Friday, February 26, 2021

RootsTech Connect 2021 - Day 3 - Inspiration

It is already day 3 of RootsTech. By the way I do realize I am a day ahead of the official day counter but I believe RootsTech actually started on Wednesday with the opening of the Expo Hall. How can the days seem so long but the event seems so short. I hope everyone has had an opportunity to see the sessions they wanted to see, listen to the main stage events, visit the Expo Hall, and meet with others attending RootsTech.

Were you inspired by anything you have seen so far at RootsTech? Maybe some of the Main Stage speakers inspired you? Did you watch Nick Vujicic talk about his life as a handicapped child and how that molded his view of the world? Did you watch Francesco Lororo talk about rescuing the music scores written by prisoners in the concentration camps during WW II? Or maybe you saw Erick Avari talk about his life's journey from his childhood in India to an actor in the United States. These are just a few of the Keynote speakers that shared their inspiring stories. I encourage you to spend some time listening to their stories on the RootsTech Main Stage.

Have any of the presentations inspired you? The series of  Let's Do Good Together panels discussions were designed to inspire participants to take steps afterward to do good. The discussions that I was involved with yesterday provided ideas encouraging the use of family history in education and supporting community projects that included activities focused around family history. The panel I participated on today discussed ways to inspire children to love family history. There were other panel discussions which talked about improving the reach of DNA Interest Groups, discussion of projects in Texas, exploring the psychological benefits of family history, and learning about Search Angels for adoptees, along with a few other topics.

One of the panelists I met through the Let's Do Good Together discussions was Daniel from Ireland. He is a 17 year old who started his genealogy journey when he was 13. He helped moderate one of the breakout rooms in our discussion of Inspiring Children and Youth to Love Family History. What makes Daniel so inspiring? He has taken his love of genealogy and spread it across the globe through a group called The Hidden Branch. This is a group of young people ranging from the early teens to early twenties who all have a passion for genealogy. They provide help and inspiration for other young people to get involved in genealogy. So if you have a young person who shows an interest in family history, you may want to point them toward Daniel and his group.

Other panelists in groups with me were Shenley Puterbaugh from Inspire Family History and Olivia Jewell from the 21 Day Family Connections Experiment. The goal of Inspire Family History is to inspire children of all ages to love family history. They start with the concept that you are who you are because of the decisions and actions of those who came before you and that as you learn about your ancestors, you are better able to understand yourself. Their website has a great list of resources and ideas to promote getting children inspired about their own family history. 

The 21 Day Family Connections Experiment is a social experiment exploring the psychological benefits of daily connections with family past and present. They have developed a set of themed plans that last 7 to 21 days which encourage actions on a daily basis to help you explore all aspects of family connection. 

Both sites understand that knowledge of our family history promotes self confidence, resilience, a higher self esteem, a sense of place, and many other positive traits that help us cope with the world around us. Both of these women are working to inspire a new set of people to become interested in family history and promoting well being in our society.

These are just a few example of how attending RootsTech can be an inspiration to us. Take a look at their websites and watch their RootsTech videos to learn more and be inspired yourself. 

Shenley's RootsTech sessions are listed here. While Olivia's are listed here.

Family history should be inspiring. We should enjoy the work and want to encourage others to participate. It doesn't end with you and we all should be willing to share what we have discovered with our families so they understand their history and how the actions of our ancestors have shaped our own lives. Have fun and "Let's Do Good Together".

Thursday, February 25, 2021

RootsTech Connect 2021 - Day 2 - Discovery

Day 2 of RootsTech is coming to an end. Today was a day of Discovery at RootsTech. I started out this morning working in The Family History Guide booth in the Expo Hall. The Expo Hall was a bit slow but we did get to talk to some people about what we do at The Family History Guide. I invite everyone to take some time over the next two days to visit the Expo Hall and chat with the people in the booth. We won't bite and we will be happy to have a conversation.

After that, I participated in two panel discussions and had a great time interacting with the participants. These programs are live and are not available after the conference. 

We just finished up the Family History and Genealogy in K12 Classrooms discussion. Our panel talked about our experience using family history as a teaching tool. I came at the topic as a homeschool parent who used family history in my child's education. I am also the Education Director at The Family History Guide where we develop programs to teach a variety of age groups. And lastly, I am involved in the Indian River Genealogical Society's youth outreach program. The other panel members had their own experiences that they were able to discuss. Our goal was to begin the discussion and encourage the participants to think of ways they can incorporate family history in their programs.

Before that, I was the moderator for the Connecting Your Communities in the FamilySearch Family Tree panel. This panel discussed ways people interested in family history could work with their communities to encourage family history related projects. Some panelists discussed their experience working with African-American cemetery projects. Others talked about collecting various records and adding them to FamilySearch. We had a good discussion and started a new Facebook group to further this discussion after RootsTech.

Tomorrow at 3:00pm EST, I will be on a panel discussing Inspiring Children and Youth to Love Family History. This will be another great opportunity to interact with people at RootsTech.

I also discovered a new photo tool at MyHeritage. This tool is called Deep Nostalgia. It is able to animate your photos by moving the head, eyes and mouth in a fairly realistic way. Several of my Facebook friends have been trying it out. You can see an example of how this works in the video below. It's a little Harry Potteresque, don't you think?

The great thing about this is that we had the original black & white image, which we colorized at MyHeritage, and then we were able to animate it. This brings a whole new layer to your photographs. Some people may not like it because it manipulates the original photographs integrity but I see it as a new way to appreciate the images we have of our ancestors.

What else did I do today? I spent some time talking with Todd Hansen of Story Trek fame. He has a new project called Todd Hansen's Legacy Story Project. This project helps you record your own story. They have a downloadable workbook which provides prompts to help you develop your story. Todd and his crew will record your story in your home, at their studio, virtually, or you can take Todd's online training to learn how to record your own life story and the stories of those you love. If you are familiar with Story Trek, you know that Todd believes everyone has a story to tell. He is there to help you tell your story.

So my theme for today was Discovery. Discover your passions to build community and educate youth through family history. Discover your ancestors through seeing their images in a new way. And discover yourself through your own life story. I encourage each of you to discover something new about yourself, your ancestors, and your community in the coming days.

I hope everyone has a great rest of the week at RootsTech. Get some sleep, stay hydrated, and most of all, learn how to tell the stories.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

RootsTech Connect 2021 - Day 1 - Innovations

After all the waiting, class preparation, session development, meetings, and everything else over the last couple months we are finally ready to start RootsTech Connect 2021. This was an incredible undertaking by the RootsTech team to get everything set up in such a short time and to help all of us with deadlines and questions to get to a point where this conference is today. And after all the work, we were able to experience the opening of the Expo Hall tonight and get ready for the first set of talks. 

One of my favorite parts of RootsTech is talking to the innovators and exhibitors. This year there are 14 Innovators at RootsTech. Some of the innovators, such as Adobe and MyHeritage, are showing off their photo restoration and enhancement capabilities. Adobe has their Photoshop, Lightroom, and Spark software on display. While MyHeritage was showing off their colorization and photo enhancement tools that they introduced in 2020. MyHeritage has had over 30 million photos enhanced using these applications. Adobe and MyHeritage are on total opposite ends of the spectrum for photo restoration and enhancement. MyHeritage allows users to upload their photos to the website for free and does a quick enhancement with no user based controls. MyHeritage's products are impressive and easy to do. Adobe is a more complex process which may require the user to manipulate various controls to get a specific outcome. Of course the user has more control with the Adobe products. Also, Spark provides ways to share your family photos on the web or in social media.

Another area of RootsTech that I like is the Demo Theater. This is where sponsors and exhibitors talk about their new developments, helpful products, and many other topics.

For tonight, my favorite innovation is FamilySearch's demonstration of their computer assisted indexing which is designed to be able to read handwriting in multiple languages. I tried it out with a marriage record written in German. It was pretty good but still had some errors. Overall, I think it did well enough to get a good start on the translation considering the quality of the document it had to start with. You can see the demo of this technology in the RootsTech Sessions at Computer Assisted Indexing. Then you can go to the website and see how well it will transcribe your handwritten documents. Here is an example of what it did with my German marriage record. The colors indicate people, places, and events.

The program is capable of reading handwriting in a variety of languages including German, Cyrillic, Arabic, English, and many others. So this should help you with a variety of documents.
FamilySearch also provides a demonstration video that shows a more difficult example where the computer is able to recognize the handwriting and extract the information into a tree showing the relationships included in the document. You can view the video of this demonstration on their session page. I'm sorry about the poor quality screenshots but they are clipped from the YouTube video.

Previously, the team had been working on improving the computer's ability to recognize typed document. Many of those records are now available on FamilySearch. You can see an example of an indexed record here. This work was connected to the Zoning Project which I participated in several years ago. The Zoning Project identified parts of newspapers which included important genealogical information such as birth, death and marriages and marked them so the computer would be able to recognize individual pieces of information. I did a blog post on the Zoning Project back in 2017 which you can read here.

Why is this innovation important? Once the computer has sufficiently learned this process, it will be able to utilize cloud based processing to index more records in one day than a person could in their entire lifetime. Currently, there is a quality threshold that has to be met before these computer assisted indexing projects are sent to the FamilySearch collections. Here is an example of a Spanish language church record that the computer indexed. Soon, you will begin to notice more records being indexed by computer. You will be able to identify those records since they have a blue box stating that the record was indexed by a computer. These records also have the capability for the user to edit mistakes.

Not only will this increase the number of searchable records but it will also allow you to request computer assisted indexing on demand for unindexed records. That means that any unindexed images (80% of all images are currently unindexed) that you find can be indexed on demand. There will be a button on the screen that will index the record and provide the record for you to review and edit. Eventually, as images are acquired they will be indexed y computers and then put online within a short period of time.

Innovations such as these will greatly increase our capability to be successful in our research.

RootsTech Connect 2021 - Starts Today!

RootsTech starts today at 7:00pm eastern time when the Expo Hall opens but the website is live now for you to start exploring. What will you be doing for the next 72 hours? RootsTech is more than just viewing classes. RootsTech is also an opportunity to talk to the experts in the field and find friends and relatives. The number of registered attendees is now over 501,000 people from  226 countries and territories. So, how do you converse with all these people at RootsTech? If you are registered for RootsTech and have a FamilySearch account you can use all of the various the chat functions. 

The Expo Hall has virtual booths for nearly one hundred vendors from large companies like Ancestry to smaller groups such as Birth Parent Finder. Each exhibitor in the Expo Hall will have a "Chat with an expert" button that you can click to chat with the people who are working in the virtual booth. Once you click on that button, you will get a pop-up of all the staff that are present. From there you can click on one of the experts and ask them questions. Those questions will go into their direct message box and you should hear back from them soon. There is also the opportunity to join a chat room for that exhibitor so you can see what everyone else is talking about and ask additional questions. These chat rooms will also be monitored by the exhibitor but it may take a little longer to get a response due to the potentially large amount of traffic there.

Are you missing the opportunity to talk to the presenters? Well, each speaker will have their own chat room where participants can ask questions and discuss their topics. Some of the presenters will also participate in a 1-hour RootsTech Connect Desktop Diner event where participants can join them in themed Zoom rooms and join in with live conversations. This event is scheduled for 4:00pm EST and is sponsored by the Connections Experiment. This is your opportunity to meet with the presenters in a more personal setting compared to text messaging. You will need to register in advance for this event. When you register you will receive an email with the calendar information and Zoom link.

If you want to chat with me for any of my topics you can use the links below. The chat rooms will be open throughout the conference and I will pop in frequently. Click on the titles below to visit the pages and click on the chat room link to join the chat for that topic. You will have to be logged into the RootsTech Conference site for these links to work.

The Family History Guide Virtual Booth - Expo Hall - I will be there Thursday & Friday: 9:00am-11:00am EST (Chat Room)

You can also start your own chat room or direct message friends and associates who are registered for the conference. These are not private chats so others could find them in the search feature and join you but you can name the chat and invite your friends to join. Another way to find people is through the Relatives at RootsTech site. You can select a relative or search for one and then send a message through your FamilySearch account discussions.

I hope to see you all there and be sure to pop in and visit me in one of my chat rooms.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

RootsTech Connect 2021 - 1 Day To Go

Tomorrow evening is the start of the RootsTech Connect conference. The Expo Hall opens at 7:00pm EST and the first keynote speaker comes onstage at 11:00pm EST. Will you be awake for that? So far, my last five blog posts have been talking about the various ways we can make the most of the conference. I realize that there is a lot planned but just remember that much of it can be viewed on demand over the next year so you will want to focus on those items which will not be available after the conference. Here is a list of some items that will only be live or will be deactivated after the conference.

1) Let's Do Good Together - I provided details about these sessions in my previous blog post. These are panel discussions which will be held on Zoom. The audience will be able to ask questions and the panel members may ask the audience questions. Some of these will have breakout rooms where you can talk to others about your ideas and get feedback or potentially find others with similar interests who can help you achieve your goals.

2) Expo Hall - Just like in past years, there are many genealogy related companies represented at RootsTech. You can visit their virtual booths, ask them questions, find conference related discounts, and attend various product demonstration in the Demo Theater. Representatives for the companies will be there to help answer your questions in real time.

3) Innovators Portal - The Innovators Portal can be found under the Menu icon in the upper right corner. This area is where you will find the latest innovations in family history and genealogy and will be able to talk to those who are developing these new tools. There are more than a dozen projects being demonstrated here including FamilySearch's computer aided indexing, photo restoration applications, 3D family trees, immersive media, and more. Each innovator has a video and a link to their products demonstration site for you to explore. Take some time to investigate these innovations and ask the developers questions.

4) DNA Basics Learning Center - This area is where you can ask basic questions about DNA, participate in live DNA classes, and participate in interactive learning activities. All of these classes will be available on demand following their live presentation but the interactive instruction will not be available afterward.

5) Chats - Each session will have an active chat room. You can join each room using the link on the session's page. This will allow you to chat with the presenter and with other attendees who have joined the chat room. Many presenters will have "office hours" where they will be available live to answer questions. They will also be checking in periodically to monitor the chat and respond to comments or questions. These chats will be deactivated at the end of the conference so if you want to keep something that was said, you will have to copy and paste it into your notes.

There are some "live" events that may be available on demand later in case you missed them during their scheduled time. 

1) Live Sessions/Keynotes - There are live sessions scheduled throughout the day. You can find these live sessions by looking for the Calendar under the Menu icon. The lists for Main Stage and Sessions can be displayed for each day. Some of these sessions will be recorded and available later but a few may not be. 

2) Church Leadership Sessions - Various leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be hosting live discussions or talks throughout the conference. For example, Elder and Sister Holland will provide the keynote for Family Discovery Day and Elders Bednar, Stevenson, and Renlund will provide Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction.  Many other Church leaders will have pre-recorded messages available to watch.

I hope this list helps you create your conference schedule and make the most of your time. The conference is nearly 72 hours in length so make sure you include a few breaks for food, sleep and other necessary activities in your schedule. I will try to provide updates to my blog each day discussing what I did during the conference and hopefully providing additional tips for you to make the most of this event.

Monday, February 22, 2021

RootsTech Connect 2021 - 2 Days To Go

Can you believe that RootsTech Connect will be starting in just two days?! The Expo Hall will open at 7:00pm eastern time Wednesday and the first Keynote speaker will be Nick Vujicic at 11:00pm. He is an international motivational speaker and New York Times best selling author. Now that we are coming down to the final days before the conference starts, do you know what you will be doing? Does it seem overwhelming? Do you know the RootsTech survival strategies? If this all just seems to be too much to take in, may I suggest that you take some time to check out the Road to RootsTech video series or read some additional blogs on RootsTech to help you figure out what to do?


The Roads to RootsTech is a series of short videos from the crew at RootsTech and FamilySearch explaining what will be happening.

Road to RootsTech - Episode 1: What's New This Year (2:23) - This is the first video in the Road to RootsTech series. The video introduces you to what RootsTech will be about and information that will be covered in future Roads to RootsTech videos.

Road to RootsTech - Episode 2: Family Stories - Asia, Africa & Europe (4:15) - This video contains family history stories from FamilySearch team members in Hong Kong, Ghana and Ukraine. The stories are in their native language so you may need to use YouTube's translate function.

Road to RootsTech - Episode 3: Family Stories - North & Central America (4:40) - This episode focuses on the family history stories of two FamilySearch team members in the US and Mexico. The stories are in their native languages of English and Spanish.

Road to RootsTech - Episode 4: Connect, Social & Discovery (1:47) - This video talks about the ways you can interact with others during RootsTech. They discuss topics such as the chat function and the official RootsTech Facebook page.

Road to RootsTech - Episode 5: Classes, Keynotes & Expo Hall (1:44) - This video talks about how to find class sessions, keynote speakers and explore the Expo Hall. 

Road to RootsTech - Episode 6: Get to Know the Emcees (4:04) - This video introduces you to the RootsTech emcees that you will see around the RootsTech Connect venue during the conference. 

Road to RootsTech - Episode 7: A Virtual Survival Guide (4:53) - This video provides the tips you need to survive three days of RootsTech Connect. The video includes tips such as getting rest before the marathon viewing, get up and move around, be comfortable, familiarize yourself with the website, stay hydrated and have snacks available, and many more valuable ideas to make the conference enjoyable and inspirational.

Welcome to RootsTech Connect 2021! (3:06) - This video is a welcome to RootsTech Connect. They discuss the various parts of the website and give a quick tour of where to find various topics.

RootsTech 2021 Sneak Peak (52:00) - This video is an absolute necessity for anyone planning on attending RootsTech Connect. They talk about conference details and demonstrate various parts of the RootsTech Connect website. They answer viewer questions that may help you get ready for the conference.

Behind the Scenes with the RootsTech 2021 Conference (51:20) - This video covers some of the work that went into preparing the RootsTech Connect platform and how it was designed to improve the user experience. They walk through the website and explain where you will be able to find your events.

Where else can you find information about the RootsTech Connect conference? 


One great place to find information about RootsTech Connect is the RootsTech Facebook page. Follow the page to keep up on the latest conference news, ask questions, and see what is going on.

The FamilySearch blog also has several stories about RootsTech that might be helpful.


There are many bloggers, besides myself, who are writing stories about RootsTech. You can follow them to get a first hand view of their experience and see what advice they have for you as you attend this incredible conference. 

The Genea-Musings blog provides articles as well as a compilation of other blog articles about RootsTech. This is a great place to start to see who is writing about the event.

The Orthodox Genealogist, Dear MyrtleTreasure Chest of MemoriesKindredPast, Inspire Family History, The Genealogy Girl, Family History Hound, The Single Leaf, and Empty Branches on the Family Tree blogs, to name just a few, have already provided RootsTech related articles. I am sure that many more bloggers will start posting soon as we approach the start of the conference.

There will be many more sources of information about RootsTech Connect in the coming days so keep an eye out for it. We are here to help make this the most inspiring and educational experience possible.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

RootsTech Connect 2021 - 3 Days To Go

The countdown continues to the opening of the RootsTech Connect Expo Hall this Wednesday. One of the great things about RootsTech when it was in person was meeting everyone and having time to chat. I have met many people and made many friendships in the years that I attended RootsTech and I expect that many of you have also met some great people if you have attended the conference in the past. But now that we are all virtual, how will we keep up with our friends and colleagues? RootsTech has that figured out.

One way we will be able to communicate is through the RootsTech Connect chat. You will be able to join a chat room for each class session, discussion, and vendor that you are interested in. On the specific session's page you will find a Join Chat Room or Chat With An Expert button either under or above the session description. Click on that and you will be added to their chat room. To see which chat rooms you are subscribed to, click on the Connect button in the lower right corner. From there you can manage your chats, see if there are new discussions, and ask questions. This pop-up also has a Direct Message capability so you can send messages to your friends to see what they are up to. Also, there is a red + button at the bottom of the pop-up which allows you to create your own chat groups. This can be handy if your friends or genealogical society want to keep in touch during the conference. Each chat room is limited to 1,000 participants but don't worry because we have been told that once that number is reached a new chat room will be created for that topic. The chats will be open throughout the RootsTech Connect conference but will be closed at the end of the conference. So, if you want to keep parts of the chats for your future use you will have to copy them and save them in your own notes.

You can also find new cousins by checking the Relatives At RootsTech site on FamilySearch. You and your cousins will have to have a tree on FamilySearch for this to work since it searches the registered attendees against the data in their part of the FamilyTree to see your common ancestors. You can search by name or region and even invite your friends to participate if they are attending RootsTech Connect. As you can see in the image below, I don't have many relatives attending RootsTech this year but the 46 that I currently have is much more than any previous year. The surprising part is that I have no relatives from Germany but have 5 from Brazil. You can see how you are related to each person by clicking on their name or the dot on the map. You can also send them messages through FamilySearch messages when you want to chat.

These communication tools will help us reach out to fellow attendees, presenters, relatives, and friends. Each of us can participate in these chats and make this conference a more interactive experience, build our networks, and make new friendships, so try them out when you get a chance.

Remember, RootsTech Connect is free this year. You can easily register for it by going to the RootsTech website and filling out the registration form. I hope to see you there and feel free to message me and say "Hi".