RootsTech Day 4 – My Inner Child…and Genealogist

Who scheduled the party last night from 8-11 and then breakfast this morning at 7AM, anyway? Did they think they were being funny? And that breakfast is in the furthest possible corner room of the conference center, not my hotel. I suppose showing up in jammies would be frowned upon, although I see that at Walmart all the time…but I digress.

Yes, the sun was just peeking out on the way to the MyHeritage Friends breakfast. You’ll just have to forgive me for no photos at that breakfast. My brain was just not working yet. I’m fine at 2AM, but 7AM, to me, is like the middle of the night to most people.

The MyHeritage Friends breakfast was to facilitate communication between the company and the community with a representative of MyHeritage at every table to answer questions and listen. Feedback was really positive, overall.

FamilySearch and LivingDNA sponsored breakfasts too, but the only one I attended was todays. Meal events are by invitation (or ticket purchase) only because let’s face it, they have to control the number of attendees and companies generally view these meals as a give-and-take public relations event.

After the breakfast, the expo hall wasn’t open. Nothing was open yet. I went back to the hotel to prep for what turned out to be an entire day of embracing my inner child.

My plan was to visit the Family History Library, but before I did, I still had not managed to connect with at least two people or vendors I wanted to talk to.

Remember my friend Josh Hall from day 1?  Upon returning to the conference center, I spotted Josh and let’s just say that he looked very interesting.

I asked Josh what was up with the new makeup design. I did recall that he has a 2 year old at home, but, even so, this isn’t exactly what I expected to see Josh wearing – although his makeup color was coordinated perfectly with his outfit.

Josh told me the conference was sponsoring free face painting, given that Saturday was Family Day – and offered to show me where this was happening. He said adults could be painted too and suggested this might be a good idea for me.  Now you all know how straight-laced, reserved and non-adventurous I am. Right?

I’ve never had my face painted, but there’s a first time for everything and it sounded like fun.

No one expects me to behave normally anyway!

There were an entire group of face painters at the bottom of the entry stairs.  The wait was only about 10 minutes, which, compared to later, was NOTHING.

At the bottom of the steps, you selected your design elements so that you were ready for the face painter when it was your turn.

The face-painter’s station looks like this.

My face painter, Denise Cold whose business is Painted Party, is actually an artist who teaches face painting as well as hosting parties.

First, she applied a “base” of some type to my skin. I know they were trying not to do custom work, but when I showed Denise my double helix necklace and told her why I wanted a helix incorporated, she said it was no problem at all.

Denise and I together with the result – it was amazing.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this. The double helix curves behind the flower and out the bottom again.

I had so much fun wearing this all day!

If you want to see a closeup, here goes…

The next place I stopped was the WikiTree booth to get two words in edgewise with Mags Gaulden.

I met her at the Family Tree DNA conference in November and she, like me, is a DNA junkie.

WikiTree is a great collaborative resource. I’ve given WikiTree volunteers permission to experiment with my tree and their tools including any DNA results they need. Haplogroups and DNA results are populated up trees, if the user provides their DNA information, and is confirmed when multiple individuals from the common ancestor have tested with confirming results.

I’m not terribly cracked up about collaborative trees in general, but WikiTree does provide volunteer dispute resolution based on documentation and sources.  Be still my heart!

I just love this photo of Mags and me, clearly in our element.  I can’t wait to see Mags again in November at this year’s Family Tree DNA conference.

By the way, today’s DNA outfit is my ethnicity painted on my chromosomes utilizing the GedMatch ethnicity results, made into a tunic.

And yes, someone did give me a “dork” ribbon.  They didn’t have any “DNA” or “nerd” ribbons.  Hmmm, an idea I might have to do for next year!  What do you think?

No, wait…I said I’m not going to RootsTech again…

I forgot.

The next place I wanted to find was the WordPress booth.

If you don’t know, this blog is a WordPress blog – meaning it uses the WordPress blogging platform. I’ve written about how to blog using WordPress.

I specifically wanted to ask a couple question, so I was very pleased to meet Happiness Engineer, Anna.

Yes, that is actually what they call their engineers and customer support people.  And I have to tell you, they earn this title and they are AWESOME.

I’ve had a number of people mention that they’d like to migrate an existing blog off of the Blogger platform, and WordPress says they provide a very easy migration tool now.

I also had a couple suggestions for enhancing WordPress, and maybe, just maybe, we might work on something collaboratively focused specifically for genealogists.

Now, I’m finally ready for the big adventure.

The Family History Library

I intentionally waited until Saturday to visit the Family History Library (FHL). I’m really not a fan of extremely large crowds. I knew that on Saturday, RootsTech opens the doors to all LDS and children for free, in addition to the paid conference attendees, and Saturday would be even more crowded and insane that Wed-Fri had already been.

One of the RootsTech people told me later on Saturday that they had more than 40,000 people.

I also hoped that RootsTech just down the street meant there would be fewer people at the FHL, which is located just about a block and a half from the convention center.

On the way, I walked by the Contemporary Art Museum, and not all art was inside.

No, I don’t know why. It’s art, there doesn’t have to be a why.

Across from the FHL is Temple Square. I did not have time for a tour. Somehow the tree in front seems fitting.

In front of the library are trees that drop these seed pods. Of course spring is approaching (or was that day, even though winter returned on Sunday) and the seeds will soon be scattered to the wind, nestling in fertile soil.

These seeds are just like we are, members of families – seeds, scattered to the wind, rooted elsewhere and then coming home to the library to find our ancestors.

Yes, I know, sappy, but that’s how I was feeling.

I’m not Mormon, but I’m a 40-year genealogist this year.  I’ve never been to Salt Lake City before. Visiting the FHL is kind of like the pilgrimage to Mecca for genealogists.

For me, this is a big deal.

You KNEW I was going to take the obligatory selfie, of course, in front of that iconic doorway to the past.

Come on in with me!

The library is 5 floors in total, and the entryway hosts exhibits and interactive displays to engage people and generate interest.

How do you like this tree created to absorb sound?  I needed this kind of “family tree” in my house when I had young children.

Why California has more Robertas than any other state is beyond me.

Of more interest to family historians is that today, there are more Estes individuals in Texas than anyplace else. Good place to look for Estes DNA testers. That’s actually not at all what I would have expected, but then again, Texas was, for a long time, a destination location for much of Appalachia.

Now, on to the research floors.

Tom and Chris, my friends so kindly assisting with my German family research had prepared for me a list of records to review. Since films can no longer be ordered in to the local Family History Centers, and not everything is available online (not to mention, indexed) in SLC, in the interim there is no option other than either going physically to SLC yourself, or paying someone else to do so on your behalf.

I spent the first hour talking to one helpful volunteer after another, and by the time I had talked to 4 volunteers and unpacked my laptop bag 4 times, I was finally in the right place for the in-house-only CD reader and then the HD (high density) collection.

Everyone was super friendly and smiled at me. It was only when I remembered that my face was painted that I realized that maybe they weren’t exactly smiling at me, but laughing or at least being amused.  Not one of them said a word. I was struck by how very nice everyone was, not only in the FHC, but in Salt Lake overall.

Let’s just say that 4 hours later, I know several “good candidate” places that my German families weren’t. I keep reminding myself that negative evidence is evidence too – but that’s somehow a bitter pill to swallow.

Nope, not here either. Back to the drawing board.

After I finished with my depressing research, I grabbed a quick bite at the restaurant next door, JB’s, which is surprisingly reasonably priced. That food was far better at less than half the price, and much quicker than the hotel food.

From there, I wanted to say a final goodbye to a couple of folks at RootsTech before the doors closed, so I popped back into the conference center for just a few minutes.

Another family focused event was cultural dancing throughout the day. When I wandered by, a Native dancer was “fancy dancing,” typically performed at powwows, explaining the culture and significance of the dance to several viewers, mostly children.

The dancer’s regalia (they aren’t called costumers) was beautiful. I’m glad to see children (and adults) being educated about cultures other than the one most familiar.

As I walked back to the hotel, the sun was beginning to set over the mountains in the distance.

This scene would be very different from what greeted me a few hours later, the following morning.

What a difference a few hours can make. You certainly can’t see the mountains now.

Sunday was spent making my way home, dealing with delayed flights and other inconveniences. It’s almost midnight now. I’ve been home for almost three hours – and man-alive am I glad to be here.

RootsTech Evaluation

  • Am I glad I went?

Yes, but that’s only after discovering I had to make lemonade out of the situation.

  • Was I disappointed?

Incredibly so, given that check-in was horrendous with hours-long lines followed by sessions that were too full to attend, some full to capacity hours in advance.

  • Did I enjoy the expo hall?

Yes, absolutely! I visited with the vendors and other attendees. For me, this was the saving grace of attending RootsTech. It’s an awfully expensive “reunion” though.

  • Did I get my money’s worth for the ticket?

Absolutely not. If all you can only attend if the expo portion due to overbooking and overcrowding, then they need to sell an expo-only ticket. They have to do something about the two and a half hour check-in wait.

  • Would I recommend RootsTech to others?

Only as long as expectations are set correctly. If you tend towards claustrophobia or don’t do well in large crowded situations or those requiring massive patience, this isn’t the conference for you.

  • What am I going to do about this?

I’m putting together a list of ideas that RootsTech may find useful. I’m not a big fan of complaining without offering solutions. I’ll publish as soon as I assemble the list. If you have ideas, comments or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section.

30 thoughts on “RootsTech Day 4 – My Inner Child…and Genealogist

  1. California would have the most Robertas since it is the most populous state. It would have the most of just about every first name in the USA, since they aren’t very regionally-specific. Surnames are a bit more regionally-specific since they’re tied more to immigration patterns.

  2. Thank you Roberta for sharing your experiences at Roots Tech. I hate crowds, am claustrophobic and despise long lines and long waits so obviously this was not a place for me. But I have really enjoyed the presentations on line and have learned quite a bit from them. Thanks for being our Guinea pig 😉

  3. I’ve enjoyed your daily blogs and although I’ve never been to this conference, I’d say you were a blessing in disguise for Rootstech. Sometimes, it takes someone completely unfamiliar with the process to see the flaws and how some things might be made better. It sounds as though there is a lot to be considered. I hope whomever has control over the whole conference takes note for next year. I’m surprised that it has taken until now for someone to speak up. We have been to Salt Lake City only once and we loved, loved, loved it. I only had 1 hour in the FHC because it wasn’t a planned stop, but it will be the next time. We really want to go back to see more of what we missed. It’s a wonderful city and area to visit.

  4. I, too, was at RootsTech. Have met my “cousins” there each year for several years, now. We all arrived a day or two early to work in the FHL, and all went over to register on Tuesday to “avoid the line”: the four of us – and several thousand other like-minded folks. Portents of things to come! Day 1 of the actual conference was a total nightmare. For the first time, they had volunteers scanning barcodes on badges as people came into sessions – every person – every badge – every session. This was new – and perhaps not a well-thought-out idea, as lines started twisting through lines – sort of double-helix style. By Day 2, they had managed to arrange for two volunteers per door with scanners. Not optimal, but far better than Day 1. I did not get closed out of a single session, but did have to be patient and wait in line. The session presenters were a variable lot, but I was not disappointed. Please do not give up on RootsTech! It has much value, no matter where you are in your genealogical journey.

    • I simply physically cannot stand in line for a long time for each session. I have never had this experience at any other conference and I mean very large conferences outside of the genealogy space included. It has never been necessary and it should not be necessary here either.

  5. Do you have any Lawson’s in your family tree?
    I saw a photo you posted a long time ago that has one of my Lawsons and a Yeary relatives sitting on top of a tall chiminy. What is a URL

  6. Thanks for bringing us along! Love the outfits and face paint. And a special thanks for your evaluation. Sounds like watching the online presentations is a much more cost efficient, realistic option for most of us. Maybe they could offer a subscription for just online viewing of all the presentations???

  7. With the kind of long lines and wait times plus the filled sessions I would have been deeply disappointed as well. I can’t stand that long and if that is the norm they’re going to have to do something about it. You already suggested a sign up for the sessions with a ticket which could be printed (or downloaded to a smart phone?) and taken with for entry to the sessions. I’ve been to a couple trade shows where the registration was done on-line and your show ID badge and tickets, etc. was mailed to you prior to leaving your home, which I found worked very well (first thing into the suitcase). Perhaps the classes/sessions could be offered more than once and at different times. Live streaming or having video available later would be great. I think I’ll probably not make the effort to go to RootsTech and just hope I can visit the library instead (I know it would please me more).

  8. Thank you for updating us, but to be honest Roberta I thought you would be a little bit more adventuresome with the facepaint I visualize you more as a Viking woman warrior or Wonder Woman. They say whats on the outside needs to go through to the inside sometimes. Dont forget to have that holiday break when you return home or your inner self might vanish altogether

  9. Tried so hard to meet you at RootsTech but sadly, it was not to be, I guess. I wanted to ask you which Lentz’s you research as that is my family also. Would love to chat a minute if you get one….I have Lentz in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

  10. Thanks for sharing your painted eye!

    I am 70ish and the two things I want to do before “I change addresses” as Billy Graham said, is to have my face painted and go North to play in the snow.

    Yes, our “inner child” always remains with us.

  11. This was my second genealogy conference ever and for both, I got sick on the second day and didn’t get to do too much, but maybe that was for the better, since the first day in line was exhausting. I think the Salt Palace is just too big for me–maybe scooter rental next time, but I saw groups of scooters waiting for elevators! There are enormous conventions going on all the time so I think they need some expert consultations on things.

  12. Very interesting experience you have had. I also have stopped attending RootsTech. I attended twice – ending with the year that FGS met in the same location and somewhat simultaneously.

    It was clear that the event was likely to overwhelm itself in numbers alone. I recall one day – the Open to ‘public’ day. Was it a Saturday? The staff had been informed by the SLC Fire Dep’t that the conference was over the building’s safe Fire limits! And therefore, was obliged to turn away people. You can only imagine how many people that implies!

    I imagine the whole approach needs to be rethought. The Brits seemed to be able to operate a larger conference – WDYTYA – without such problems. Possibly lessons learnt there could be sought by RT organizers.

    Thank you for your endurance and your observations.

  13. Thank you for these detailed summaries, they opened up a whole lot of new companies, products and ideas to me.

    As a newbie still learning about this DNA genealogy, there are now almost too many products out there for me to understand and choose from. For example, if I can have my family tree on Ancestry, FTDNA, Geni, My Heritage, WikiTree, Gedmatch, RootsFinder, etc, which should I choose and how do I keep them all up-to-date, or even remember where I have put it? If there are so many analysis products, like Gedmatch, DNA Painter, MatchCompare, and so many others, how many will I really find useful?

    If you haven’t done it already, I think your summary of a suitable suite of products that won’t overwhelm a newcomer would be extremely helpful. Just a thought. Thanks.

  14. There were two women my cousin, Sharon, and I met in the lobby at our hotel who had traveled to the Mecca of the Family History Library for going that Saturday in particular just because they thought it would be less crowded during the time RootsTech was happening! We laughed together–still crowded, they said!!

  15. One thought would be to set up local streaming for the sessions that can be done to satellite rooms and allow for discussion in small groups. This would effectively allow the conference to spread out beyond the conference center.

  16. Hi, Roberta. I saw you in the library from a distance and thought you had taken on a sci-fi persona. Now I see the lovely face paint!
    – As far as RootsTech, it seems as if they are trying to reach all audiences at once. One thought is to hold intermediate, advanced and technical sessions Tuesday (not Wednesday) through Friday. Keep Saturday as family day but with only beginner sessions. That way we would have clear expectations about the Saturday crowds and still have a four-day conference.
    – I agree with the thought to send out badges in advance, as I have also experienced at professional conferences.
    – Another annoyance was failure to announce luncheon speakers well in advance. NGS and FGS do that and RT should be able to do so also. When I made my RT registration last fall I was very puzzled by the sparse information about all aspects of the schedule.
    – Lunches were a bit of a nightmare with long lines and no place to sit. Leaving the convention center wasn’t a lot better. Some conference I attended offered a box lunch and had tables to sit at. That would be a nice touch.The schedule for sponsored lunches was way too tight and some people missed sessions because of that.
    – Obviously DNA was a hot topic. Maybe more/repeated DNA sessions would have helped with the overflowing sessions.
    – The ability to watch everything online at a later date would be awesome. I attend a professional conference that does that, but it is expensive to buy that access. We can also buy the entire package of sessions on a flash drive. It’s a $300 investment vs a $2000 conference registration fee. That sort of cost would be out of scope for RT, but maybe $75-$100 would be workable and would reduce the crowds.
    – Badge scanning was definitely a bottleneck. Making people leave rooms just added to the chaos. There has to be a better way. I also felt like my privacy was being infringed by the badge scanning.
    – I have now crossed RootsTech off my bucket list. If enough of us do that, the crowds will be smaller in the future. 🙂

  17. In this new age of “fake news”, it was refreshing to read, “truth be told” evaluations of the RootsTech conference. I wonder if any Russian genetic genealogists made posts about the event on Facebook?

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