Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Keynotes at RootsTech 2014

Friday is the second day of the RootsTech 2014 Conference in Salt Lake City.

It started with the two keynote speakers - Judy G. Russell (The Legal Genealogist) and Dr. Spencer Wells, who heads the National Geographic Genographic Project.

Here is Judy just after coming onstage, and her first slide that set the tone for her presentation:

As Judy noted, Aaron Holt of the National Archives said that "Oral family history can be lost in three generations."  To demonstrate that, Judy asked questions of the audience about what they knew about their parents and grandparents - about 95% couldn't answer the first question, and nobody could answer all five questions.  The first question was "What was your mother's first illness?"

Here's a close up of Judy onstage:

Judy used three examples of how stories are obtained, analyzed and confirmed.  Her first example was the Revolutionary War service of Richard Baker and his loss at the Battle of Trenton in 1776.  The only record of his service and death with the 3rd Virginia regiment is a letter written home by his brother after the battle.

Judy used this Baker family to demonstrate how family stories, and published genealogies can be wrong, and how to ensure that any story is correct.  She painted a grand picture of the earlier Baker ancestry in Virginia, including a marriage to a Winslow that gave the family a Mayflower ancestor.  Then she discussed how scholarly research disproved quite a bit of it.  That led to the discussion of the Genealogical Proof Standard and how applying the GPS can help prove oral or written history.

Finally, Judy told the fanciful family story about her great-great-grandfather, Martin Gilbert Cottrell.  Family lore said that he'd been a cowboy in one part of Texas, a rancher in another part, a farmer, a sheriff, a traveling salesman and a preacher.  She was able to find records that document each of those occupations in the different places that demonstrated that it was the same person.

Judy noted that we must find the stories of ancestors, and document them well, so that we can pass those stories to our descendants.  That includes "my story" too.  If we don't, we will lose them in three generations or less.

This was a superb, masterful performance by Judy.  She always speaks clearly and forcefully, which I really appreciate and wish I could emulate.

The second Keynote speaker today was Dr. Spencer Wells.  He started out with a genealogy puzzle - his name, which was Rush Spencer Wells IV.  His grandmother told him about the Rush male who was his 2nd great-grandfather, a 2nd great-grandmother with the maiden name of Spencer, and four Rush Spencer Wells children followed.  Here is a photo of Spencer Wells on stage:

Dr. Wells then took us on a whirlwind tour of The Human Journey through the eyes of a geneticist.  The two basic questions are about origins and journey - how did the species occupy the earth.  He went through basic DNA genetics, then into mtDNA and Y-DNA, and then showed the two sets of haplogroups that have been determined over the past two decades.

He also discussed the Genographic Project, which consists of field research, public participation (DNA tests), and the Legacy Fund (85 grants to date for over $2 million).

He finished up by noting that DNA testing is now in the public consciousness, and tests have increased in 8 years from zero to 1 million by the end of 2012, and we will soon have the 2 millionth test performed.  The more people who test, the better the chances are of finding matches with other testers.

After Dr. Wells, Shipley Munson of FamilySearch came onstage to announce the winners of the Developer Challenge.  The winner was the Saving Memories Forever couple from Missouri:

This was an excellent Keynote session - and you can watch it on when it becomes available in the next week or two.  I highly recommend it for both Keynote addresses!

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

JDR said...

Having viewed both these presentations remotely I have have to agree that they were both top rate. Judy Russel's was a model of how a presentation should be given, but I thought she went too far with her questions about things like what an ancestor's best subject was at school. In some circumstances it's pertinent but not for everyone and there's a limited on how much we need or want to know. If we spent all our time researching every detail of an ancestor's life we'd have no time for a life of our own.