RootsTech 2017 Reflections

RootsTech is a very special conference and the 2017 version was no exception. Having said that, I’d like to share a bit of my personal views about it.

PROS:

  1. RootsTech is, without a doubt, a top-notch genealogical conference and is the only conference that combines with a strong technology end, providing attendees with a unique experience.
  2. Speakers and Expo Hall presenters are excellent. I didn’t attend a single session that I would say was less than “very good.” Whether you are looking for methodology tips or wanting to be the first on the block to try out new software or apps, you’d be pleased with what you encountered at RootsTech 2017. I enjoy educational research talks as much as info-mercials and both have a definite place at RootsTech.
  3. RootsTech is fun, any way you look at it. Where else are you going to find strangers with whom you can say “genealogy” and the eyes of every single one of them light up and conversations start? Where else are you going to meet up with so many virtual friends at the same time and renew those friendships?
  4. At which other genealogy conference can you walk out the convention doors and walk into the Family History Library? Enough said!

A big thank you has to be given to all the RootsTech sponsors. This conference has to be very expensive to put on and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of each and every sponsor.

CONS:

My con list really has only one item, in two parts, on it, but it is a biggy because if it doesn’t change next year, I probably won’t be attending RootsTech 2018.

  1. The conference has become more and more targeted to beginners. Enticing beginners is a good thing, but let’s take a look at the schedule. Every single time slot offered between 13-18 session choices. Yes, some of the sessions described as being for beginner audiences would also appeal to more experienced researchers. I also appreciate the “Seasoned Genealogist” track that went live on the RootsTech app the Friday before the conference started. Thank you to David Rencher for making that happen. Finding those sessions was a lot easier with that addition.
  2. However, what is missing from RootsTech is an intermediate-advanced track that would also entice those of us who have been researching for a long time. I am not expecting an intense SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy) experience. What I would love to see is a track of sessions, with mixed topics, at which beginners would come out overwhelmed saying, “Boy, that was interesting, but it was way over my head.” I’d be first in line for those talks!

I don’t think this is a pie-in-the-sky dream on my part because RootsTech already has an expert speaker line up each year.

Who would be on my “definitely attend” list? Some of the speakers who regularly attend RootsTech would be superb in the more advanced track. In ABC order: Thomas Jones, David Lambert, Thomas MacEntee, Judy G. Russell and Richard and Pam Sayre. I am sure there are others who I haven’t ever heard speak. The ones who are listed here are speakers with whom I’m familiar.

In terms of topics, I’d like to see sessions covering Scandinavia – Ruth Maness, retired specialist from the Family History Library would do a great job, Ireland, Eastern Europe, African-American roots, using DNA and genetics, difficult case studies, accessing less common resources, Jewish genealogical research, court records, and the list could go on and on.

Because this isn’t SLIG, there shouldn’t be any expectation of a multi-session course on one topic, but rather a compendium of topics. As an experienced researcher, I learned long ago that, while I might not have any ancestors from a particular country or area or any apparent need for a methodology, knowing about those resources and techniques gives me food for thought and knowledge to allow me to think outside the box trying to solve problems with my own elusive ancestors and brick walls.

If you have ideas for other speakers and topics, PLEASE leave a comment with your suggestions. I will share the link to this post with David Rencher, the Chief Genealogical Officer of FamilySearch. The more input he receives, the more likely it is that my RootsTech CON will disappear and be part of the distant past.

Thanks!

 

5 thoughts on “RootsTech 2017 Reflections”

  1. This was my 2nd RootsTech conference. I attended my first conference in 2013.

    When I first saw the schedule, I too was disappointed that there weren’t more intermediate and advanced track offerings. I am an amateur genealogist, and I use a conference such as this to stretch beyond the topics I would typically read. Of the sessions I attended (I spent a lot of time at the library), the quality was very good.

    Also, I would like more of the “tech” of Rootstech. I ended up attending the Genealogy Technology Workshop at BYU on the Tuesday prior to get my tech fix. The Innovation series is interesting, although it seemed very tailored to helping small businesses. But I support anything that will help drive more technological progress in genealogy.

    At other conferences, there are Birds-of-a-Feather Sessions (BoFs) sessions, focusing on peer-to-peer communication. I would LOVE for there to be 1 or 2 dozen rooms/times set aside for these on very specific topics. At some conferences these are completely ad-hoc, There will be a whiteboard and people will put their name (first-come, first-serve) next to a room assignment regarding a specific topic. With text notifications, this can be very dynamic.

  2. RootsTech 2018 Contest Entry

    This was a helpful read. I am past the “beginner” stage and feel I am at an “intermediate” level. While I enjoy my local genealogical society events and speakers, I often feel like that I get a lot of beginner information at them, because that is typically our audience. I hope that if I ever get to attend a national conference, it will allow me to enhance my skill set and explore new areas in which I may have no experience.

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