Thursday, March 31, 2022

RootsTech in Review

RootsTech was an online event again this year, which means that even even though the event has closed, we still have plenty of time (all year) to watch the talks. Which is just as well because there are so many great talks to watch. But more of them in a minute.

First, I want to make another comment on the theme of the conference: #ChooseConnection. I have already written about the way this resonated for me with regards to the current war in Ukraine, but I have also been making new connections of my own. Three weeks ago we got a little puppy, Cassie. Because we have been taking her to the grass at the front of our home to do her business, and because she’s so cute and adorable, people have been coming up to look at her and sometimes to pat her. This means that I have got to know people who live two doors down, and others from all over our estate. These are people who’ve been here for years and years, but only now have I got to meet them. These are wonderful new connections I have made! And it has enhanced my sense of community in the enclave in which I live.

Anyway, back to the talks in this year's RootsTech Connect. There are so many to choose from, and (unsurprisingly) I have not yet had time to watch all the talks that I am interested in. But here are some of the ones I have particularly enjoyed.

First, just some of the keynote speakers:

Apollonia Poilรขne – this quietly spoken, gentle young woman was faced with tragedy aged 18 and now controls her family’s business

Matthew Modine – how incredible to find that you had ancestors who lived within a stone’s throw of the place where you chose to live yourself!

Molly Yeh – a wonderful story of the connections forged through food

And, of course, some of the many other talks:

Sophie Kay - Ancestral Hide-and-Seek in the Roaring Twenties: The 1921 Census of England & Wales. An excellent talk about the newly released 1921 census

Nick Barrett - When Harry met Dotty – using DNA to break down brick walls. An interesting case study (I always enjoy those).

Daniel Horowitz - Genealogy of the Food Brands. A fun way to illustrate the records available on MyHeritage by examining the families who are the names behind some famous food brands.

Ugo Perego - What does it mean to have Neanderthal ancestry. A very interesting talk about the evolution of homo sapiens and Neanderthals, and what your DNA can reveal about any neanderthal ancestors you may have. Particularly interesting for me as apparently I have more neanderthal DNA than 85% of my contacts (no comments about my height, please!)

Janet Few - How to Handle Sensitive Topics in Family History (aka Family History Warts and All: How inclusive is your family story). Not so much how to handle them, but an examination of the type of things that might crop up (criminals, mental health problems, illegitimacy, slavery etc)

Maxine E Meurs - Researching the identity of my Chinese Great-Great-Grandfather. Growing up in Australia I am often guilty of only thinking about the European history of my country in the 19th Century, so this was an interesting and eye-opening talk about the family of a Chinese man who came to Australia during the gold rush.

Why not go to RootsTech Connect 2022 and watch some of the talks and let me know which ones you liked!

Saturday, March 5, 2022

If Only Putin would #ChooseConnection not Division

I am breaking my own rule and making a post that contains my political opinions, but it is so relevant to the message of RootsTech Connect 2022.

NOTE: These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of FamilySearch International and RootsTech.

This year’s theme is #ChooseConnection. I was watching the news last night after the first day of this year’s RootsTech conference, and the contrast between that message and the current Ukrainian situation struck me so strongly. Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, stated

‘When we say “connection” we mean connection to people: our family and friends of today, our ancestors of the past, and connection to those who are strangers today but as we discover our common ancestors, our common homelands, they become close friends and even cousins of tomorrow. We mean connection to the world, including our homelands; connection to our culture, our heritage … We mean connection to principles. Principles of trust, love, faith, honesty and compassion. And most of all connection to each other, especially at this time when so much division is being thrust upon us.

This theme and the ideas and scripts were developed long before the current situation commenced, yet they couldn’t be more relevant right now. What is happening is horrifying and frightening.

Most of the world is united in its support of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia. None of us want this to continue. Volodymyr Zelenskyy begged Putin to talk to him face to face ‘I am your neighbour. I don’t bite.’ But still it continues.

Back in 2018 Rockwood talked about the theme of that RootsTech conference: “Connect. Belong”. He said that FamilySearch wants people to connect, because when we connect we treat each other differently. Connections can generate emotions, as with the discoveries LeVar Burton made in 2017 which brought him to tears.

If only Putin would agree to talk instead of attack, negotiate instead of sending missiles, #chooseconnection instead of division we could return to peace instead of standing on the brink of a disaster.

This is all very serious, I know, and it brings down the mood, but as with so many of the RootsTech conferences, the messages and themes resonate with me.

Back in 2017 when LeVar Burton spoke, he said that until he saw people like Diahann Carroll in the sitcom Julia, and Clarence Williams III in The Mod Squad, he had never before seen people like him starring on TV. That comment has come back to me many times since then. It was a perspective that I had never encountered before, though I should have realized it by myself. By making the connection I did when listening to his keynote I understood the world a little bit better from another point of view.

Whatever can bring that understanding can only help the world. Finding out about your ancestors and ancestral homelands – especially if that journey uncovers some surprises – can only help us connect with others and contribute to making the world a better place.

LeVar Burton after hearing about his family

NOTE: These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of FamilySearch International and RootsTech.