Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wonderful announcements from RootsTech 2019

Steve Rockwood at the Opening Session

RootsTech often brings exciting new announcements, and this year is no different, except there seem to be more than usual. 

First, there two announcements concerning DNA. MyHeritage announced that it is offerning "The Theory of Family Relativity".  This combines paper trails (your genealogical heritage) with DNA (your genetic heritage) and uses graph theory (don't worry – I don't understand that either) to tell you the most likely way you and your matches are connected. And sometimes it gives potential alternative match scenarios. It makes use of the trees on MyHeritage, Geni and FamilySearch. It's a much easier way to find how your DNA matches are connected to you because it can now give you a visual connection that looks rather like the Ancestry shared matches used to to see how you connect to your DNA match. Sometimes. I found one case where it connected me to an incorrect parent for my ancestor, but the rest were very helpful.

Ancestry has also introduced "ThruLines", which are designed to suggest possible ancestors, and link to all people who have that DNA match where applicable. It is only available in beta at the moment to people who meet certain criteria (like searchable trees and having DNA matches). They have also introduced "MyTreeTags", allowing you to add tags to people in your tree. Those can be predefined tags, like "Direct Ancestor", "DNA match" or one of the other 18 tags, or you can create your own. There is also another new feature allowing you to more easily sort, group, and view your DNA matches in any way you'd like. Both of these latter two offerings are also in beta.

The power in these new offerings from MyHeritage and Ancestry is in the massive size of the trees these companies have. I'm sure more will come out about these functions as people have had a chance to play with them.

Tamsin Todd, Findmypast CEO
Findmypast was not to be left out. They made a very exciting announcement. The good news is that they have been granted an exclusive contract to digitize the 1921 census and make it available online. The bad news is that we won't be able to see it until January 2022 due to the legislated closure period.  The other good news – once we can get access to it – is that it contains more information than the 1911 census. Householders had to reveal their place of employment, the industry they worked in and the materials they worked with as well as their employer’s name. Those aged 15 and older were required to provide information about their marital status, including if divorced, while for those under 15 the census recorded whether both parents were alive or if either or both had died. I can't wait, as I need this to try to solve a particular mystery.

Findmypast also announced the addition of further catholic records to their collection, some from Liverpool and others from various parts of America. And they didn't miss the chance to reiterate their recently announced partnership with Rootsfinder, and their partnership with Living DNA, which will in future help build the kind of trees Ancestry and MyHeritage announced today.

FamilySearch had an announcement too: they are giving two million dollars to the International African American Museum. This museum is located in Charleston, on the spot where nearly half of all enslaved Africans arrived in America. FamilySearch's donation will help support the museum's Centre for Family History, and this donation will help.
Martin Luther King III

Much of the Opening Session was a tribute to the fact that this August marks the 400th anniversary of the first slaves from Africa arriving in America.  And there was a very special guest: Martin Luther King III, the son of Martin Luther King Jr, who was assassinated in 1968. He talked about his father's vision of complete integration, not just desegregation. The end result, he felt, would be reconciliation.  This would allow everyone to Connect & Belong.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

RootsTech starts on Wednesday!

Wednesday, US time, will herald the start of RootsTech 2019.  I will not be able to attend this year, so I will be watching some of the sessions live streamed from my home in Sydney. Luckily the changes to the times that the Keynotes are being held will make it far more reasonable for me to watch in my time zone.

The Wednesday General Session and Opening Event, with Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, will be 4.30pm in Salt Lake City, which is a very civilized 10.30am in Sydney.

The Thursday, Friday and Saturday sessions will be held at 11am in Salt Lake City, which is at the less civilized - but still possible - time of 5am in Sydney. I am particularly looking forward to watching Saroo Brierley from Australia on Friday. I am not a morning person, but will make every effort to struggle out of bed to watch.  At least I watch it all in my PJs.

The full live-streaming schedule is available here.

I have also signed up for the Virtual RootsTech, which will let me see another 18 sessions at a later time, again from home.

Even though I am not there in person this year, I am still very excited!