch with people you meet
  • Pen and notebook – if technology fails, have an old fashioned backup.
  • Power board – you'll have lots of tech gear you need to recharge in your room

There are a few other posts with advice on what to bring. 8 Tech Tools to bring to RootsTech and Family History Fanatics 5 Things to Bring to RootsTech.

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