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.
After you register, you can see how many of your relatives, at least according to your FamilySearch tree, are also attending Rootstech 2021.
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 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.
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 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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Genealogy Products and Services
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- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – Genealogy and DNA classes, subscription-based, some free
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- Charting Companion – Charts and Reports to use with your genealogy software or FamilySearch
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – Professional genealogy research
- Genealogical.com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books