Day 2 RootsTech – Vendors, Visits and MyHeritage is Smokin’ Hot

This morning view just doesn’t get old!

Across the rooftop, you can see two churches in front of the mountain.

Day 2 was jam packed, and that’s without attending any sessions. I did hear through the RootsTech grapevine that some of the afternoon sessions did have a few seats available. Of course, you would need to select the right sessions.

There’s a lot of very unhappy rumbling here about the conference: lines, full sessions, lack of signage, etc.

I spent the day doing four things:

  • Visiting vendor booths
  • Talking to people
  • MyHeritage Lunch
  • Vendor appointments

Let’s take a look at each of the four.

Visiting Booths

There are probably hundreds of booths. Some quite large, of course, like FamilySearch (show sponsor), Ancestry and the other big players, to Mom and Pop shops.

I managed to visit maybe half of the booths today. I’ll try for the other half tomorrow. I am going to make myself absent for part of the day to visit the Family History Library.

I noticed a LOT of vendors offering products to digitize and catalog your photos. Others encouraged recording memories and of course, given that we’re in Salt Lake, there was lots of focus on the Mormon faith and many obviously local vendors.

In addition to the sessions, there was a vendor demo area in the rear of the hall. I wandered past a couple of times, but the two vendors I saw didn’t really catch my eye.

At the Legacy Tree Genealogists booth, I found Jessica Taylor (at left, beside me), Paul Woodbury and Amber Brown (far right). (I apologize for not getting the lady’s name at the far left.) Jessica is the owner and founder of Legacy Tree Genealogists, Paul Woodbury is the amazing genetic genealogist that specializes in adoptee and missing parent family reconstruction and Amber Brown is their marketing representative. They were kind enough to give me with a RootsTech survival basket. I’ve never been to a conference before where you needed one of these, and by the end of the day, I was extremely grateful.

A really big thank you Jessica and crew!

Next, I ran into my old friend, Peter Roberts, at the conference as a volunteer for WikiTree, a free site for you to upload your family tree and collaborate with other genealogists. I’ve known Peter for years from the Family Tree DNA annual conference where he is the project administrator for the Bahamas DNA Project.

Peter took the time to sit down with me and explain some of the new DNA features at WikiTree that include Y DNA, mitochondrial, autosomal and most recently, the ability to link your WikiTree tree to your DNAPainter profile. WikiTree utilizes various types of DNA information to support or disprove ancestral connections.

Peter and I also discussed that putting information like links to any articles or blog posting you have written about your ancestors into the description area about each ancestor would be a great idea! I was thinking about the 52 Ancestors series, of course.

I briefly met Chris Whitten, founder of WikiTree, but I wasn’t quick enough to grab a photo.

Speaking of DNAPainter, Jony Pearl, from England, won the Innovation Showcase with DNAPainter. I’ve been using this extremely useful tool for about a month now, and I have an article half written. I’ll be finishing it as soon as I get home. You’re going to love this tool!

Congratulations Jony! Well deserved.

This conference has lots of beginners. FamilySearch had a very large area called the Discovery Zone. Just walking past, I did notice people entirely engrossed and making discoveries.

One of the Discovery Zone areas encouraged you to take your photo, or a group photo, with a backdrop of your choice.

I couldn’t resist. Plus, it’s free and the results are messaged to your phone immediately.

I was amazed to find this backdrop, given that I have actually stood in exactly this place in Germany – in real life. In fact, I can tell you there are two lovely lace shops just past that clock tower arch, one on either side of the street, and a quilt shop just beyond. In fact it was right here that the quilt shop-owner’s husband came riding up on his bicycle to deliver our purchases at the end of the day.

A few minutes later, I came across MYndVault, a digital cloud storage solution that includes servers stores in the granite mountain.

To prove his point, the founder of MYndVault was giving little boxes of granite – well, chocolate that looked like granite anyway. The chocolate was great – and everyone needs to think about this type of “inheritance issue.” It’s not just cloud storage, but an electronic directive that lists your personal representative, things like social media accounts and passwords. Obviously, I suggested that he add a specific field for DNA results at vendors, but there is already ample room to include this in non-specific fields.

There were lots of “charts” vendors in attendance, but I particularly liked this one from BranchesArt.

I’ve been wanting to meet Lara Diamond, who blogs at Lara’s Jewnealogy. Lara is Jewish and specializes in endogamous DNA and the inherent frustrations therein.

The lovely thing about meeting in person is that you actually get to talk to the individual. Lara tested with 23andMe initially and it was that test (before the FDA restricted the information they could provide to consumers) that led her to discover she had both a mutation for cancer, and cancer itself. Take a minute and read Lara’s story here. DNA testing very literally saved her life!

Lara will be writing about a super-cool record find soon that defies all logic. Right, Lara, right???

Next was the MyHeritage lunch, where I was thrilled to meet Randy Seaver, finally, in person.

My joke is that I wake up each morning to Randy, because that’s when I read his blog, Genea-Musings, every day. Randy writes more quality content than any other blogger I know. In fact, he has a great compendium of RootsTech conference articles that you can check out on his blog yesterday and today.

The MyHeritage luncheon speaker was Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of MyHeritage.

Gilad and I had a personal meeting later in the day, and he gave me permission to share the slides from the luncheon with my readers.

I must say, MyHeritage is making very big waves in the genealogy community.

For a company that just started DNA testing about 18 months ago, and had significant startup challenges with matching, they’ve come a very, very long way.

First, Gilad announced a new initiative to test 15,000 adoptees or those seeking unknown parents by donating free kits. You can read more about this program here or apply to receive a kit. Those with financial need will receive priority.

Second, they also announced Family Search Tree sync between Family Search and MyHeritage that allows collaborative syncing of trees between LDS members and MyHeritage.

Third, they announced the publication of a paper culminating from 7 years of research, published today, discussing 86 million family trees from Geni and the patterns that emerge from this much data about migration and families. For example, exceptional genetics only adds abut 5 years to life expectancy, but poor lifestyle habits can deduct 10.

They are on a tear, I’m telling you. They weren’t done yet.

Fourth, they announced that they are adding new records at an amazing pace. Three new collections, including the digitization and indexing of high school yearbooks from the US.

Fifth – new advancements in genetic genealogy.

MyHeritage has observed that many people don’t understand the details of genetic genealogy or how to use the tools. Additionally, many people don’t have or create family trees.

MyHeritage has created what they call “The Big Tree” where all of their customers are connected in one large “tree of humanity,” or at least as much of humanity as has tested or uploaded to MyHeritage. They then look at how your own node is connected to others in that large tree and distill the results into something useful for you.

The next step, Gilad calls the “Theory of Family Relativity,” where MyHeritage combines your DNA matches, their trees and documents from their collection to construct a theoretical tree between you and your matches.

The connection may need to go up and down other people’s trees a couple of times, and may be discovered in the tree of someone you both match.

In summary, “The Theory of Family Relativity” will provide a paper trail theory for how you match your DNA matches. That theory will be for you to confirm or disprove. Gilad says that it’s easier with a tree, but can be accomplished at some level even without one AND it will be released before year end 2018.

Sixth, a new triangulated chromosome browser that compared up to 7 people simultaneously.

Downloads are being added as well.

MyHeritage is focusing a marketing drive in Europe. Their market research revealed that in Germany (I think,) only 22% of the population had even heard of DNA testing. Their goal is to infiltrate that market space.

France Gilad…focus on France😊

Gilad has christened 2018 “The Year of the Segment.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, Gilad added even MORE items.

  • Paper trail theories and connections to explain DNA matches.
  • Theories genetically of how your matches connect to you.
  • Clustering of triangulated segments.
  • Automatic chromosome painting.
  • Identification and recreation of ancestors through the testing of multiple descendants by creating an “ancestral segment bank,” of sorts.
  • Resurrecting the DNA of dead ancestors which would be made into a kit for matching. For example, your grandfather.
  • Automatic tree building.

If you’re sitting there with your mouth hanging open in shock…well, so was I. This is what I’ve talked about for years, now coming to fruition.

Gilad credits these strides to a combination of vision, applied technology and very smart people!

All of these development items are either in beta or past proof of concept. Some are available now, some shortly, the “Tree of Family Relativity” by the end of 2018.

Truthfully, I don’t even know what to say after that massive announcement, except transfer your DNA results to MyHeritage.  If you ever had doubt, it’s gone now.

Finishing Up

In the Innovation Showcase competition, obviously DNAPainter won first place, but the rest of the entrants also deserve recognition. Rootsfinder and ItRunsInMyFamily took second and third. You may want to go and take a look for yourself.

I have not had a chance to review these myself, so you’ll have to let me know what you think.

Apparently LivingDNA made an announcement as well. Many vendors make private appointments with bloggers, movers and shakers at RootsTech. In the past few days I’ve been fortunate enough to have private meetings with Ancestry, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage. Living DNA is not on that list. I did stop by their booth today, but the right people weren’t there.

We’ve known for some time that matching was to be released in 2018, but we didn’t know that LivingDNA planned to reconstruct trees from genetic data alone, with no trees or other information involved.

You can read the announcement for yourself here.

I don’t anticipate that I’ll have the opportunity to meet with a Living DNA representative to garner additional information, unfortunately.

I would be more comfortable with this goal if they had matching experience at all. MyHeritage, with their early out-the-door matching issues is proof of how difficult it can be to get matching right.

I also feel matching and tree reconstruction will be much more accurate with a blend of trees, documents and DNA.

However, Living DNA is giving it a shot, and everyone has to start someplace. I will be very interested in what their new product will look like and how well it will work.

On the way out the door this evening, I noticed a bunch of teenagers who had obviously been to the conference, having fun.

Various vendors give away ribbons to attach to the bottom of your badge.

These kids had obviously been very busy. I enjoy seeing young people having good clean fun, and especially if those young people are the future of genealogy!



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46 thoughts on “Day 2 RootsTech – Vendors, Visits and MyHeritage is Smokin’ Hot

  1. Roberta … Thanks so much for the comprehensive blogging + photos from RootsTech! Nice for me to be able to live it vicariously. I’d hoped to attend this year, but had previously committed to a several-day grand baby sitting stint. Glad you’re enjoying the conference and sharing your experiences! Best, Jennifer

  2. Thanks for all the information that you share with us. It’s a very interesting read every time. Speaking of My Heritage, I uploaded my dna from Ancestry to My Heritage about two years ago. They regularly reported new matches to me. I joined just two nights ago for a good price. What I found was so much information already on My Heritage. This information was apparently gleaned from other trees that share some of my family. I found this quite disorganized and there are many mistakes. I plan to upload my ged com from Ancestry and I so hope that this information will be handled in a more organized way. I suppose they are quite busy at MH since reading of their upcoming endeavors. It especially sounds good about getting dna from deceased ancestors in the future. I’m looking forward to working with their system, but it does look daunting to me. Sheila

  3. Roberta, I’m really enjoying your postings from the big conference. I have to read this DNA material over and over and still have a problem making it “stick” in my old brain. How nice to have someone report on the fun and information while I sit at home at my desk. Thanks for all the info. and glad you included the fun things also.

  4. I’d like to have a nickel for every conference attendee that made chromosome browser inquiries at the Ancestry exhibit booth. LMAO Thanks for sharing your experience with us, and I look forward to reading your article about DNAPainter.

  5. Your trail at a conference is just amazing you must be literally outpacing Road Runner and will need a restful holiday or quiet place to review all the information you have in your head when you get home. Thank you for taking us on such a wonderful speed dating genealogy trip.

  6. The MyHeritage news is AWESOME!!! I was unimpressed by their initial matching (as you were), but I’ve seen big improvements. I realize that the connection mapping thing may take awhile to get the bugs worked out, but it is such an exciting prospect! I am going to do some major collateral line research on my tree to try to help their software find those connections. 🙂 Hurray for marketing in Germany, the home of many of my brick walls! Thanks so much, Roberta, for the reports!!

  7. Roberta, love your attire, resplendent in dna icons.

    I hope the hype of MyHeritage is more reason, than rhetoric. We need another company to “gallop up the rear” of Ancestry, who has become too monopolistic and all that implies. The shameful and shamful way the customers at Ancestry are treated is astonishing!

    Re MyHeritage , any level of growth in 18 months is outstanding.

    Many thanks.

  8. Roberta, You have a talent for making the best lemonade out of lemons than anyone I know.
    Thanks for the glimpses of RootsTech, it’s so much fun to see it through your eyes.
    Hugs from Calgary –

  9. I still worry about any company making One Big Tree – so many have just copied bad genealogy off of Ancestry, I keep getting matches that tell me I am wrong for not having a person’s mother in my tree, when for 35 years we haven’t found a paper connection or source whatsoever to Grandma Smith’s supposed mother from 1790……. If the MyHeritage software goes around in bad trees, it’s just going to make things more of a mess than they are already.

  10. Oh my gosh, which town in Germany for that backdrop??? I think I’ve been there myself, but can’t find the right album to confirm…


  11. Great article Roberta thanks so much! It is extremely valuable for those of us who are unable to attend! I just have one small comment, more like a clarification. Unfortunately, marketing DNA testing in France will not work. I have many French ancestors and was extremely disappointed when I discovered that French people cannot take DNA tests without special legal permission (such as a court order) because the law forbids it.

    • I am currently in France and recently tried to order a DNA kit from My Heritage when they were having a special. Because I am physically in France at the moment, even though my permanent home is in the U.S., I was not allowed to do it and just got an error message saying “DNA kits are not available in your country.” I was intending to have the kit sent to the U.S. to wait for my return, but was not given the choice.

    • That is not really true. I live in the States and had FamilyTreeDNA mail a kit (they are the only one to do it to my knowledge) to my parents who live in France. Since they are both over 90 years old, I thought it would be a good idea to have them tested. The sale of DNA kits is not forbidden in France, but the marketing of them is, if I understood properly. The kits were sent without “disguise”. The French Post Office did deliver and send them back knowing fully what they were. So the 3 of us have been tested. Now the problems start: I don’t know enough yet to make sense of it and not enough Europeans have tested yet to get a good grasp of the results. I have 8 matches and my Dad 11. My Mom who originates from regions of France that have seen British invasions, long wars, and ownership by the Brits (South West of France and North West France) has over 150 matches. That is why I read your blog, Roberta, hoping to get smarter with this new tool. Thanks for the good info.

      • OK this is a situation that I am interested in looking further into. As far as I understand, DNA tests in France have been systematically blocked by French legislature. The majority of researchers understand that this situation happens because France has a socialistic system implemented which translates in this situation as a reality that transfers responsibility from the private citizen to the state in cases where a father may suspect illegitimacy of one or more of his children and refuse child support which would automatically shift the financial burden to the French social system instead, because child support is guaranteed by legislature. It is for this reason that the standing system is against DNA testing since if a father suspects that one or more of his children is illegitimate, and he can prove it through DNA, then he could submit a legal request to be excused from the financial burden of child support, therefore automatically transferring the financial burden to the state, which of course they do no want.

        I my opinion, you got lucky. But in the off-chance that this is not the case, then I am VERY interested in the minutiae of how you were able to achieved this! In this case, you may have done something that went around all the possible contingencies that French law tried to anticipate. In other words, you may have found a loophole.

      • This is in reply to Karen Nichols-Rexwall:
        Nothing nefarious happened! I just asked FamilyTreeDNA to mail a kit to each of my parents. I didn’t received the test kits at my house in the US and send them later to France under disguise, for the very reason that I wanted everything done above board. Custom could have stopped the packages easily, if they had wanted to, since it was mailed with a returned address for FTDNA. I took the test first, so I would know how it worked, translated the basics for my parents to follow and that was it. Once done with their tests according to the instructions, my parents returned each package separately, in the envelop provided by FTDNA, directly to the FamilyTreeDNA’s Lab in Houston. End of story!

      • My parents are both French! I just went directly through FTDNA. Please DO contact them to learm from them to reassure yourself. What I told you was still true in the Spring of 2017 when we had our tests done.

  12. Roberta, I’m drooling over your blog (wipe screen with cloth) wishing I could be there. I’ve only been privileged to attend one of them and then for only 2 days back in 2012. I was with FamilySearch then and helped answer questions at the end of one of the “smaller” presentations.

    A bit of clarification for anyone interested — those two “churches” in your second photo aren’t what people typically think of as churches. You took a rooftop photo of temple square, that part of Salt Lake City from whence all streets are “numbered” (as in “North Temple Street”, West Temple Street”, “South Temple Street”, and “East Temple Street.”

    The “church” on the right in your photo is the Salt Lake Temple, perhaps the most famous building in all Mormondom. The one on the left is called the Assembly Hall. In the late 1800s it was used as a religious meeting place most of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not to be confused with the domed Salt Lake Tabernacle, home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Assembly Hall was and still is what’s called a “stake center” building (similar to a Catholic diocese) for the Salt Lake Stake which is currently the oldest stake in the LDS Church. Nowadays he Assembly Hall shares another legacy with the Tabernacle, it’s also a public meeting hall sometimes used for public performances, etc.

    There are loads of things to see on Temple Square, most of which are free including free concerts. People can learn more about the Assembly Hall at the following link:

  13. My personal experience with myHeitage has been disappointing. Most of the family trees in the DNA matches have two or three names. I have yet to receive a query reply. To me the DNA test matching is a bust.

    • I have only one success with MyHeritage BUT it has led to the discovery of a second family for my gggrandfather in Chicago. The cousin tested on Ancestry; I tested on FTDNA, but we both uploaded to MyHeritage AND I got a hint of a 119 cM match for a misspelled cousin (Garber instead of Gerber), and now know my cousins there. Uploading didn’t cost either of us. I will be forever grateful for MyHeritage!!

  14. Okay Roberta, did you go by Ancestry’s booth and throw down the gauntlet? As a very long time paying customer to Ancestry they recently asked my opinion. I gave them a one word answer…..chromosome browser. Also, I would love to have visited the Endogamy Vendor as one who descends from the Low German Mennonites. Thank you for writing about the event and sharing your experiences.

    • IMHO, Ancestry will never implement a chromosome browser because Ancestry’s Business Model is all about the family trees. To them, DNA is just a gimmick.

      Implementing a chromosome browser would automatically lead them to areas they do not want to deal with.

      Doing so would go against their Business Model which is basically based on profiting from the hard work of third parties (that would be us, the subscribers) without having to spend a dime themselves on normal expenses such as paying for the research service, copyright or patent fees, etc..

      This means that they convince you to do all the hard work (perform the research work) and then entice you to share your work – again – free of charge to them, on their website – but you need to pay THEM a fee to give away your work to THEM for free (because you have to subscribe t their service), and also to be able to maintain access to your own work (because you have to keep renewing your subscription)! Try cancelling your subscription to see how you will immediately be barred from your own worrk!

      This work they profit off of because they sell access to the result of the labor that you inadvertently gave them for free.

      Because this labor comes from a variety of sources ranging from rookies to seasoned researchers, to academics, they know that there are an incredible amounts of badly researched data in their “volunteer databases. This is why they make sure that we as users and consumers sign releases to clear them. Because they do not want to be hedl responsible for the sheer trash that they peddle, (in terms of content),Aall they are interested in is to peddle the content – regardless of its level of quality- because this is where the profit lies.

      In short, the ACCESS to a database containing hundred- thousands of hours of of third-party labor that they have acquired TOTALLY FREE OF CHARGE, is what they turn around and sell for their own personal profit.

      Having cleverly acquired it, ,they then earn a profit off off the work of other people. It does not matter if the result is of low quality. They have covered themselves by making you agree that you will not hold them responsible for the quality of the data that they are selling and you are paying for! In essence, this means that if you agree you are basically paying a lot of money for sheer BS!

      However,at the same time they make sure that they will profit from your access to this data no matter what the quality is.

      This is the reason why me will NEVER see a Chromosome Browser in Ancestry:
      1. Their objective is to get your hard work for free and then profit from it. The Quality doesn’t matter..
      2. To entice you to add your family Tree/Research (their bread and butter), they construct their entire function of “Matching DNA cousins” based on the premise that you have to built your own faimily tree online (therefore giving them the data they can sell).
      3. On the other hand, the data submitted by any one – which is not qualit-controlled, is the same data that is used by Ancestry to predict your DNA matches. If the data is fancyful, your results will follow the same logic.
      4. Any means that allows you to question and actually research their “matching” logic or be able to uncover the faulty premise of them declaring DNA familial links based on erroneous submitted family trees is of course not desirable in this Business Model.

      IMHO, This is why we will never see a chromosome browser feature in Ancestry. Because it would inevitably expose the extremely bad quality of the data backing up the alleged DNA matches, but most importantly, it would damage their “cash cow” which is :finding ways to convince their subscribers and other people to volunteer their hard labor free of charge so that the Multi-billion dollar business can turn around and sell off the hard work of others at their exclusive benefit.

      DISCLAIMER AND EXTREMELY IMPORTANT NOTE: This comment is PERSONAL and IS NOT a reflection of the beliefs of the blog writer and editor , nor even a dare to guess at what the blog writer’s personal opinions are. This comment is exclusively personal to myself as a genealogy research with over 40 years of experience. It aims to help clarify a difference between what is today perhaps a valid wish and what is nothing more than a dream, based on what I can see.

      If you have any problems with my views, please address them to ME and not Roberta Estes. She had no forewarning or idea about what I have just shared nor has endorsed any of my viewpoints.

  15. Thank you for article, I am curious about where in Germany you were, that had two lace shops and a quilt shop? I make both.

  16. Hi Roberta …. I’m very much looking forward to your post on DNA Painter 🙂 I haven’t signed up to it yet, even tho’ I joined its facebook group three months ago …. and promptly felt overwhelmed, because most people using DNA Painter seem to have oodles of known matches! I don’t have many – a maternal aunt, three 2C-3C on various paternal branches with hopefully a couple more to come in the next few months – and virtually all attempts to find connections with unknown matches get stalled (Ireland, before written records … a pixie mist!!) So it would be great to get some guidance on “getting started” when you have just a handful of matches – I hope you’ll be able to include that in your post. Many thanks again 😀

  17. Hi, Roberta. I really enjoyed reading about your experience at RootsTech. At this point I have tested my atDNA at Ancestry, transferred it to FTDNA and Gedmatch (as well as tested mtDNA at FTDNA). I have wondered if I should upload to My Heritage and have been following what people are saying. Now that people are saying to give it a try, my question is, should I just upload my DNA, test there (it’s currently on sale), and/or get a subscription? What are the advantages/disadvantages of each of those options? I tried googling it and looking on My Heritage’s site, but couldn’t figure it out.

  18. Hello Roberta! You mentioned Rootsfinder as one of the innovative technologies at the latest RootsTech conference. Will you be writing about their visual triangulation tool? I recently loaded my gedmatch data to use their triangulation tool. the display results are visually very appealing and appears to have a lot of good info. But since I’m “low tech”, I can’t tell if this is just a pretty way to display Ancestry Circles or not (which of course may or may not have accurate trees). My hope was that a white circle in one of the known ancestor couples cluster REALLY means that I’m genetically related to that person via that known ancestor couple due to segment matching. Or does it just mean that their gedcom at gedmatch includes that ancestor couple. Or best case scenario, does the white circle in the known ancestor couple cluster mean that we share segment data AND the ancestor couple? Anyway, I can’t seem to find a blog by a respected researcher to really sort Rootsfinder’s triangulation tool out. And I love your approach to education via blogging. Thought I’d run it by you.

  19. Pingback: 2018 – The Year of the Segment | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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