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7 Ways RootsTech Has Changed Our World

While attending RootsTech 2020, I attended D. Joshua Taylor’s talk entitled “10 Years Later: 20 Ways RootsTech Changed Our World.” It was such a great talk that it triggered my own thoughts. I hope to honor his message by highlighting 7 of his points in this post.

1. RootsTech Has Expanded The Focus of Genealogy to Include International Research

“From its very first year, RootsTech brought together family historians and technologists from numerous countries. These experiences taught us that while there is room to grow, looking at our industry from an international perspective is essential.” -- Josh Taylor

I definitely agree. At RootsTech, we met with vendors from Italy, China, Ukraine, and the European Union. Every year Andy and I have seen an increase in the class offerings for countries that I rarely hear about at other events. Last year, a Japanese topic was part of the livestreams schedule.

RootsTech included sessions on Polynesian and Brazilian genealogy! That’s incredible. The conference also had an increase in Candian courses which I had hoped to attend. Another cool addition involved utilizing the Family History Library for lectures, especially those focused on international research.

RootsTech has expanded in the international course offerings. I just wonder how many attendees took advantage of these sessions.

RootsTech 2020 Reaction to RootsTech's Impact on Genealogy by D Joshua Taylor

2. RootsTech Has Highlighted New Products and Innovation

RootsTech definitely started as an event to bring technology developers and genealogists together.

According to Joshua Taylor, “Contests, product showcases, and other RootsTech events over the past 10 years encouraged new developers to look at the family history industry. RootsTech provided a key launching point for numerous genealogical tools – and will continue to do so into the future.”

While I agree that this conference in the past focused on new products and innovation, it seems om recent years they have struggled to maintain this vision.

  • The innovator summit no longer appears on the conference schedule beyond a 2-hour panel discussion.
  • RootsTech 2020 had no genealogy business development workshops.
  • The Expo Hall lacks the innovator alley of former years, making it hard to notice new businesses launching in Salt Lake City. 

While I’m reserving judgment regarding future RootsTech events, I’m not as optimistic that innovation will remain part of the RootsTech core. I’m not entirely pessimistic either.

Old New USA Wins Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2017
Old New USA Wins Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2017

3. RootsTech is a Gateway Event

D. Joshua Taylor emphasized how RootsTech serves genealogists of all skill levels. He suggested that the keynote speakers and evening events generate buzz attracting new participants to discover family history.

I agree that this conference has reached the pinnacle as a gateway genealogy conference in the United States. Just realize that this conference definitely lacks advanced courses. As Elisse Scalise Powell mentioned in an interview with me last year, genealogy conferences give you a taste of topics and institutes have advanced workshops.

While I admit the keynote speakers generate buzz, I haven’t always enjoyed them. I wish the conference planners would choose speakers connected with more closely history, storytelling, and genetics.

I miss the business development speakers, such as Liz Wiseman. (I have a few recommendations that I still will the planner to consider.)

Andy Lee speaks at RootsTech 2016
Andy Lee spoke at RootsTech 2016

4. Attracts New Genealogy Speakers

D. Joshua Taylor wrote in his syllabus, “RootsTech offered those new to genealogical speaking a platform to share their thoughts and ideas. The conference’s innovative conference submission and selection process, in addition to the massive size of the program itself, enabled new speakers to become a part of the genealogy industry at a rapid rate.”

AMEN! Andy and I can testify that RootsTech takes chances on new genealogy speakers, where other conferences have not. 

Thank-You RootsTech for launching our career! (Something we express in this video.)

5. Expanded the Reach to Those #NotatRootsTech

I do agree with Joshua Taylor when he emphasized how RootsTech has made genealogy education available for those unable to attend RootsTech.

As I mentioned in this video, RootsTech started a livestream schedule in 2013. At that time, my young homeschooled children prevented me from traveling during the school year to such an event.

I have enjoyed not only watching the sessions live, but also viewing them throughout the year in the RootsTech Video Archive.

6. Emphasizing the Need to Capture Stories

I wanted to stand up and applaud Mr. Taylor when he spoke on this topic. I have a feeling he might have thought I had lost my mind.

I praise the conference for its emphasis, since RootsTech partnered with the National Storyteller’s Association in 2013, on capturing and preserving family stories.

My favorite story focused sessions included Alison Taylor and Tammy Hepps from 2015. They inspired me to research for deeper stories and write my story in the process.

Hopefully, I enhance the conference’s writing track with my personal history and family history lectures and workshops.

7. The Importance of Video

Did Joshua really want me to stand on my chair and shout, “YES!”?

I couldn’t copy exactly what he said, but he wrote in his syllabus, “Contests, events, and new speakers reminded the genealogical community of the power of video as a medium to share and document their family history. “

Last year RootsTech held a film fest to emphasize the video storytelling medium. I entered the following video. To see the full playlist, click here.

A Journey to Belonging Through Family History - RootsTech Film Fest

Not only has RootsTech emphasized video, but the conference has also become part of the measuring stick for Family History Fanatics.

In 2017, Andy and I attended RootsTech with only 90 subscribers. There we connected with Scott Fisher and David Allen Lambert from Extreme Genes, who allowed us to interview them. (Watch Scott’s Interview here.)

Each year when we return to the event, we review how much our business and channel have grown. Most of the elements from our success thus far stem from the connections we’ve made at the conference in Salt Lake City.

Such as Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems, who invited us to share a booth at RootsTech 2020!

Happy 10th Anniversary RootsTech

This genealogy has grown, evolved, and adapted in the last 10 years. From 3,000 attendees at the first event to 16,000 in-person in 2020 with many more attending from the livestream.

RootsTech 2020 Rewind - Andy and Devon discuss highlights of RootsTech

If you want to watch D. Joshua Taylor’s speech in its entity, you can purchase a virtual pass. You’ll have access to his talk and 29 other sessions. Check it out here www.rootstech.org/salt-lake/virtual-pass.

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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