Before sharing photos and details about the last three days at RootsTech, I want to provide some general observations.
I expected the attendance to be down this year because of the concern about the Novel Corona Virus. There was a lot of hand-washing and sanitizer, but no hand-wringing.
I don’t think attendance was lagging at all. In fact, this show was larger, based on how my feet feel and general crowd observation than ever before. People appeared to be more engaged too.
According to RootsTech personnel, 4 major vendors pulled out the week before the show opened; 23andMe, LivingDNA, FindMyPast and a book vendor.
I doubt there’s much of a refund policy, so surely something happened in these cases. If you recall, LivingDNA and FindMyPast have a business relationship. 23andMe just laid off a number of people, but then again, so did Ancestry but you’d never know it based on the size of their booth and staffing here.
Family Search has really stepped up their game to modernize, capture stories, scan books and otherwise make genealogy interesting and attractive to everyone.
We got spoiled last year with the big DNA announcements at RootsTech, but nothing of that magnitude was announced this year. That’s not to say there weren’t vendor announcements, there were.
- Their myOrigins Version 3.0 which is significantly updated by adding several worldwide populations, increasing the number from 24 to 90. I wrote about these features here.
- Adding a myOrigins chromosome browser painted view. I am SOOO excited about this because it makes ethnicity actually useful for genealogy because we can compare specific ethnicity segments with genealogical matches. I can hardly wait.
Sunny Morton with Family Tree Magazine interviewing Dr. Paul Maier, FamilyTreeDNA’s population geneticist. You can see the painted chromosome view on the screen behind Dr. Maier.
- Providing, after initial release, a downloadable ethnicity estimate segment file.
- Sponsorship of The Million Mito Project, a joint collaborative citizen science project to rewrite the mitochondrial tree of womankind includes team members Dr. Miguel Vilar, Lead Scientist of the National Geographic Genographic Project, Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA, Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Development at FamilyTreeDNA, and me, DNAeXplain, scientist, genetic genealogist, National Geographic Genographic Affiliate Researcher.
I was honored to make The Million Mito Project announcement Saturday morning, but it was hard for me to contain my enthusiasm until Saturday. This initiative is super-exciting and I’ll be writing about the project, and how you can participate, as soon as I get home and recover just a bit.
- Michael Sager, aka Mr. Big Y, announced additions to the Y Tree of Mankind in the Demo Theater, including a particularly impressive haplogroup D split.
In case anyone is counting, as of last week, the Y tree has 26,600+ named branches and over half a million detected (private variant) SNPs at FamilyTreeDNA waiting for additional testers to be placed on the tree. All I can say is WOW!!! In 2010, a decade ago, there were only 441 Y DNA branches on the entire Y tree. The Y tree has shot up from a twig to an evergreen. I think it’s actually a Sequoia and we just don’t know how large it’s going to grow to be.
FamilyTreeDNA stepped up their game with a way-cool new booth that incorporated a lovely presentation area, greatly improved, which featured several guest presenters throughout the conference, including Judy Russell, below.
Yes, in case anyone is wondering, I DID ask permission to take Judy’s picture, AND to publish it in my article. Just sayin’😊
MyHeritage announced their new photo colorization, MyHeritage in Color, just before RootsTech. I wrote about it, here. At RootsTech MyHeritage had more announcements, including:
- Enhancements coming soon to the photo colorization program. It was interesting to learn that the colorization project went live in less than 2 months from inception and resulted from an internal “hack-a-thon,” which in the technology industry is a fun think-tank sort of marathon endeavor where ideas flow freely in a competitive environment. Today, over a million photos have been colorized. People LOVE this feature.
One of their booth giveaways was a magnet – of your colorized ancestor’s photo. Conference attendees emailed the photo to a special email address and came by the booth a few minutes later to retrieve their photo magnet.
The photos on the board in front, above, are the colorized photos waiting for their family to pick them up. How fun!!!
- Fan View for family trees which isn’t just a chart, but dynamic in that you can click on any person and they become the “center.” You can also add to your tree from this view.
One of the views is a colorful fan. If you sign on to your MyHeritage account, you’ll be asked if you’d like to see the new fan view. You can read about the new tree features on their blog, here.
- The release of a MASSIVE 100-year US city directory digitization project that’s more than just imaging and indexing. If you’ve every used city directories, the unique abbreviations in each one will drive you batty. MyHeritage has solved that problem by providing the images, plus the “translation.” They’ve also used artificial intelligence to understand how to search further, incorporating things like spouse, address and more to provide you with not just one year or directory, but linear information that might allow you to infer the death of a spouse, for example. You can read their blog article, here.
The MyHeritage booth incorporated a very cool feature this year about the Mayflower. Truthfully, I was quite surprised, because the Mayflower is a US thing. MyHeritage is working with folks in Leiden, Netherlands, where some Mayflower family members remained while others continued to what would become Plymouth Colony to prove the connection.
MyHeritage constructed a 3D area where you can sail with the Pilgrims.
I didn’t realize at first, but the chair swivels and as you move, your view in the 3D “goggles” changes to the direction on board the ship where you are looking.
The voyage in 1620 was utterly miserable – very rough with a great deal of illness. They did a good job of portraying that, but not “too much” if you get my drift. What you do feel is the utter smallness of the ship in the immense angry ocean.
I wonder how many descendants “sailed with their ancestors” on the virtual Mayflower. Do you have Mayflower ancestors? Mine are William Brewster, his wife, Mary and daughter, Patience along with Stephen Hopkins and his son, Gyles.
Ancestry’s only announcements were:
- That they are “making things better” by listening and implementing improvements in the DNA area. I’ll forego any commentary because it would be based on their failure to listen and act (for years) about the absence of segment information and a chromosome browser. You’ve guessed it, that’s not mentioned.
- That the WWII young man Draft Registration cards are now complete and online. Truthfully, I had no idea that the collection I was using online wasn’t complete, which I actually find very upsetting. Ancestry, assuming you actually are listening, how about warning people when they are using a partially complete collection, meaning what portion is and is not complete.
- Listing content record additions planned for 2020 including the NYC birth index and other state and international records, some of which promise to be very useful. I wonder which states the statewide digitization projects pertain to and what that means, exactly.
OK, now we’re done with vendor announcements, so let’s just take a walk around the expo hall and see who and what we find. We might run into some people you know!
I sandwiched my walking around in-between my sessions. Not only did I present two RootsTech classes, but hosted the ToolMaker Meetup, attended two dinners, two lunches, announced The Million Mito Project, did two booth talks, one for FamilyTreeDNA and one for WikiTree, and I think something else I’ve forgotten about. Plus, all the planned and chance meetings which were absolutely wonderful.
Oh yes, and I attended a couple of sessions myself as an attendee and a few in the vendors booths too.
The great thing, or at least I think its great, is that most of the major vendors also have booth educational learning opportunities with presentation areas at their booths. Unfortunately, there is no centralized area where you can find out which booths have sessions, on what topics, when. Ditto for the Demo Theater.
Of course, that means booth presentations are also competing for your time with the regular sessions – so sometimes it’s really difficult to decide. It’s sort of like you’re awash in education for 4 days and you just can’t absorb enough. By Saturday, you’re physically and emotionally exhausted and you can’t absorb another iota, nor can you walk another step. But then you see someone you know and the pain in your feet is momentarily forgotten.
Please note that there were lots of other people that I saw and we literally passed, hugged and waved, or we were so engrossed in conversation that I didn’t realize until later that I had failed to take the photo. So apologies to all of those people.
I gave a presentation in the WikiTree booth about how to incorporate WikiTree into your 52 Ancestor stories, both as a research tool and as a way to bait the hook for cousins. Not to mention seeing if someone has already tested for Y or mtDNA, or candidates to do so.
That’s Amy Johnson Crow who started the 52 Ancestors challenge years ago, on the left and Mags Gaulden who writes at Grandma’s Genes and is a WikiTree volunteer (not to mention MitoY DNA.) Amy couldn’t stay for the presentation, so of course, I picked on her in her absence! I suspect her ears were burning. All in a good way of course.
Kevin Borland of Borland Genetics, swabbing at the Family Tree DNA booth, I hope for The Million Mito Project.
Daniel Horowitz with MyHeritage at the blogger dinner. How about that advertising on his laptop lid. I need to do that with DNAexplain. Wonder where I can get one of those decals custom made.
Hasani Carter who I know from Facebook and who I discovered volunteering in a booth at RootsTech. I love to see younger people getting involved and to meet people in person. Love your dreads, Hasani.
Cousin Randy Seaver who writes at Genea-Musings, daily, and has for YEARS. Believe it or not, he has published more than 13,000 articles, according to the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Dear Myrtle at RootsTech. What an incredible legacy.
If you don’t already subscribe (it’s free), you’re missing out. By the way, I discovered Randy was my cousin when I read one of his 52 Ancestors articles, recognizing that his ancestor and my ancestor had the same surname in the same place. He knew the connection. Those articles really work. Thanks Randy – it was so good to see you again.
The University of Dundee booth, with Sylvia Valentine and Pat Whatley, was really fun. As part of their history and genealogy curriculum (you an earn certificates, bachelors and masters degrees,) they teach paleography, which, in case you are unaware is the official word for deciphering “ancient handwriting.” You didn’t know that’s what you’d been doing did you?
They provided ink and quills for people to try their own hand.
The end of the feather quill pen is uneven and scratchy. Pieces separate and splatter ink. You can’t “write,” you draw the letters very, very carefully and slowly. I must say, my “signature” is more legible than normal.
I now have a lot more empathy for those scribes. It’s probably a good thing that early records are no worse than they are.
Gilad Japhet at the MyHeritage luncheon. I have attended other vendor sponsored (but paid by the attendee) lunches at RootsTech in the past and found them disappointing, especially for the cost. Now MyHeritage is the only sponsored lunch that I attend and I always enjoy it immensely. Yes, I arrived early and sat dead center in front.
I also have a confession to make – I was so very excited about being contacted by Mary Tan Hai’s son that I was finishing colorizing the photos part of the time while Gilad was talking. (I did warn him so he didn’t think I was being rude.) But it’s HIS fault because he made these doggone photos so wonderful – and let’s just say time was short to get the photos to Mary’s family. You can read this amazing story, here.
Gilad always shares part of his own personal family story, and this time was no different. He shared that his mother is turning 85 soon and that the family, meaning her children and grandchildren all teamed up to make her a lovely video. Trust me, it was and made us all smile.
I’m so grateful for a genealogy company run by a genealogist. Speaking of that, Gilad’s mother was a MyHeritage board member in the beginning. That beginning also included a story about how the MyHeritage name came to be, and how Gilad managed to purchase the domain for an unwilling seller. Once again, by proxy, his mother entered into the picture. If you have the opportunity to hear Gilad speak – do – you won’t be disappointed. You’ll hear him speak for sure if you attend MyHeritage LIVE in Tel Aviv this October.
Paul Woodbury who works for Legacy Tree Genealogists, has a degree in both family history and genetics from BYU. He’s standing with Scott Fisher (left). Paul’s an excellent researcher and the only way you can put him to work on your brick wall is through Legacy Tree Genealogists. If you contact them for a quote, tell them I referred you for a $50 discount.
From The ToolMaker’s Meetup, at far left, Jonny Pearl of DNAPainter, behind me, Dana Leeds who created The Leeds Method, and at right, Rob Warthen, the man behind DNAGedcom. Thanks to Michelle Patient for the photo.
The meetup was well received and afforded people an opportunity to meet and greet, ask questions and provide input.
In fact, we’re working on recruiting the next generation. I have to say, my “grandma” kicked in and I desperately wanted to hold this beautiful baby girl. What a lovely family. Of course, when I noticed the family name is Campbell, we had a discussion of a different nature, especially since my cousin, Kevin Campbell and I were getting ready to have lunch. We will soon find out if Heidi’s husband is our relative, which makes her and her daughter our relative too!
It was so much fun to sit and develop a research plan with Kevin Campbell. We’re related, somehow on the Campbell line – we just have to sort out when and where.
Bless Your Heart
The photo I cherish most from RootsTech 2020 is the one that’s not pictured here.
A very special gentleman told me, when I asked if we could take a picture together, after he paid me the lovely compliment of saying that my session was the best one he had ever attended, that he doesn’t “do pictures.” Not in years, literally. I thought he was kidding at first, but he was deadly seriously.
The next day, I saw him again a couple of times and we shares stories. Our lives are very different, yet they still intersected in amazing ways. I feel like I’ve known him forever.
Then on the last day, he attended my Million Mito presentation and afterwards came up and told me a new story. How he had changed his mind, and what prompted the change of heart. Now we have a wonderful, lovely photo together which I will cherish all the more because I know how special it is – and how wonderful that makes me feel.
To my friend – you know who you are – thank you! You have blessed my heart. Bless yours😊
The Show Floor
I think I actually got all the way through the show floor, but I’m not positive. In some cases, the “rows” weren’t straight or had dead ends due to large booths, and it was possible to miss an area. I didn’t get to every booth I wanted to. Some were busy, some I simply forgot to take photos.
You can literally find almost anything.
I focused on booths related to genetic genealogy, but not exclusively.
Jonny Perl and the DNAPainter booth. I’ve written lots of articles, here, about using DNAPainter, one of my very favorite tools.
The RootsTech store was doing a brisk business.
The RootsTech show area itself had a DNA Basics area which I thought was brilliant in its simplicity.
Inheritance is show by jellybeans.
Put a cup under the outlet and pull the lever.
How many of which color you receive in your cup is random, although you get exactly the same number from the maternal and paternal side.
Now you know I wanted to count these, don’t you?
And they are of course, called, “JellyGenes.” Those must be deletions still laying in the bin.
WikiTree booth and volunteers. I love WikiTree – it’s “one great tree” is not perfect but these are the people, along with countless others that inject the “quality” into the process.
MitoYDNA with Kevin Borland standing in front of the sign.
This amazing artist whose name I didn’t get. I was just so struck by her work, painting her ancestor from the picture on her phone.
I wish I was this talented. I would love to have some of my ancestor’s painted. Hmm….
Jeanette at GeneaCreations makes double helix zipper pulls, along with lots of other DNA bling, and things not so blingy for men. These are just SOOO cool.
I particularly love my “What’s Your Haplogroup” t-shirt and my own haplogroup t-shirt. Yes, she does custom work. What’s your haplogroup? You can see those goodies here.
Around the corner, I found CelebrateDNA.
Is that a Viking wearing a DNA t-shirt?
CelebrateDNA has some very cool “Day of the Dead” bags, t-shirts and mouse pads, in addition to their other DNA t-shirts. I bought an “Every day is Day of the Dead for Genealogists” mouse pad which will live permanently in my technology travel bag. You can see their other goodies, here.
Hey, I think I found a relative. Can we DNA test to see?
The Mayflower Society had a fun booth with a replica model ship.
Along with the list of passengers perched on a barrel of the type that likely held food or water for the Pilgrims.
Legacy Family Tree Webinars is going to have a 24-hour Genealogy Webinar Marathon March 12-13. So, who is going to stay up for this?Iit’s free and just take a look at the speakers, and topics, here. I’m guessing lots of people will take advantage of this opportunity. You can also subscribe for more webinars, here.
On March 4th, I’m presenting a FREE webinar, “3 Genealogy DNA Case Studies and How I Solved Them,” so sign up and join in!
Food at RootsTech falls into two categories. Anything purchased in the convention center meaning something to stave off starvation, and some restaurant with friends – the emphasis being on friends.
A small group went for pizza one evening when we were too exhausted to do anything else. Outside I found this interesting street art – and inside Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana I had the best Margarita Pizza I think I’ve ever had.
Then, as if I wasn’t already stuffed to the gills, attached through a doorway in the wall is Capo Gelateria Italiana, creators of artisan gelato. I’ve died and gone to heaven. Seriously, it’s a good thing I don’t live here.
Who says you can’t eat ice cold gelato in the dead of winter, outside waiting for the Uber, even if your insides are literally shivering and shaking!! It was that good.
This absolutely MUST BE a RootsTech tradition.
That’s it for RootsTech 2020. Hope you’ve enjoyed coming along on this virtual journey and that you’ve found something interesting, perhaps a new hint or tool to utilize.
I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.
Thank you so much.
DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- FamilyTreeDNA – Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testing
- MyHeritage DNA – ancestry autosomal DNA only, not health
- MyHeritage DNA plus Health
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload – transfer your results from other vendors free
- AncestryDNA – autosomal DNA only
- 23andMe Ancestry – autosomal DNA only, no Health
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
Genealogy Products and Services
- MyHeritage FREE Tree Builder – genealogy software for your computer
- MyHeritage Subscription with Free Trial
- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – genealogy and DNA classes, subscription based, some free
- Legacy Family Tree Software – genealogy software for your computer
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – professional genealogy research
Fun DNA Stuff
- Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items
Roberta, WOW, your passion is only overshadowed by your enthusiasm which becomes contagious. This was a great virtual tour of the conference. I felt as if a part of me attended. Yes the 1600’s migrations claimed many lives. My guy, john taylor, survived the Winthrop fleet (Massachusetts Bay Colony) but none of his immediate family survived. Then he drowned on the Ghost Ship of New Haven (shortly after having children) . Oh well, Longfellow dedicated a poem to the incident. I’m really glad I knew nothing of this when I was on active duty in the USCG.
Looks like you had a great time! I recognize a few people in the pics. I saw your WikiTree demo and commented on Facebook. It was a little hard for me to hear. But, it was still really cool. Glad everyone had a great time!
I am kind of wondering about that VR boat. It sounds like fun. Last time I did a VR thing was at Dave and Buster’s and that was a Jurassic World ride. There would be no dinosaurs on the Mayflower ride. But, I’m sure I’d still be shaking afterward! It’s weird. I don’t get motion sickness. My body just felt like it was rocking for a while after I got off of the ride.
Pro tip: Any time is a good time for gelato. That looks so good! Probably a good thing I don’t live there, too. Though, we do have quite a few gelato places around here. =)
Thanks for the tour. Sounds like a great time. BTW we connect on the Dodson line. So glad I found your blog.
Check and see if we are a DNA match!!!
Thank you for this wonderful review of the event! I wish I could have been there. It seems to have been a great show with lots of information and interesting stories.
Yes! I did enjoy coming along with you to Roots Tech 2020…..
Thank you so much for the virtual Roots Tech journey, Roberta.
My goodess, what stamina you have! I am particularly pleased to hear about the new mtDNA initiative. Miguel Villar will probably have lots of data from the Helix version of the Genographic Project to add to the already large FTDNA database.
I’m super excited too. But trust me, I’m paying for this today:)
I’m also a “cousin” of Randy Seaver, a sixth cousin, once removed. Here is our common ancestor: https://www.geneamusings.com/2019/07/52-ancestors-week-288-496-frederick.html. Frederick Zafrin (Sovereign), our common ancestor, was the progenitor of my family name and I carry his Y-DNA. I first ran across Randy more than a few years ago when I started researching for other descendants of Frederick. I **think** I may have messaged Randy back then but am not positive and have never met him or spoken with him. In any event, I was able to use some of his research that he had made publicly available. I’m sure that you are very, very likely related to him through another ancestor, but I’d be interested to know if you and I were possibly cousins as well.
It was great to meet you in person, and again, I wanted to say thank you for putting together that Meet the DNA Toolmakers thing! It’s so neat to hear the people who make the tools I use every day talk about their motivations and plans for the future. It’d be like a carpenter talking to the guy that invented the hammer. Wish I’d thought to ask Rob and Jonny whether there are plans to Open Source either of their tools, or some other non-monetary way that we can help with their unending to-do lists. 🙂
I had to smile when I read about your Stephen Hopkins ancestor. I grew up being told that Mayflower Stephen Hopkins was my ancestor. It wasn’t until I started researching my own genealogy that I noticed MY Rhode Island Hopkins didn’t seen related. Then I found an article saying that the RI Hopkins had always claimed they were related but it wasn’t so. Two different Hopkins families from different parts of England. So it goes.
Thanks for taking us along at RootsTech.
Roberta, what an excellent post! I just relived the whole conference as I walked through the vendor hall in your photos. Great job!
It was so lovely to meet you in person.
Hi Roberta – I would be really interested if you have email contact details for the two ladies from the University of Dundee. We have one Swan line from the former Danish Virgin Islands that I think came from Dundee. I have dug a fair amount out on the history of the town, but these two ladies are bound to know more. Potentially I think we have a really good story here. But you need access to records in London as well as in Dundee to be able to tell it.
I also have one set comments on RootsTech, which I would like to share 1:1 with you, probably best by email.
Brian P. Swann
I look forward to hearing from you Brian.
I did like your overall review, as I am unlikely to ever get there.
Not your baby – but I do wonder if Mags has approached Ian Logan on the mtDNA front and what the outcome was. My guess is that Ian would not give up his huge amount of work on mtDNA sequences that easily, as it is his baby.
I’m thinking I should have gone to Rootstech this year. I’ve avoided it the past couple years because of the crowds. I’m signed up for NGS in May. Any chance you’ll be going back to Salt Lake for NGS?
Not attending NGS this year.
Have you heard why 23&Me and the other three you mentioned pulled out at the last minute? I was at the conference too and did notice their absence. Do you think they’ll return in future years?
I don’t know.
Roberta, I did not attend the conference but from all of your informaton it appers to have been a great one…..Glad to see so much information..
Roberta, I always strongly recommend your blog every time I give a local genealogy presentation on DNA. Thanks for the great report. You and my husband are distant cousins in two ways — he is also descended from both the Hopkins and Brewsters on the Mayflower. His twin sister lives in the family home built in the mid-to-late 1700s in Brewster, Mass.
Curious about LivingDNA and FindMyPast pulling out. I found LivingDNA’s results very interesting as well as accurate about the one English line whose whereabouts I know. Hope it’s not a sign of trouble, I think the way they’ve built their DNA reference pool is brilliant.
I wonder if your husband shares DNA with my mom. Where has he tested?
I need to come and visit Plymouth colony and relevant locations. I don’t know if this would be a good year or a bad year with many tourists.
This was an informative and fun writeup. Thanks so much for going to the trouble to give us a glimpse into what Roots Tech was like this year. I enjoyed myself when I went in 2018.
It was so lovely to spend a few minutes with you after the DNA experts panel. Thank you for putting it together! You’ll be happy to hear that I bought a Y-DNA test for my father in law, now I just have to wait until the next time he is in town to get him to take it. Campbell cousins unite! 😘
On a different note, I’m glad you mentioned the importance of including the next generation in genealogy. I just joined a team whose mission is to provide ideas, tools and resources for children of all ages. I’ll have to pick your brain later on how we can get them interested and involved in genetic genealogy.
Thank you for your wonderful write up on RootsTechtech.
Well, Roberta, I’m sitting here writing my blog post about the conference. I certainly didn’t take near as many good pictures as you did. I’ll post my photos, but I will also be linking to your blog and telling my readers to take a look. Excellent summary of a wonderful week. Next time maybe you and I can meet in person. Until then…I’ll keep reading your blog 🙂
I can’t believe how many of us were there and didn’t get to meet. But it was HUGE!!
Will FTDNA’s chromosome painting feature be released before the end of this year 2021 I wonder?