The annual RootsTech genealogy conference in Salt Lake City starts this coming Wednesday, February 28th and runs through March 3rd. RootsTech is the genealogy industry’s version of a large concert festival like Coachella (or Woodstock, depending on your age). The “rock stars” of the genealogy world and their “groupies” converge upon Salt Lake for four days of celebrity keynote speakers, hundreds of classes taught by the best genealogists in the world, and a preview of the new innovations coming to the world of genealogy. They leave in an haze of euphoria and exhaustion brought on by the new friendships they have made, the new discoveries they have made in their research, and, yes, by their age.
I attended my first RootsTech conference in 2016 and I have been back every year since. If you are just getting started researching your family history and genealogy, or if you have been doing research for years but haven’t attended RootsTech yet, I have created a list of three reasons you should attend the RootsTech genealogy conference.
1.) Top Tier Keynote Speakers
When I attended my first RootsTech conference in 2016, I was floored by the quality of the keynote speakers. Conference attendees were treated to hour long speeches filled with inspiring stories from David Isay (the founder of Storycorps.org), Doris Kearns Goodwin (famous historian and author of the classic book Team of Rivals), and former First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush. I didn’t think there was any way the organizers of RootsTech could match the 2016 keynote speakers, but the 2017 line-up was every bit as compelling. The 2017 conference featured LeVar Burton, Buddy Valastro “The Cake Boss”, and Jonathan and Drew Scott the “Property Brothers”. Even if you have never heard of these speakers (I personally hadn’t), you will be surprised at how their stories touch your heart and inspire you. The RootsTech 2018 keynote speaker line-up looks like another winner. I am personally extremely to hear Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. speak at this year’s conference. I love his show Finding Your Roots on PBS and I can’t wait to hear more about his life.
2.) Classes Taught By The Best Minds in the Genealogy / Family History Industry
Genealogy and family history have become a multi-billion dollar a year business over the past decade. Individuals from across the world pay monthly subscription fees for access to the websites that have collected the best online repositories of digitized and indexed historical records. Avid genealogists also pay for online classes and webinars to further expand their skillset. The amount of classes that are offered at RootsTech allow the conference’s attendees to save hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars on genealogy research training. You can view the full schedule of classes being offered at RootsTech 2018 by clicking here.
3.) Spending Time With People That Share Your Passion
At RootsTech, you will be surrounded by thousands of friendliest most altruistic people you have ever met in your life. Genealogists, like distance runners (my other passion), are a tribe. You can make an immediate connection with almost anyone in the community, because everyone has their own story about how and why they started researching their family’s history. If you mention you have hit a brick wall in your research, don’t be surprised if the person you are talking to drops everything that they are doing to hear the details of what you are trying to solve. They will freely offer up suggestions on how to move forward and, in many cases, they will offer to personally spend some time trying to solve your mystery.
For those of us that have been doing research for a while, RootsTech is the time we get to spend time with our closest friends that share our passion. For me, that means spending time with my father. For years, my father told my brothers and I stories about his decades long search for the parents of his paternal great-grandfather. When our eyes would gloss over and we inevitably stopped listening, he would bemoan the fact that none of his children cared about their ancestors and how our family’s knowledge of them and the lives they led would die with him. That all changed when I caught the genealogy bug in 2014 at the age of 34. The picture below is from RootsTech 2016. The keynote speaker left a surgical mask on all of the chairs in the expo hall and told the audience that we are the “heart specialists” in our families.
If you are now considering, or have considered attending RootsTech in the past, I hope that you make the choice to attend the conference. It is definitely worth the time and expense.