Category Archives: RootsTech

Day 1 – Opening of FGS Conference 2015, Salt Lake City

Festivities for FGS RootsTech 2015 actually began on Monday morning when Pat Richley-Erickson did her Monday morning Hangout on Air live from the third floor of the Family History Library in the glass room.

Hundreds of FGS-RootsTech 2015 attendees had arrived in Salt Lake City by Sunday and while the line to get in the library each morning wasn’t terribly long, the library got more andmore crowded as the day went on. I haven’t seen this many people in there since the old days before the internet. By Tuesday afternoon, the library was packed.

Conference registration opened at 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon. It was busy, but the line moved quickly. Those waiting were told that when the kids arrive for their sessions on Saturday, total attendees that day are expected to be 22,000!

The FGS conference opened with a reminder to connect, refresh and explore, making new friends and meeting up with old, refresh visions and directions our our own genealogical societies and to explore new avenues of growth.

This is a mini-review of the opening FGS session today. I am somewhat handicapped in how much I can write because I am only using my IPad, but this should give you a sense of how the conference began.

FGS 2015 opened today with the FGS celebration of genealogical societies and the work that they accomplish through the efforts of many volunteers. The opening session hosted by Joshua Taylor, President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Multiple societies and individuals were honored for varied projects and volunteer services that have come to fruition through their efforts. Instead of one opening speaker, FGS invited three to present opening remarks. Deena Coutant paved the way, almost literally, by suggesting that TLC needed to develop sustained growth of our genealogy societies was not all that different to TLC that is necessary for cultivating a physical garden. She was followed by Jen Baldwin, who challenged us to embrace and plan for social media usage in our societies. Curt Witcher concluded the remarks, proposing that, as the only constant in life is change, that we become successful change agents. I enjoyed each of the speakers and each made excellent points in their messages. I have to admit that I’m not often a fan of large group speeches and remarks because speakers often talk too long (and maybe even go off topic!), but I loved that each speaker made excellent points about strengthening and expanding the reaches of genealogical societies. stayed within their allotted time, and kept to their own unique and absorbing styles of presentation. I wish more conferences would follow the FGS lead and have several speakers with a common theme presenting in shorter time blocks.

After a 15 minute break in sessions, it was off to the first regular session. My choice was Tech Soup by Thomas MacEntee, who hosts several websites, including, Hack Genealogy and Geneabloggers. I had never heard of TechSoup, and to be honest, when I first saw the title, I thought it would be miscellaneous and lesser known tips to use new technological sources in genealogy, hence “Tech Soup.” The talk was actually something totally different – is a consortium of vendors that provide discounted technology software and supplies to 501c3 non-profit organizations. It is a tremendous dollar saving resource for non-profits so if you are a member of a local organization that qualifies to participate, let them know about I learned a lot!

A second 15 minute break gave me time to find my seat in the same room, so I actually walked around a little bit to stretch. I didn’t dawdle for long, though, as Lisa Louise Cooke of was talking on Evernote. I have heard her speak a couple of times before, both on Evernote and Google Earth for genealogy. She is a popular speaker and I got back to my seat just in time because the room filled up to capacity. Evernote is a free, cloud-based organizational system that many genealogists are now using to take research notes, clip articles and photos from the web and to share with other family members or collaborative researching buddies. Check out if you haven’t ever used it.

I went out for lunch, as I rarely pay for the hosted luncheons at conferences. The sun was out, it was a bit brisk with temperatures in the 50’s or low 60’s, but there was also lots of blue sky – a beautiful day.

Returning to the convention center, my first afternoon choice was The Ethical Genealogist presented by Judy G. Russell, who writes The Legal Genealogist blog. Judy made the point that while genealogists have always been faced with ethical issues, the 21st century has brought about completing new issues brought about by technology. The main points were that the rules of ethics demands honesty, courtesy and confidentiality and that, as individuals and society members, everyone needs to be faithful to the truth because once it has been shared (online), it can’t be taken back. I had never heard Judy speak before – she is a top notch presenter.

The last afternoon session on my list was Tips for a Robust Society Website. I hadn’t ever heard Cyndi Ingle ( speak either. She is a bundle of energy who talks really fast, but that was a good thing because she had fantastic tips and recommendations for how societies can keep old members and draw in new members through the use of a well planned, well maintained website and public presence in social media.

There was a fifth session scheduled for late afternoon, but my brain was saturated so I headed to the Family History Library for some more help with my Swedish research.

More to come tomorrow including photos!

FGS Conference-RootsTech 2015 Is Almost Here!

We are already half way through January 2015. Days are flying by and the FGS-RootsTech 2015 schedule of sessions is being finalized. I had made a list of sessions of interest a couple of months ago, but since conference time is drawing near, it is time to review and update my list found in the FGS 2015 Registration Booklet.

One thing to remember about conferences is that while most sessions are presented as published, changes do happen before the conference and even during the conference. A few sessions are even completely cancelled. I have already discovered that two prospective sessions I had noted are not being offered at the time and day first published.

Each conference session in the booklet has a short description about the presentation/speaker and notes whether the session is appropriate for Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced researchers. What I have found when attending previous sessions is that an attendee should not skip a session based on the B, I, or A level assigned. The only exception I would probably make to this philosophy is perhaps a session that might offer highly technical information, such as a detailed DNA analysis in genealogical research.

My session choices will undoubtedly be updated when I am actually in Salt Lake because of conference updates and a few impulsive changes made when there is a conflict between sessions which interest me.

Here are the FGS Conference Sessions currently on my interest list:


9:30-10:30 – Tech Soup – Technology by the Bowlful for Your Genealogy Society by Thomas MacEntee

10:45-11:45 – How the Genealogist Can Remember Everything with Evernote by Lisa Louise Cooke

1:30-2:30 – The Ethical Genealogist by Judy G. Russell

2:45 – 3:45 – 7 Surefire Ways to Involve Broy Jetson (and Others) in Your Genealogical Society by J. Mark Lowe

4:00-5:00 – Tradition and Technology: Finding Your Society’s Balance by D. Joshua Taylor


11:00-12:00 – Getting the Most Out of Genealogical Evidence by Thomas Jones

1:30-2:30 – Bridging the Gap: Tracing U.S. Ancestors Between 1780-1840 by D. Joshua Taylor

3:00-4:00 – Problem Solving with Probate by Thomas Jones

4:30-5:30 – Go West, Young Man: Online Resources for the Western United States by Cyndi Ingle


10:30-11:30 – Cluster Genealogy: Finding Your Lost Ancestors by Deborah Abbott

1:00-2:00 – Doing the History Eliminates the Mystery by Curt Witcher

2:30-3:30 – Fraternal Organizations: Records and Resources by Kris Rzepczynski

4:00-5:00 – Using Tax Records for Genealogical Problem Solving by Michael Lacopo

The biggest challenge for me is part of the fun of two conferences in one – this list only has the FGS sessions of interest. A second list of RootsTech sessions will also be created and, at the conference, I will have to make decisions about which conflicting sessions to attend.

Further conflicts will happen because time is needed for the Exhibit Hall, Family History Library and eating. Hmmm – eating will be relegated to the bottom of the list!

 Two last words of advice to everyone:

First, if you think you may try to attend parts of two sessions during the same time block, be considerate of the presenter and sit in the back of the room. That way, when it is time to leave one session, you can easily slip out the door without creating a distraction for either the speaker or the other attendees.

Second, choose sessions that meet your own research interests and needs and have fun!

FGS 2015 – February 11-14 in Salt Lake City

I am looking forward to attending the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference February 11-14 in Salt Lake City. It so happens that several of my recent blog posts focused on often overlooked resources and one of them was the treasure trove to be found through genealogical societies. Through the years, these societies have nurtured those newly interested in family history and enabled them to grow into seasoned researchers. Societies have also amassed huge amounts of localized genealogical information through the volunteer efforts of their members. Today, they continue to  promote education and camaraderie among family researchers and to help communities preserve their histories.

The memberships I held in genealogy societies during my first years of research were invaluable. I learned so much and always left meetings chomping at the bit, wanting  to follow up on new ideas. Fast forward 35 years – They have continued to teach and motivate me as my areas of interest grew and expanded.  This conference is an opportunity to connect with new genealogy friends affiliated with societies from around the country and even worldwide. There is literally a society out there for just about any genealogical focus you might have.

There is a brand new aspect to the 2015 FGS conference, which I think is fabulous. FGS is partnering with RootsTech to share space, speakers and activities at the Salt Palace Convention Center. However, each organization will also host independent sessions and activities.  For only $39, I upgraded my registration to full access to sessions with both organizations.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to explore double the number of sessions  without having to attend two separate events in two different locations at twice the price. What a cost savings and great value for keeping my genealogical skills current with the times.

Last, but certainly not least, every genealogist who visits Salt Lake City always wishes for time in the FamilySearch Library. After taking in all the new information gleaned in the conference sessions, I plan to refresh my family research focus with a visit to the library, which is just a short walk from the Salt Palace. (My “please, let me find them” list is already growing.)

 I can’t wait for February to get here! If you can attend just one genealogical event this year, this conference is a great choice.