Friday, June 16, 2023

A Little Recognition - Thanks Lily

As usual, it has been a few weeks since my last blog post. And, as usual, I have been very busy. I have been out of town parts of 7 weeks since my return from RootsTech. I have been to Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, West Virgina, Ohio, Everglades National Park, and Coral Gables. I also started a course of study at the International Institute of Genealogical Studies and am guest writing on another company's blog (more to come about that at a later time).

So, what is the reason that I am writing today? Well, it is always great to get a little recognition and to tell people about it. I received an email this week from someone who's daughter used some of my resources in a project. She wrote:

"I just wanted to thank you for putting together your genealogy blog! For the month of June, my daughter Lily's Girl Scout troop will be working on their Family Heritage Fun Patch and your genealogy information helped us a bunch!

Lily's troop leader encouraged the parents to work with our girls at home to explore our family's history! She asked the girls to put together a presentation about their heritage that they will be sharing with the rest of the troop. We've been working on creating our family tree (our family is originally from Ireland) ....you shared some great websites and information for us to check out, so Lily and I wanted to make sure we let you know how much you've helped us :)"

I really like to hear from people that find my blog helpful and I appreciated this email. Lilly even suggested that I look at two websites that she found useful. They were:

  1. Researching Your Family's History from Ships Passenger Lists - https://www.hmy.com/researching-your-familys-history-from-ships-passenger-lists
  2. Genealogy for Kids: Building a Family Tree - https://www.aaastateofplay.com/genealogy-for-kids-building-a-family-tree
The first resource is interesting because it was included on the HMY Yacht Sales website. You don't often find genealogy resources on a webpage designed to sell a product. But after reviewing this site, I found some great resources for people just beginning their search of ancestors in ships passenger lists as well as some links to sites that more seasoned researchers may want to check out. They start out with some general tips: "Start your search with your ancestors’ names. However, remember most of these records have been transcribed from handwriting, and mistakes are made. Try alternative spellings. Confirm you have located the right person by with whom they are traveling, their age, or their date of arrival."

The page provides links to sites such as Family History Daily, Genealogy.com, FamilyTree Magazine, JSTOR, AncestralFindings, The Ships List, Immigrant Ships, UK National Archives, and many more.

The second resource that Lily provided has some great tips for kids as well as anyone new to family history. This website is also one that you probably wouldn't think of searching for family history information. The purpose of the AAA State of Play website is to sell playground equipment. The website highlights the benefits of children researching their family history and states "Researching a family's genealogy and making a family tree is a great way for kids and adults to learn more about who they are. It also brings history to life in a new way, making it possible to see how historical events impacted one family: the researcher's own. Genealogy is also a great way to sharpen research skills."

This site provides links to sites such as NGS, Parents.com, FindMyPast, Family History Daily, Library of Congress, Ancestral Findings, Ancestry.com, PEW Research, New York Public Library, and many more. 

These sites remind me to look in places that I would not normally think of when researching, so I would like to thank Lily for bringing them to my attention. I also want to wish Lilly good luck in her presentation of her family history to her Troop and hope that this is just the beginning of her research into her family history.

Friday, March 10, 2023

RootsTech 2023 - Recap

I can't believe that it has been 6 days since RootsTech ended. There was so much going on at RootsTech last week that I didn't have time to write every day. And now that I am back home there is still a lot going on.

But RootsTech isn't really over. We still have access to hundreds of recorded talks, keynote sessions, and other information to view through the end of the year. One of the things that I have always been impressed by at RootsTech is their ability to bring in first class talent to entertain and inspire us. This year there were four celebrities who spoke and performed during RootsTech. As part of the RootsTech Influencers Team, I was able to have front row seats and be part of the media interviews for some of them. It was great being able to ask them questions about their lives and how family history has inspired them. You can see their sessions and my video of their interviews at the links below:

Relatives at RootsTech is still available until March 31. You can visit the page to see how many relatives are registered for RootsTech. I am up to 246 relatives now. My wife has slightly more at 35,445.

You can search the On-Demand Library for virtual presentations. The On-Demand Library has a couple topics such as DNA, FamilySearch, Getting Started, and Research Methods highlighted but there are many more classes available.

Some of the exhibitors still have deals going on. Here are a few that I know are still active.

There may be others but I haven't had time to explore all of the online Expo Hall yet.

Take some time to expolre the RootsTech365 website to discover all there is to learn over the next year.

Friday, March 3, 2023

RootsTech 2023 - Day 1

Day 1 of RootsTech is over and there was so much going on. I had several classes on my schedule but didn't even get to any of them. So, what did I do instead of classes?

At 9:00, I did an interview with Jen Allen, Brandon Beckstead, and Jonathan Wing, the FamilySearch employees who are responsible for making RootsTech happen. We talked about the process of setting up RootsTech, how much sleep they have lost over the last couple months, and when RootsTech 2024 will occur - (Spoiler Alert: It will start on February 29th, 2024!)

After that, I walked over to the Storied booth where I spoke with Brandon Camp, the CMO of Storied. Storied is a new company which officially launched on January 18, 2023. They use ChatGPT (AI) for their Story Assist to help you develop the story of your ancestors. Story Assist gives you several prompts and then provides the start of a story for you to edit and add to as you wish. This is meant to remove writers block and help people get started in telling the story of their relatives. The site has a set of basic research records which is growing. They currently have access to Newspaperarchive.com, many of the US Census records, a variety of vital records, some international records, and has integration with Goldie May

Storied has a three tier membership. Their basic Free account allows you to create your family tree or upload a GEDCOM file and you can create unlimited stories. Their Storied Plus account is $4.99/month and allows you to create a group, have access to the US historical records collection, and invite up to 50 people to collaborate. The group members get free access to what you have created and can add unlimited memories to the people. The Storied Ultimate account is $11.99/month and provides access to everything in the Plus account as well as UK newspapers and Newspaper Archive and you can add up to 10 groups with up to 100 people in each group to help you collaborate and create stories. But right now, they have a RootsTech special where you can get the Ultimate subscription for only $99 for the year using this link. That is $40 off the regular price. The link is good through Saturday.

Then, I went to the Main Stage to watch Jordin Sparks. I had front row seating in the Media Section. Jordin did a little interview and then performed four of her songs during the 45 minutes she was on stage. Afterward, a few of us were able to go to the Meet & Great to get pictures.

After lunch, I attended the Innovation Showcase where several new companies promoted their products. Vlada Bortnik of Marco Polo discussed their video chat platform. The Marco Polo platform allows you to record a video chat and send it to others. They can then view the chat at their leisure and return a chat to you. The object is to make the interactions more personal and build connections. See the bottom of this blog post for a QR code for 2 free months of Marco Polo Plus.

Andy Gold of FamilySearch presented their new developments in Computer Generated Trees (CGT). CGTs build the scaffolding to store data in tree form. It scans millions of records in a matter of hours, looking for connections that can add to the family tree. This process is currently being developed for locations in Australia, Brazil, Philippines, Mexico, and Italy. You can begin exploring the CGTs by visiting FamilySearch at https://www.familysearch.org/search/cgt.

Bank of Memories was the next to present. They are a blockchain storage where you can store your digital information. I'm not up on the blockchain process so I won't even try to explain how this works.

KinSame has a really cool technology which can analyze photographs for genetic information and relationships. I don't understand the algorithm they use but they claim to be able to detect thousands of genetic traits, verify degrees of kinship between individuals, and develop family trees just by analyzing photographs. They are marketing their product to the big genealogy companies and hope that they will be able to license the product for commercial use in the near future.

GENXT is another company that is developing a product that they hope the industry will adopt. Their product allows for cross-platform genetic matching. There are currently over 250 companies which do genetic analysis and more than 70 of them specialize in genealogy. However, there is no way for an individual to see what is in all of these databases. GENXT would allow the data to be shared across platforms so you can see if you have cousins at company X without having to test at that company. Many of us today use the major companies, Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilyTree DNA, 23 and Me, etc. and have either had to upload our data or take tests at various companies. If the GENXT technology is adopted, the data from all of these companies would be available to us with only one test.

Ericcson demonstrated their EPHAS augmented reality technology. EPHAS stands for Every Place Has A Story. This technology has a variety of uses, but for genealogy it would allow you to experience the story of a place in a virtual environronment. Ericcson provided a RootsTech Trial QR code which I have provided at the bottom of this post.

Then MacFamilyTree presented their latest release. This software is for personal use and has spectacular graphics. It almost makes me want to have a Mac so I could use their 3-D tree and other components. MacFamilyTree has integration with FamilySearch and uses AI to colorize and enhance photos and enhance blurry documents. You can see their video on their website and get a good idea of what they have developed.

MyHeritage cM Explainer
And lastly, MyHeritage talked about their AI Time Machine, which I wrote about last November. MyHeritage has also just released their cM Explainer. This is a free new feature that accurately estimates familial relationships between DNA Matches. For every DNA Match, cM Explainer offers detailed predictions of possible relationships between the two people and the respective probabilities of each relationship. It also determines the most recent common ancestor, and displays a diagram showing their relationship path.

There was a lot more going on, this was just my day before 2:30. Maybe I'll write about the rest later. But now, it is time for me to head out again for RootsTech Day 2.

Ericcson EPHAS trial




Thursday, March 2, 2023

RootsTech 2023 - Pre-event

Uniting Photo Booth on second floor
Good morning. It is 4:00 am in Salt Lake and my first day of "RootsTech 2023" is over. But you may be saying that RootsTech doesn't start until later today, and you are right. But many of us have been busy behind the scenes getting ready for the big day.

So what does the day before RootsTech look like? For me, I did a quick walk through of the Salt Palace to get the lay of the land and remember where all the classes are. Many of the fun activities had already been set up on Tuesday and the staff were preparing the Help Desk and Registration areas. There are a couple photo op areas, including a VW mini bus, where you can take fun photos with your friends. 

Help Desks are located throughout the event
Then it was off to the FamilySearch Library to get a few hours of research in. The library is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm during RootsTech. My wife had sent me with instructions to find her Walker brick wall. I was busy searching through records for Edgefield County, South Carolina; Bullock and Dale counties in Alabama; and Robertson County, Texas. 

After a few hours of no luck researching, it was time for the GeneaBloggers lunch at Blue Lemon. This is our annual opportunity to get together and see how everyone is doing. I believe the furthest that one of our GeneaBloggers travelled was from Australia.

The Family History Guide Booth
Then is was back to the Salt Palace to register and return to the Expo Hall to help set up the booth for The Family History Guide. I will be working the booth on and off during the week. We will have classes every 30 minutes and there are many videos available for those attending virtually. Come by and visit us if you are here or find us in the Virtual Expo Hall.

Once that was done, I returned to the FamilySearch Library to continue my research for a more couple hours. RootsTech is providing golf cart shuttles between the Library and the Salt Palace, making it easier for more people to get between the locations. This year there will be events and classes at the Library in addition to those in the Salt Palace. Make sure you check the schedule for those classes.

Steve Rockwood, CEO FamilySearch
Then it was back to the Salt Palace for the Media Dinner. The RootsTech Influencers and media representatives got together to hear more about what to expect for the next couple days at RootsTech. My table included a media representative from Brazil, three bloggers from Australia, including Fran Kitto and Shauna Hicks, and James Tanner. During the dinner we were introduced to the theme for RootsTech. In previous years the theme had been Choose Connections. RootsTech wanted to go one step further this year and selected the theme of Uniting. We all have connections but the object is to unite them all working together to push the positive. 

RootsTech 2021 and 2022 were virtual events with over 3 million attendees from more than 220 countries participating. That was a huge success and they wanted to build on that with the hybrid conference this year. We now have the ability to host thousands of attendees with 205 classes in person as well as millions of virtual attendees with 304 classes. The last 100 years of family history have focused on the US and Europe but now that focus is expanding to more records in Latin America, Africa and Asia. This year RootsTech wil be broadcast in the time zones for countries across the world and be hosted by 15 international virtual emcees. The General Sessions will be broadcast in 9 localized sessions with translations in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Korean and Japanese.

After the Media Dinner we were able to tour the Expo Hall. Even at 9:00 pm there was still quite a bit of activity there as exhibitors were putting the finishing touches on their exhibits. Some of them, such as FamilySearch and Storied, will be spectacular. Storied has created a city block with buildings, a street, and even a car.  

Let's Do Good Together Team
As I get ready for the official start of RootsTech in just a few hours, I wanted to share with you how family history can be an uplifting experience for you and your community. A few years ago when RootsTech was still only an in person event, a few of us got together and started talking about projects that we could do in our communities. That small group grew and now forms two organizations. The Family History: Let's Do Good Together Group on Facebook is one way we provide inspiration to others. You can find information about some of the projects our members have done such as Connected Tempe, The 21 Day Family Connections Experiment, and the Texas Connect Project

The second group is called The Bridge. The Bridge is now led by Dr. Joe Price of the BYU Record Linking Lab. The Goal of the Bridge Forum is to use family history to create a kinder and more connected world. We provide a monthly forum to share projects that grow the Family Tree at familysearch.org and help people see their connections with each other and their communities. You can view our February 2023 meeting on YouTube.

How can you use the lessons from choose connections to help unite your community?

Join us at RootsTech in person or virtually to see what Family History has to offer. You will be hooked.

Friday, February 24, 2023

RootsTech2023 - Focus on The Family History Guide, Bronze Sponsor

Disclaimer: I am the Education Director for The Family History Guide. This is a volunteer position for a non-profit organization. I receive no compensation for my posts.

The Family History Guide is a Bronze Sponsor for RootsTech2023 along with others such as BillionGraves, BYU Pathway, FileShadow, Forever, GEDMatch, GenealogyBank, Generations, GENXT, Rootsmagic, and Vivid-Pix. You can read more about these Bronze Sponsors on the RootsTech blog.

The mission of The Family History Guide is to greatly increase the number of people actively involved in family history worldwide, making their journey easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. 

The Family History Guide has had a spot in the RootsTech Expo Hall since 2016. I have worked that booth both in-person and virtually over the years that I have attended RootsTech. This year, the booth is located adjacent to the FamilySearch booth so it will be easy to find. For those who will be attending in person, you will be able to ask questions about The Family History Guide and our website, and discuss ways you can use The Family History Guide in your group and as a training tool.

The Family History Guide will be broadcasting live for an hour each day beginning at noon Mountain Time. Virtual viewers will be able to stop in and see what is going on. On Wednesday, you will be able to watch us setting up the booth. On Thursday and Friday, you will be able to watch the booth activities. On Saturday they will be broadcasting our cornhole activity. Tune in to see what is going on each day.

For those attending virtually, you will be able to watch the following presentations from The Family History Guide's staff:

If you are attending in person, you will be able to see several presentations from staff of The Family History Guide.

On Thursday, March 2nd they will have the following class:
On Saturday, March 4th they will have the following classes:
In addition to all of these presentations, there will be live and recorded classes at the booth in the Expo Hall each day. Stop by their booth to see what is scheduled for the day.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

RootsTech2023 - Focus on MyHeritage, Platinum Sponsor

Disclosure: I have been a member of the MyHeritage Friends group since 2018. As such, I get advanced notice of upcoming information and early access to MyHeritage releases. I do not receive compensation from MyHeritage for any of my posts or feedback.

Click on the logo for a special deal
for new subscribers to MyHeritage
Available February 24-28, 2023
MyHeritage is one of the Platinum Sponsors for RootsTech2023 along with Ancestry and Storied. As such, you will see MyHeritage representatives around the Expo Hall and in 15 lectures during the conference. But before the conference even starts, Daniel Horowitz, an Expert Genealogist with MyHeritage, will be doing several presentations on his way from Isreal to Salt Lake. 

On February 24th, he will be giving two presentations at the Oakland Temple Visitor's Center at 4766 Lincoln Ave, Oakland, California. At 10:30am he will be presenting Genetic Genealogy and the MyHeritage DNA Test. At 12:00 he will be presenting Advanced DNA Tools to Analyze MyHeritage DNA Matches.

On February 25th, he will be speaking to the Clark County Nevada Genealogical Society and the Jewish Genealogy Society of Southern Nevada at Pasco Verde Library, 280 S Green Valley Parkway in Henderson, Nevada. That presentation will be at 10:30am and is Exploring Billions of Historical Records on MyHeritage's Search Engine

On February 26th, he will present two talks at the Las Vegas FamilySearch Center at 509 S 9th Street in Las Vegas, Nevada. Those presentations will be Research Jewish & Isreal Genealogical Resources on the Internet at 1:30 and MyHeritage Latest Features Overview at 3:30.

On February 27th, the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society has invited Daniel to speak at the FamilySearch Library, main Floor Classroom B, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He will be presenting Why is my grandmother's record private? at 6:00pm.

That's six presentations in four days prior to even arriving at RootsTech. I know the last conference I spoke at resulted in me losing my voice for about a week after presenting three talks in three hours. I hope Daniel will still be able to speak after all that.

Then, once their team gets to RootsTech they will be very busy. 

On Thursday, March 2nd they have the following presentations scheduled:

On Friday, March 3rd, they have the following classes:

Additionally, MyHeritage will have classes in their booth every 30 minutes each day. That is over 40 classes at their booth. The current schedule is listed below.

Speaking Schedule for MyHeritage at RootsTech 2023

As you can see, there are many interesting classes being presented by MyHeritage. Their presentations alone would make for a great conference. I hope to see some of you in these classes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

RootsTech 2023 - Coming Soon!

Can you believe it? We will be able to attend RootsTech in person again next week! I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone face-to-face again and be able to sit down and chat with you all between classes. I realize that some of you will be attending RootsTech virtually. According to recent registration numbers there are over 6,000 paid attendees and over 300,000 virtual attendees. And there are expected to be another 20,000 free attendees in the Expo Hall and other events, many of them will be there on Saturday for the Family Discovery Day.

There is still time to register for RootsTech if you haven't done so already. All you have to do is visit the RootsTech website and select In Person or Virtual. However, the early bird price for in person registration will be expiring soon so you better hurry.

So what can you expect this year? As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Jordin Sparks will be on the Main Stage on Thursday at 11:00. They have also announced the Friday and Saturday Main Stage speakers. On Friday, Me Ra Koh will be speaking. Me Ra Koh is a photographer and author of several books that inspire the soul spiritually and creatively. On Saturday, it will be Sean Astin. You may know Sean from his roles in movies such as Goonies and Lord of the Rings where he played Samwise Gamgee. The MC for the Main Stage events will be Kirby Heyborne. You may know him from several movies (The Singles Ward and The Best Two Years) and as host of the BYU show Making Good. I would recommend that you show up early for the Keynote Speakers since there is usually a line outside the doors waiting for them to open and the best seating is towards the front. For those of you watching virtually, the Keynote Speakers will be livestreamed so find a good chair, grab your snacks, and prepare to be entertained.

As far as classes, there are a large number from which to choose. For those attending in person, you will have over 250 classes with 16 classes each session. For those watching virtually, there are more than 300 classes with over 200 pre-recorded on demand videos, 67 webinars, and 37 live streamed classes. The virtual classes can be found on the RootsTech Calendar page where you can build your Playlist. In person classes can be found on the RootsTech Schedule page where you can create your Show Planner. You will still have access to the virtual content for the next year through RootsTech365 once RootsTech 2023 is over.

Between classes you can visit the Expo Hall. There is a virtual Expo Hall for those of you watching from home. There will be over 155 exhibitors in the physical Expo Hall. Some of those exhibitors will also have a presence in the Virtual Expo Hall along with other companies that will only be present virtually. Be sure to visit them, see their videos and classes, and ask questions. They really want to interact with people during the conference.

Have you started to use the Relatives at RootsTech app? The app looks at your family tree on FamilySearch and locates your relatives who will be attending RootsTech. I currently have 48 relatives at RootsTech. This is a good number for me, but I am sure that yours will be higher. My wife has over 9,200. You can view your relatives, see how you are related, and message them to set up a meeting while you are at RootsTech.

I hope that you find some useful bits of information in this post and I look forward to seeing you at RootsTech.