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

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A Brief History of RootsTech from a very personal perspective

RootsTech 2024 is coming up fast and registration is already open and I have been thinking about all the conferences of the past. started in 2011 so 2024 will be the the 14th conference. I was invited as a blogger to attend the first RootsTech conference in 2011 and I have attended every RootsTech conference since then, either in person or online, and I am scheduled to present three live classes in 2024, I am also a Media representative for the 2024 conference, along with working with The Family History Guide and anyone else who organizes a meeting or a class at the conference. 

All the details I remember of the past conferences are in my journal which I began writing in 1964 and have been writing consistently since 1973, now 50 years. Here are some memories as preserved in my journal. 


My first contact with RootsTech, as recorded in my journal, started in October, 2010 with a call from FamilySearch to come from my home in Mesa, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah to meet for a day. I really had no idea about why I had been called except for the fact that I wrote about FamilySearch frequently in my blog. By that time, I was also getting emails from FamilySearch about new developments, I did learn that there were "six or eight" bloggers invited to the meeting. Back then, I was actively teaching all over Arizona at genealogy seminars, classes, and other meetings. 

The meeting was held on October 22, 2010 and involved 12 bloggers and a lot of people from FamilySearch. The object of the conference turned out to be a transition from to what is now Family Tree. This was the first time I had met any of the other bloggers. By this time, I was actively working on about five different projects for FamilySearch, including the FamilySearch Research Wiki. 

Well, blogging also ended up with an invitation to attend the RootsTech 2011 Conference as an official blogger. The conference, as it is scheduled in 2024, was held in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. We had dinners, meetings, and some tours of the microfilm shipping facility (now discontinued). My journal entries for February 11, 2011 show a lot of contact with people from FamilySearch. I was most impressed with a class by Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive and had a personal interview with him. Being a blogger, gave me access to a lot of interviews and conversations with genealogy people. Later, I found out that there had been about 3000 people at the conference. 


The big news at RootTech 2012 was the 1940 U.S. Federal Census introduction. I attended the keynote sessions and wrote about them for my blog, sometimes in real time. My journal comments included, "FamilySearch set up five different interviews for me and a I talked to several more people including two men from Google who were attending the conference about their program for genealogy. I ended up talking to at least a hundred or so people over the three days." That was heyday of blogs. I taught one class. For me, being at RootsTech began to be mostly talking to people from around the world. 


As it turned out, planning for RootsTech 2013 started in 2012. By the time the conference came around, I was busy with panel presentations and classes. When I got to Utah, I spend time making appointments with people to talk to them at RootsTech. Since blogs were a big deal, a lot of people wanted to have a chance to talk to me. I had an amazing experience. Here is what I wrote in my journal with some editing for Tuesday, March 22, 2013.

During the day, we got a call from Mark Olson of and Gilad Japeth, the CEO was on his way to RootsTech when his father died. In a very surprising development, they asked me to do the Saturday Keynote Address for That was a very interesting development. They decided not to announce it until Friday. But we had to make all the arrangements and that took quite a few phone calls. It was sort of like being in the chorus backstage and having the lead get sick and suddenly becoming the star of the show. 

I spent a lot of time with the MyHeritage employees learning what I needed to know to give the keynote presentation on Saturday, the last day of the conference. Interesting, that the "official" history of RootsTech shows Gilad Japeth as the presenter. Here is my record of the presentation. 

Saturday was the big day. We got to the huge presentation area early to be ready for the Keynote. I got my microphone, and we stood around while the first speaker, David Pogue did his comedy presentation. We then went out on the stage and in a few minutes, it was all over. I had thought through what I was going to say, and it worked out pretty well. All during the day, people came up and complimented me on the presentation. MyHeritage was swamped with people signing up for their service. They were pretty happy how things went. 


As you get older, the years seem to flash by and it was time to prepare for RootsTech 2014. By this time, RootsTech was more of an opportunity to talk to people and find out what was going on with genealogy globally. RootsTech was evolving into a global presentation. I was still a blogger and got to meet with the heads of various genealogy companies such as,, and Most of my time was spent in meeting with various software and website developers and talking to people in the Exhibit Hall. I didn't usually have time to eat. The conference was growing and the numbers of people were huge in comparison to the first conferences. I was still a blogger for FamilySearch and at some point, the name changed to Ambassador. This is the year we moved from Mesa to Provo, Utah. 


This year, I added attending the BYU Family History Technology Conference to my RootsTech week. Some of my time at RootsTech was spent in the Media Hub for all the bloggers who were now invited to participate in the conference. As was usual now for RootsTech, I spent all my time talking to people and did not attend any classes. This year the conference included keynote addresses from former first lady, Laura Bush, her daughter Jenna Bush Hager, Donny Osmond, and Tan Le, a very remarkable businessperson who was a boat refugee from Vietnam. They all told extraordinary stories.

I was continually surprised that people read my blog and recognized who I was. I guess I have lived through the rise and fall of bloggers now blogging is just another advertising venue. 


By 2016, I was officially an Ambassador. I had decided not to try teaching a class at the conference because I spent so much time talking to people. As usual, the preparations for RootsTech started in 2015 and continued for months prior to the conference. By this year, I was presenting at the BYU Family History Technology Conference as well as attending RootsTech the same week. Blogging was starting to fade and my involvement with RootsTech was also evolving. Here is a summary of the conference (with some editing) from my journal.

  • I did two presentations at BYU, one for my opinion on the problems facing the genealogical community and one for The Family History Guide.
  • I met with hundreds of people and talked all day every day.
  • I met with Gilad Japhet of MyHeritage and talked to him for about four hours total over three days.
  • I met with Annalise Van Den Belt the CEO of and had a nice visit and then after telling her about how we were using Findmypast, she decided to have her video team do a short video of me explaining how I used the program which took place on Friday. 
  • I talked and talked to many people: relatives, friends from Mesa, friends from the Library, friends from Church, Blogging friends, vendors, developers and a lot more.
  • We ate no breakfasts.
  • We had lunch vouchers from FamilySearch which we used to buy lunches. We ate dinners at the parties and dinners in the evenings. 
  • I thought of about 100 blog topics.
  • We walked a lot. By my pedometer in my iPhone, we walked 4 miles on Friday.
  • I carried everything including my computer in a pack.
  • On Friday, I wore my Australia T-shirt.
  • We had a meeting in the Joseph Smith Memorial for the Area Advisers.
  • We had a nice MyHeritage party on Friday with prizes and my wife Ann won a new iPad mini.
  • I had a dinner at a Sushi restaurant called the Naked Fish with the Findmypast people.
  • I learned a lot about what is coming in software development.
  • I taught two presentations for MyHeritage and lost my voice on Wednesday.

By this time, it seemed like RootsTech preparations started earlier every year. By 2017, I was involved with the Exhibit floor booth for The Family History Guide. I was also teaching for the BYU Library Family History Center and for I was also working with genealogy software developers and helping them prepare for their presentations at the conference. With the BYU workshop and other meetings, RootsTech was turning into a solid week of talking and meeting. I talked at an Innovator Summit panel discussion. Most of the week was spent talking to people. 


This year my wife and I were serving as missionaries digitizing records at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. I participated with RootsTech online both before and during the conference. It was a far less busy event for me. 


By August of 2018, we were already seeing information and meetings about RootsTech 2019. By this time, I was doing more than one presentation a week for the BYU Library Family History Center and for other entities, so RootsTech was just one more event in the constant online stream of events. Some weeks I was presenting as many as seven different classes. I spoke at the BYU Family History Technology Workshop and did videos for The Family History Guide. My journal entries are rather brief since my time at the conference was spent mostly talking to people. I did enjoy visits with Ron Tanner and Gilad Jephet. Later in the year, we had some representatives from The Family History Guide at the London RootsTech Conference. I was still part of RootsTech but at some point the name changed again to Influencer. 


My life had turned into a stream of classes, webinars, and videos by the time RootsTech 2020 rolled around. The week of RootsTech started out as usual by then with the BYU Family History Technology Workshop. My experience at the main RootsTech conference had evolved into a series of meetings, presentations for The Family History Guide and MyHeritage, and talking to as many people as I could get in contact with. By this time, being an Ambassador involved blogging about the conference and talking to everyone I could about every imaginable topic. I did a presentation at the Salt Lake FamilySearch Library and met with the GEDCOM people about updating the GEDCOM Standard. I was still very much involved directly with FamilySearch. But as it had evolved, I spent most of my time connecting on a world-wide basis. Little did we know at the time, we were living on the edge of a catastrophe. The COVID 19 Pandemic shut down the country just two weeks after RootsTech 2020.

2021 and 2022

The entire concept of RootsTech changed in 2021. The conference was entirely online. There were still media people involved and I took an active part in promoting the conference. See How this genealogy conference went global.

By 2022, the virtual conference was well established, and I did a number of videos. I did one on my own topic that is still online,, and many more for The Family History Guide. The online attendance at RootsTech jump into the millions. In 2022, the format of the conference moved even more world-wide and the attendance continued to increase dramatically. 


We finally got out of the COVID shutdown and had both a live and virtual conference in 2023. I did one live class that was not recorded and uploaded a six-video series again on the Great African American Migration. All six videos are online on the website and also on Here is the link to the first video in the series. After presenting at the BYU Family History Technology Workshop ( on the Monday before the RootsTech conference, my wife and I started working at the 2023 conference on Wednesday and I don't think we stopped talking or resting until the conference ended on Saturday afternoon. I also taught classes for the BYU Library Family History Center, and talked to hundreds of people. It was easily the busiest conference we have ever attended so far. 

Well, that is my part of the story of RootsTech. Obviously, there are a lot more details. I recommend attending the conference in person. It is a never to be forgotten experience. We will be back again at RootsTech 2024 and likely be as busy or busier than in any time in the past. You will see me in my live classes, and I will be wandering the Exhibit Hall as usual. I am also one of the Media Representatives, now the name of the bloggers, ambassadors and anyone online that is invited to participate. I still blog and I am posting new videos on YouTube almost every week. If you are at the live conference in 2024, stop me and say hello. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Be aware of the genealogical Traps in the 1700s

It is enticing to jump so far back in history and begin researching your ancestors in the 1700s. This is especially true when you find, what appear to be, records that correspond to your family. The trap is that there are usually many people with the same names, even that have the same or similar children's names. Without careful and systematic research focusing on the places where the events recorded occur, you will soon have a tangled mess of unrelated people. In the Family Tree this tangle can occur as separate people view the existing records and add in people who are not related and who live far from the areas of valid genealogical focus on places. 

You may wish to look at these entries in the Family Tree as I explore some of the issues. You can find the people using their ID numbers. 

The screenshot above is an example of a situation in the Family Tree that may not have enough existing records to unravel. 

This is what is in the Family Tree about this family. 

John Austin GF3M-V26 is married to Margaret Bourne GF3M-FBF

This couple is shown with 17 children. Two of these children illustrate part of the problem.

Joseph Austin G61S-1GJ born in Tysoe, Warwickshire, England

Jonathan Austen LBJB-5H1 born in Goudhurst, Kent, England

The problem is first, that Joseph and several other of the listed children born in Tysoe are born nearly 150 miles away from Goudhurst. Their "father" John Austin GF3M-V26 is listed as born in Marden, Kent, England and his wife, Margaret Bourne GF3M-FBF is listed as born in Goudhurst, Kent, England. Marden, Tonbridge, Kent is about 5 miles from Goudhurst. The rest of these children are listed as born in either Goudhurst or Horsmonden both in Kent about 4 miles apart. It is apparent that the first child, Joseph Austin G61S-1GJ, is probably not part of this family. 

But this is just the beginning of the problems with this family. Joseph Austin G61S-1GJ has only one record attached as a source, a death record showing a death in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives. Here is a download of the record.

Here is the relevant entry.

This is not a death record from Goudhurst for Joseph Auston, it is a death record for a son, Edward, who died in 1628. This is interesting because the entry for Joseph shows he was born in 1600 and died in 1603 both in Tysoe, Warwickshire, England. 

Things get more interesting when you look at the multiple entries for Margaret Bourne GF3M-FBF and LZXP-QZG. One of these Margarets was born in Goudhurst and the other in Tenterden, Kent. There are records attached that show her name as Margaret Austin and she has three different husbands named John Austen LZYY-G7F, KCL6-3NG, GF3M-V26. The John Austins live and die in different places. Each of the three John Austins has a different list of children. 

Of course, there are a variety of records attached. Here is one example of a record.

I could easily go on and on with this one family. But bear in mind that the parents of John and Margaret are even more confused. 

Some things you might learn from this example:

1. The 1700s are not a place to play around. Only very specific and detailed research will produce accurate results. 

2. Focus on places, not names but always try to find actual records of births, marriages, and deaths before adding children.

3. Think about whether or not the mother in the family could have had 17 or more children some in the same year. 

4. If it isn't worth doing right, it isn't worth doing (actually the quote is if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right). 

Comments are accepted.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

A New Development in Family History: 

This is a new AI experience with a direct impact on relating family history. Here is a link to the introductory video.

It may not be obvious but the main point of the website is to allow users to create their own narratives from their own ancestors. Here is a screenshot showing the services offered. 

The developer website is The website indicates that they are a partner with FamilySearch.

Watch the videos and here is another immersive experience.

Right now, this only works on PCs and since I am Mac-based, I will have to figure out how to look at these links. Comments are appreciated. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Some Practical Predictions About the Future of Genealogy


Genealogy has its boat anchor in the paper-based, Western European traditions that prevent the adoption of a revised methodology that would empower researches in ways that only now becoming vaguely perceptible. If the current tidal wave of artificial intelligence is going to affect genealogy, they we must start by acknowledging that genealogy is based on information and AI is nothing more or less that a newer way to manipulate and present information. Using AI in the context of genealogy should become pervasive and automatic. 

For example, here is a list of possible family structures from Bing Chat in addition to the nuclear family, extended family, and single-parent family.

Joint Family: In many South Asian countries, such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, it is common for multiple generations of a family to live together under one roof. This arrangement often includes grandparents, parents, siblings, and their respective spouses and children.

Matrilineal Family: Some societies, such as the Minangkabau people of Indonesia, follow a matrilineal kinship system. In these families, descent and inheritance are traced through the female line, and property is often passed down from mother to daughter.

Patrilineal Family: Conversely, other cultures may follow a patrilineal kinship system, where descent and inheritance are traced through the male line. This is observed in many African societies, such as the Akan people of Ghana.

Bilateral Family: In bilateral kinship systems, such as those found in many Western societies including the United States, both the maternal and paternal sides of the family are considered equally important. Individuals maintain close relationships with relatives from both sides.

Blended Family: Blended families are formed when two individuals with children from previous relationships come together to form a new family unit. This structure is increasingly common in many parts of the world due to factors such as divorce and remarriage.

Same-Sex Parent Family: With increasing recognition of LGBTQ+ rights, same-sex parent families have become more visible and accepted in many countries. These families consist of same-sex couples raising children together through adoption, surrogacy, or other means.

Fictive Kinship: Fictive kinship refers to non-biological relationships that are considered family-like. This can include godparents, close family friends, or individuals who play significant roles in a person’s life without a blood or legal connection.

Bing. (2023, September 20). Re: Internationally, what are all the possible types and iterations of family biological, social, religious, cultural, and formal around the world? [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from'

Can you think of a genealogical family tree program available today that can accamodate all of these variations? As long genealogy persists in being Western European based, any other advances will be superficial and inconsequential. As can be seen from the list below, AI will have to play a predominate role in order to move genealogy forward. 

1. DNA Testing

DNA testing has already revolutionized genealogy, allowing some individuals to trace their first few generations with unprecedented accuracy. In the future, we can expect these tests to become even more advanced and accessible. This could lead to the discovery of previously unknown familial connections and a more nuanced understanding of our genetic heritage. However, more remote ancestral relationships will continue to depend on accumulating related testing subjects. 

2. Digital Records

The digitization of records is another trend that will continue to transform genealogy. As more historical records are digitized and made available online, the issue will shift from whether or not the records you need are digitized to whether or not they are accessible. 

3. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great promise for genealogy. AI algorithms can analyze complex data sets much faster than humans, identifying patterns or connections that might be missed by human researchers. This could help genealogists uncover hidden links and piece together family histories more efficiently. Advances in genealogy using AI will also depend on access. 

4. Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) technology could offer a new way to engage with our ancestral past. Imagine being able to “visit” your ancestral homelands or experience historical events that shaped your family’s history in an immersive VR environment. This could bring family histories to life in a way that traditional research methods cannot.

5. Privacy Concerns

As genealogy becomes increasingly reliant on personal data, privacy concerns will likely come to the forefront. There will likely be ongoing debates and legislation about privacy protection and the ethical use of genetic information. Ensuring that genealogical research respects individual privacy rights will be a key challenge moving forward.

6. Health Predictions

The intersection of genealogy and health is another area set for growth. As our understanding of genetics advances, genealogical data could be used more frequently for predicting potential health issues and personalizing healthcare.

7. Cultural Reconnection

For displaced or diasporic communities, advanced genealogy could provide a means of reconnecting with lost cultural heritage and history. By tracing their roots, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their cultural identity and heritage.

There are probably many more trends. Here is the citation to the above list. 

Bing. (2023. September 20). Write an article about Some Practical Predictions About the Future of Genealogy (Online forum comment) Retrieved from

Now some further comments about family structure. It seems to me that the real breakthrough in genealogy will occur once there is a way to show all of the possible interactions and relationships between individuals in a way that the relationships can be visualized. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Registration is now open for RootsTech 2024

RootsTech 2024 is open for registration. Here is a link to the in-person registration page.

The price is  the same as it was last year. I have a three-part, live presentation, probably one on each day of the conference.

My topic for the three classes will be:

Each of the sessions will cover different uses of AI for genealogical research. More later when we have the actual schedule. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

FamilySearch Chat: Talking with Users in Real Time

This is an interesting blog post from the FamilySearch Blog. I don't think it is necessary for me to restate the blog but I would note that perhaps the people who developed this "new tool" and wrote the blog have a limited experience interacting with other FamilySearch Family Tree users. We frequently get written messages from people who are irate, using expletives, threatening, otherwise being rude and unreasonable. I don't really have any reason why I would want to talk to such people in real-time. I guess this does give families an alternative method of texting back and forth, but I don't see it replacing our existing text message groups on our phones or other text message programs such as Marco Polo

Speaking at RootsTech Early

You might get a surprise if you watch the video I did for on 13 September 2023. The presentation was part of an all-day live broadcast with presenters every hour. The videos are now up on the YouTube Channel. The BYU Library Family History Center also broadcast the video on the same day. It was an interesting experience and think this is the first time one of my presentations has be broadcast by FamilySearch for a long time, if ever. 

The 2024 website will open officially for registration on 18 September 2023. I will be presenting a series of three live classes at RootsTech 2024 with the title of "Using Artificial Intelligence Tools to Expand Your Genealogical Research Universe." I don't yet know if all or any one of them will be broadcast online, but meanwhile I will be writing about the impact of AI and probably will have a few videos on the subject on the BYU Library Family History YouTube Channel

If you want to start now learning about what I think about the impact of all the new AI programs and how it is changing genealogical research, see this recent video.