Customize Your RootsTech Conference: 96 DNA Sessions to Choose From!

Some of the RootsTech Connect 2021 speakers. Courtesy of FamilySearch and the speakers, of course.

We should have been in Salt Lake City this past week, but alas, we’ll all be getting together virtually instead during February 25-27.

As much as I regret not being able to see people, in person, (boy, do I ever miss that), there are GOOD things about RootsTech this year.

This year’s RootsTech Connect is virtual, so we DO get to attend. We haven’t lost out entirely. The conference is entirely free, and every session was recorded by the presenters. As you watch these sessions, say a thank you to the presenters, because trust me, the recording experience (which took days) was an adventure most of us don’t exactly want to repeat.

RootsTech Connect 2021 has been a learning experience for everyone and I want to say a huge, HUGE, thank you to FamilySearch and the team who has been working diligently trying to figure out the inner machinations of something this gargantuan! To use one of their analogies, on a call someone said that it’s like they are designing the airplane as they are flying. I’d say that’s a pretty apt description.

Virtual means that you can register and watch at your own convenience. As badly as I do want to see everyone in 2022 in Salt Lake, I really hope RootsTech records the sessions there and offers them afterward. The combination of free and online on-demand has dramatically extended the RootsTech reach which means more genealogists and more DNA testers – both of which are a good thing.

Not everyone can go to Salt Lake City and the sheer number of people who have registered bears testimony to the popularity of an inclusive event. Normally, there are about 40K people that attend RootsTech in person. There are already more than a quarter-million people registered this year and we still have several days to go. Of course, everyone can afford RootsTech this year, because it’s entirely free and no travel is required.

If you haven’t yet registered, you can do so here.

Who’s Attending?

After you register, you can see how many of your relatives, at least according to your FamilySearch tree, are also attending Rootstech 2021.

During, but not before the conference begins, you’ll be able to see who those cousins are and communicate back and forth.

This is the link to see how many of your relatives have registered.

On this same page, if you scroll towards the bottom, you can see how many people with a particular surname are registered.

During the conference, you’ll be able to message back and forth with friends and relatives. Maybe they’ve DNA tested, and if not, maybe they would like to! If the past is any indication, FamilySearch shows you how you are related to each relative. It functions similarly to their fun “Famous Relative” app. (Insert appropriate grain-of-salt, verify everything warning here.)

You know you want to type in your “difficult” surnames to see if maybe, just maybe, someone with that surname is attending😊.


This year’s conference is unique because it will run 24×7. Of course, staff, attendees, and exhibitors can’t stay up for 3 days straight and be anything resembling coherent – but it’s always daytime someplace in the world. I can’t help but see the image in my mind of RootsTech rotating around the world.


The session format has changed this year. Most sessions are 20 minutes, not an hour. Think genealogy TED talks from your favorite presenters. There are a few advanced sessions that are an hour in length.

For example, my session, DNA Triangulation: What, Why, and How was just too in-depth for 20 minutes or even two 20-minute sessions, so it’s the traditional hour-long session.

We’ll cover a lot in that time, beginning with a definition of triangulation, why you want to use triangulation, how triangulation works, and an overview of how to use triangulation at each vendor. I hope you’ll plan on attending.

A Plethora of Riches

There are more than 800 RootsTech sessions in total, in a multitude of languages, including some also presented in American Sign Language.

You can take a look at the sessions in English and ASL, here. The list of sessions in other languages will be available soon.

Furthermore, there will be an open chat session for each class where you can ask questions. Each presentation will have a chat room monitor answering questions, and the presenter will drop in from time to time during the three conference days.


I printed all 18 pages and I’m customizing a conference for myself. The good news is that we’re not constrained to three days because we can watch sessions later.

I have to tell you, when I’m at RootsTech, I do use the mobile conference app to schedule the sessions I want to see, but the show is draining and I meet so many people I want to talk to. That means I often don’t get to see several speaker sessions that I planned to attend.

This year, everyone will have the option to see every single session!

I’m planning to make “the conference” a bit festive for myself. I’m going to set my laptop up in my quilt studio, not in my office, so I can be “off work.”

Yes, I’ll be quilting and conferencing at the same time. And if I can’t do both simultaneously, then at least I’ll be enjoying the conference “on pandemic vacation” in another part of my house, away from my office. I think I’ll eat naughty food and chocolate to celebrate too😊.

Now if I could just find some of those lovely hot roasted almonds and kettle corn that we can smell wafting throughout the convention center…but I digress.

No Set “Schedule”

There is no conference “schedule,” per se. Registrants will sign in to the conference and be able to participate in a multitude of activities. You’ll be able to watch keynotes on the main state, listen to speaker sessions, visit the expo hall or the DNA Basics Learning Center, and more.

Many vendors will be sponsoring free sessions too in their booths, along with providing the opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers always appear on the Main Stage, the largest auditorium space in Salt Lake City.

This year, you’ll join the “Main Stage” area in the virtual conference to watch the keynote speakers. These sessions will be recorded and repeat too.

Click to enlarge

Notice the time conversion chart.

Hint – I have a World Clock on my phone, which I use to figure out what time it is in other locations. Furthermore, you can schedule an appointment in your calendar if you want to be “present” for a particular session or event and set an alert to remind you a few minutes in advance.

You can read about the keynote speakers, here.

The Expo Hall

The Expo Hall, or the show floor, is one of my favorite parts of RootsTech. I love to see what’s new along with vendor-specific presentations in their booths. Vendors will be hosting presentations this year too, although you’ll need to check out the Expo Hall and the show floor for yourself to see who is hosting sessions, when, and which ones you might like to attend. Pay close attention, because vendor sessions may NOT be available later.

Of course, vendors will be anxious to answer your questions and glad to sell you some of their wares. These companies need our support right now.

RootsTech DNA Basics Learning Center

After the Expo Hall opens, you’ll have access to the DNA Basics Learning Center that will offer additional DNA sessions focused on beginners. This is IN ADDITION to the regular conference sessions.

These 20-minute back-to-basics sessions have been contributed by volunteers to provide a foundation of genetic genealogy education. The schedule is being finalized, but I can tell you that there are more than 35 sessions.

You’ll find educators you’re familiar with, and probably some new people too.

You might have already guessed that I’ve recorded a session for the Learning Center: Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors and Where They Came From.

Like with the other sessions, there will be an online chat forum for these sessions too.

There will be a schedule, but the classes will all be available afterward in the “on-demand” library. How cool is that!

There’s More…

There’s more too. Volunteers in the genealogy community have recorded what I would call bite-sized tidbits of genealogy goodness. I’m not sure exactly what they are officially called, but I know they’re mini-classes that will be available during the conference. Think genealogy Brownie Bites.

Between the regular sessions, the DNA Learning Center, the genealogy mini-classes, and vendor presentations, one of the FamilySearch folks said they are processing 1800+ recorded presentations. I can’t even begin to imagine what they are dealing with! But from an attendee’s perspective, this is a smorgasbord so long you can’t see the end.

Customizing Your Personal Conference Plan

I counted 59 DNA sessions on the regular Session list, plus 37 or so in the DNA Basics Learning Center. Not included in that total are sessions on the non-English list yet to be released, vendor presentations, and mini-sessions.

You could watch just DNA sessions for days and days.

It’s ironic that a few years ago, we couldn’t get even one DNA session on the agenda of most conferences – and now, I don’t even recognize all the speakers presenting about DNA topics. DNA has become a mainstream, fundamental, inextricable tool for genealogy. I suspect genetic genealogy will have a supporting role, maybe making a cameo appearance in other sessions too.

I hope that everyone enjoys the conference and fine-tunes techniques for using DNA to increase genealogy effectiveness. Confirm your ancestors, meet new cousins and break down those brick walls.

Print the Session list and the Learning Center list when it’s released, and create a customized conference for yourself. My personal conference will assuredly be longer than three days.

I think after the actual RootsTech conference, I’ll probably select one or two sessions each day and schedule them on my calendar. RootsTech 2021 might just last all year.



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25 thoughts on “Customize Your RootsTech Conference: 96 DNA Sessions to Choose From!

  1. Hi Roberta,
    I just got the DNA Booth schedule. Looks like I can’t send it to you here. I have 3 short videos on DNA Painter there. Let me know how I can get the schedule to you.


  2. I registered back in the fall, I think through the RootsTech website. When I go to the link to opt-in to the relatives feature, it’s prompting me to register again. Is there any way to connect my current registration to my FamilySearch account, or did I do something wrong? I’m hesitant to create a duplicate registration.

  3. Thank you so much for all your hard work! I never have attended RootsTech. I registered when the free online opportunity first was announced. I am so excited! I see that I have 11,703 relatives attending. I’m taking off work so I can really take advantage of the experience. I never would do that to travel to Salt Lake City and spend a lot of money (although the skiing in the nearby resorts is great!)

    • I only began attending 4 years ago. I couldn’t imagine going to SLC in the dead of winter and thinking it was fun. I don’t ski. Now, I’m missing the people and energy desperately. I’m so grateful we can participate online together.

  4. Why aren’t the schedules available on the Rootstech website. I’ve only found them from your FB announcement. Also, I registered when it was first announced along with my husband and now we are requested to register again.

    • I think you’ll need to sign in when RootsTech arrives. I don’t Janis shy the schedule isn’t up yet. Like they said, constructing this as they go.

  5. Here are a few questions answered for those who are interested. A PDF (printable) schedule can be downloaded from the following website:

    A member of the RootsTech management team told me that they hope for people to be able go begin signing up for classes by Wednesday at the latest. That gives us all 24 hours or more to sign up for whichever classes we’ve selected from the above PDF.

    An interesting article about Jen Allen, the force behind RootsTech, can be found on the FamilySearch blog. Here’s a link to the post:

    Register for RootsTech here:

    The link to their “Speaker Resource Page” doesn’t work but the PDF above should provide all you need. Scroll to the bottom of the main RootsTech page where you can enter your email address to receive their newsletters.

    Don’t forget to sign up for “Relatives At RootsTech” to see how you’re related to thousands of other RootsTech participants around the world. Here’s that link:

  6. I just signed in to Family Search, put in my info, etc. Now I see “The original invitation has expired.
    Share a new invitation to Roberta Estes 1.

    Then we’ll send you a notification with the results. You can also visit during the conference, February 25–27, to check your friend list.”
    There’s a button to click to “share a new invitation”. Not sure why. Should I click it? Thanks.

  7. I’m looking forward to it!
    Living in Eastern Europe, I have never been able to attend the real RootsTech.
    It will be a big pleasure to join the virtual one.

  8. I signed up but am not sure when the various workshops are scheduled. I notice that your list does not include times or dates… I registered a few days ago and am hoping for more info I can plan before the program begins.. any idea on time/dates for the various dna programs

    • There is no schedule because they are pre-recorded and you can watch them any time after the conference opens. You can also watch them later. However, the chats for each session will only be available during the conference days.

      • Thank you…. I thought perhaps some were live with questions and then taped version would be available later. Seems like you only need a start date.. vs a scheduled 3 day period.

        • Nothing live except maybe the vendors. That’s why everyone needs to check the vendor booths once they open (which is 4 hours before the conference,) because their sessions aren’t on the presentation schedule.

  9. My goodness Roberta, we are 10th cousins with the MRCA of Teunis Nijssen and Phoebe Sales! No wonder I like your blog so much and recommend it in all my local presenter sessions about DNA! Thanks for all your always-great information.

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