Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

RootsTech's Invitation to the Youth

Many of the press releases and advertisements for the upcoming RootsTech Conference 2013 make an obvious plea for participation by "younger" genealogists. But who is looking at or listening to those ads? I am getting and reading the announcements and invitations but I definitely do not fall into the youthful category so where is the messages going?

I recently taught two rather well attended classes of missionaries at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. In total, there were probably close to 50 missionaries represented in the classes. Only a minority of these missionaries had even heard of RootsTech and when I told about the Conference coming up this next week, I would guess that only that a very small number of them were even aware of the conference. In fact, when I discussed the upcoming conference, the first question I got was, "What is RootsTech?" Now, if the missionaries at a major FamilySearch Library have not yet heard of RootsTech, then how do we expect that the message inviting younger participants is getting through to the intended audience?

I am aware of coverage by the local Salt Lake City newspaper, the Deseret News, of the upcoming Conference, but how many of the "youth" will pick up a advertisement on the Deseret News website? How many of those reading this post are bringing their younger family members to the Conference? As I go to the various sessions of the Conference, I will comment on whether or not I am seeing a younger group of attendees. Quite frankly, I will be surprised to see any significant number of youth. Because of the increased number of vendors and the large number of FamilySearch employees, I expect that I will see a lot of people much younger than I am, but not down into the early 20s and Teens.  I hope I am pleasantly surprised.

I would guess that even among the bloggers and other online genealogists, for the most part, RootsTech just appears to be another in the endless series of conference announcements. So why would be expect that suddenly a much younger audience would get interested?

As a side note, another upcoming major conference is the National Genealogical Society Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 8 though 11, 2013. There is not much in their promotional materials about an outreach to the youth, but they do have a "Youth Camp." Here is the description of the event:
Youth Camp offers a great opportunity to involve children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews in family history. Youth Camp will feature a variety of age-appropriate activities for kids ages eight to sixteen and includes a session that focuses on scouting’s genealogy badges. The event is free, but registration is required. Space is limited, so register early!
Doesn't that sound interesting and inviting! How many of your children and grandchildren are going to beg to come to "age-appropriate activities."

The activities aimed at the "youth" are decidedly slightly more elaborate at RootsTech but the emphasis is to the youth leaders not to the youth. How about some popular youth speakers that also do genealogy? Are there any out there? How about a youth track at RootsTech?

The point is simple. If you want to involve the youth, you have to talk to them first at their level about genealogy. There needs to be a dialogue and some method of communication directed at them specifically. My most recent experience is that at least for these major conferences, we are not getting the word out to the genealogists, much less the youth who may be interested.

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