Monday, March 5, 2018

RootsTech 2018 Potpourri - My Baker's Dozen Takeaways

I managed to survive RootsTech again - that's seven in a row.  We got to Salt Lake City on Monday, and came home on Sunday.  RootsTech started officially on Wednesday, and ended on Saturday. 

As a RootsTech Ambassador, I receive a free registration and entry to the Media Hub, so I take that seriously and pretty much do Ambassador things rather than go to classes during the Expo Hall time.  So my view is somewhat different from many others who go to RootsTech for the classes and the fellowship.  I go for the news and the fellowship.

As part of my assumed responsibilities, I blog about my experiences, including compendiums of blog posts by other geneabloggers.  I compiled a RootsTech 2018 Blog Compendium - see RootsTech 2018 Blog Compendium, which I will add to over the next few weeks as more geneabloggers recount their experiences.

Here are my takeaways from my six days in the Mecca of Genealogy and Family History:

1)  The most fun is the networking with companies, colleagues and friends, often with people I know only on the Internet and have never met in person.  This year I was thrilled to meet Marian Pierre-Louis, Dave Robison, Roberta Estes, Marian Wood, and many others.  Then there are the folks who have come to RootsTech before and I have a wonderful time with, and they are too many to name for fear of leaving someone off the list.  I think you know who you are!  This networking is cemented by the FamilySearch Media dinner on Tuesday night, the MyHeritage after-party fun on Friday night and the DearMyrtle after-party dinner on Saturday night.  I posted photos on my blog for all of these events.  Here is the borrowed photo of the Geneabloggers Tribe in the Expo Hall:

2)  The most interesting technology I heard about was the use of a "Big Tree" to help find DNA matches using the "Theory of Family Relativity."  MyHeritage's founder Gilad Japhet explained the concept in his Thursday luncheon presentation on Perspectives on Combining Genealogy and Genetics (which will be free indefintely at Family Tree Webinars).  MyHeritage is creating a "Big Tree" based on all of the information at their disposal - the personal MyHeritage trees, the historical records, and other shared trees (Geni and FamilySearch Family Tree) to enable finding the relationships between two DNA matches.  The common ancestor of me and one of my DNA matches, with only parents and grandparents in their tree, can probably be found by using some combination of my tree, their tree, historical records and other shared trees.  This creates the opportunity for contact between the DNA matches and may spark an interest in family history research on the part of the DNA match person.  This is coming later in 2018.  In addition to the lunch, I had a meeting with Gilad Japhet to discuss their initiatives and the genealogy industry.

3)  In the Friday Keynote, Ben Bennett and Tamsin Todd described how Findmypast has partnered with FamilySearch to use the FamilySearch Family Tree as their shared tree, while retaining the current private trees.  This will enable Findmypast members to access the biggest shared family tree in the world to enhance their research, and hopefully enable those members to add to and enrich the FamilySearch Family Tree with stories, photos, source citations, notes, etc.  The interface with FamilySearch Family Tree works now in beta at  I also met with Findmypast executives Tamsin Todd, Jay Verkler and Ben Bennett to discuss their company and the genealogy industry, and to meet Tamsin Todd.

4)  MyHeritage also announced the implementation of a one-to-many chromosome browser where a user can select up to seven of my MyHeritageDNA matches and see which chromosome segments are in common with them.  A user can either pay for the MyHeritageDNA test or upload the raw data from one of the other DNA companies for free.  This feature works now.

5)  MyHeritage announced a TreeSync feature of a MyHeritage tree to FamilySearch Family Tree.  This is only for LDS members interested in utilizing MyHeritage at this time.  An LDS member can add eight generations of ancestors, and three generations of descendants to a NEW MyHeritage personal tree.  The user can then use MyHeritage records and technologies to add content to their MyHeritage tree, and then TreeSync the modified tree back into FamilySearch Family Tree when they wish. I hope that this will be enabled for non-LDS members in the future.

6)  I spent an enjoyable lunch with Dallan Quass, the founder of RootsFinder, a new online personal family tree, which can interface with FamilySearch Family Tree and also import a GEDCOM file.  We also discussed the genealogy industry status and updates.

7)  At the Family Tree Maker exhibit in the Expo Hall, the Cousin Russ "Help Bar" was innovative and very useful.  They announced, a mobile app that can be used to spotlight a person in a photograph and then record a story about the person, and have it saved as an integrated file in your Family Tree Maker file.  Jack Minsky, the head of Software MacKiev, personally demonstrated this to me with the help of his 11-year old daughter, who knows all the FTM software features.

8)  I attended the Wednesday and Thursday Keynotes in the Hall, but watched the Friday and Saturday Keynotes in the hotel room on  While there is considerable excitement in the Hall, it is constraining, you have to be there early, and it is difficult to exfiltrate at the end.  From the hotel room, I can sleep in longer, watch it with my wife, and have a leisurely walk to the Expo Hall when it opens.  I can always watch later anything I missed on the saved livestream videos.  While the keynotes were strong on family stories, the genealogy content was limited to company announcements and speaker family trees.  You can watch the Keynote addresses at

9)  The Expo Hall was alive with product demonstrations and classes in the exhibits of many companies, including Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, FamilySearch, Family Tree Maker, Genealogy Gems, LivingDNA, and several others (I forget some things!), plus the Demo Stage which has classes several times an hour.  A visitor in the Expo Hall can spend their whole day learning in these venues!

10)  I was interviewed twice - once in a planned meet-and-greet with Family History Fanatics (Andy, Devon and Caleb Lee) at their exhibit, and Daniel Horowitz ambushed me in the Media Hub.  I imagine that they will eventually appear on YouTube.

11)  DNA test kits were being sold by all of the companies present - Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, and LivingDNA.  The lines were long.  My friend Dave Robison bought 35 kits from different companies to take home to his society members.  

12)  I did attend three classes on Wednesday before the Expo Hall opened - I went D. Joshua Taylor's talk on "Big Data:  Buzz Word or Family History Revolution," to Paul Woodbury's talk on "How Close Are We Really? Evaluating Shared DNA", and to Tim Janzen's talk on  "Introduction to Chromosome Mapping."  I tried to take notes, but really can't read my writing now. 

13)  I had Tuesday morning at the Family History Library, and found eleven parish records for baptisms, marriages and burials of my Vaux families in Somerset, and found the 1861 marriage record on FHL-only microfilm for my 2nd great-grandparents, "David" Smith and Abigail "Vanse." [It should be Devier smith and Abigail Vaux].

That's a baker's dozen of takeaways or highlights from my six days in Salt Lake City for RootsTech 2018.    


Copyright (c) 2018, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

Marian said...

Jilad's MyHeritage talk will always be free. It's not going behind the paywall.