Monday, November 9, 2020

Have you registered for RootsTech Connect?

 RootsTech in 2021 is going to be a bit different. It even has a different name – RootsTech Connect. In case you have been living in total isolation (hang on, hasn’t everyone?) and haven’t heard the news, RootsTech Connect will be 100% online and 100% free. All you need to do is register at This new online conference will mean no crowds, no jetlag and no expensive hotels.

Since this conference will not involve a trip to Salt Lake City in person, I won’t tease you with pictures of the Family History Library.

As the Expo Hall will be online, pictures of the Expo Hall in previous years won’t be relevant. But rest assured, there will be Exhibitors.

Neither is it relevant to show you pictures of the people I could catch up with at the conference.

So what can I show you to whet your appetite and tempt you to attend RootsTech Connect in 2021?

Well, there will still be speakers.  Even more of them than we’ve had in the past. We have had some really great speakers and really great talks in the past, and this year will be no different.  The speakers haven’t been officially announced yet, but I have heard some whispers and there are some fantastic speakers, many of which have never spoken at RootsTech before.

Myko Clelland - always interesting

A panel from FamilySearch telling us what is new

Nick Barratt - speaker, and MC
for RootsTech London 2019

We might be lucky, and get some new announcements, like that of Ancestry's Genetic Communities back in 2017, or the indexing of the 1940 US census in 2013

And, of course, there will be Keynotes. Saroo Brierly, who was lost as a little boy in India, adopted by a Tasmanian couple, and found his birth family via Google Earth, told a wonderful story. Jake Shimabukuro’s was so proud of his family’s background, but it was his ukulele playing that blew us all away.

Read my reports of their sessions here.

And who could forget Donny Osmond, who appeared at RootsTech in Salt Lake City in 2015 and in London in 2019.

But my absolute favourite keynote was LeVar Burton. I wrote about how his story brought us all to tears here.

Make sure you join the 130,000 who have already registered for RootsTech Connect 2021. Register for free at

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

There is some incredibly EXCITING news about RootsTech 2021.

Ever since the first RootsTech conference in 2011, the conference has been taking place in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. Now the Covid virus has forced that to change.

But it’s a good change!  RootsTech 2021 will be a virtual online event called RootsTech Connect. It will have all the keynotes, classes, entertainment and even the Expo Hall of the Salt Lake City, but you will be able to access it all from your own home at your own pace. In 2021 RootsTech will come to YOU.

That means you don’t have to pay for airfare or accommodation. You don’t even have to pay for the conference itself, as it will be completely free! That’s a good price by anyone’s standards.

Having a free online RootsTech means that more people will be able to “attend” than ever before. It opens up the conference to those who can’t travel, those who can’t take time off work, and those who can’t afford to attend an in-person conference.

The conference will take place 25-27 Feb 2021 (not the previously advertised 3-6 Feb for the in-person conference).

Register for free at

Thursday, August 27, 2020

What's new at FamilySearch

RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City saw several announcements about FamilySearch.

What's new on FamilySearch session

The first is that FamilySearch have a big problem: they are filming new resources much faster than they are indexing them, so the backlog is getting greater and greater. They currently have 18 petabytes of records digitised (a petabyte is one thousand million million), which is 72 times bigger than the Library of Congress. Even with crowd-sourcing using their 310,000 indexers who add 2 million new names per day, the gap between the number of images captured and the number indexed is still growing. The problem has been exacerbated by the long time it was taking from photographing a record to getting it online (on average 249 days) as there were lots of things to be checked, metadata to develop and so on.

The really exciting news is that they have developed new processes which means it now takes only 24 hours to get new images online.  These are, of course, not indexed images.  To tackle the indexing bottleneck, FamilySearch is working on having the computer automatically read and index the text, along with relationships mentioned in the record. This is a process called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). FamilySearch are also working on computer handwriting recognition. This is progressing, but is not perfect, and neither is OCR. But now indexers and other users have the opportunity to correct incorrectly indexed entries. Not only does this make the record easier to find, but it teaches the computer about what is correct and what isn’t.

And don’t make the mistake of assuming the records being filmed and indexed are mainly American ones. More of the recent ones are European, but there are also records from South Africa, Asia and South America and even the Republic of the Congo. To find out the what is being added, click on “View the most recently added images” at, or enter a place of interest in the search box on that web page.

These moves will allow for rapid access to content, but indexing volunteers are still needed to index records which will serve to train the computers to get smarter and better at reading the records themselves.

Other announcement made at RootsTech relate to the FamilySearch Family Tree. Below is an interview with Ron Tanner from FamilySearch about the tree.

In summary, new relationship tags have been added. As well as being able to enter a marriage, divorce or annulment for a couple, the couple relationship can be tagged as “Common Law Marriage” or “Lived Together”.  You can also add a relationship fact to say that this couple never had any children.

A key aim for the FamilySearch Family Tree is to reduce the poor changes to the tree. If someone attempts to add a child to a couple that is listed as never having children, the system will generate a warning. Part of the strategy to stop these poor changes is to focus on “Hints” and “Possible Duplicates”, so that FamilySearch only shows those it things it thinks are perfect, not those it thinks “might be possible, but might not be correct”.

There is also a new merge function.  This will result in a multi-stage merge.
  1. Look
  2. Decide what to change
  3. Preview
  4. Give a reason and finish.
The process will give warnings if there are data problems, such as dates (e.g. date of birth) between the potential merge more than about 5 years different, birth and death more than 25 miles apart, and anything else that will create a data problem, such as having someone marry their own parent.

A bit of fun that has been added to FamilySearch is the integration of some of the features from the Discovery Centers into the online FamilySearch site.  These can be accessed from a new menu group at the top of the page entitled “Activities”.  This is only available through the web version, not through the App, though it can be used on a mobile device via a browser.

“My famous relatives” will be added to FamilySearch later this year.

Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I received complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bore the cost of my return airfares from Australia and paid for my accommodation and meals.

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.