RootsTech 2021 Day 4: Connect Our Souls

Why do we crazy genealogists do this anyway? More than half a million of us just this week? I wondered if a bunch of people signed up just because RootsTech was free, and then wouldn’t attend, but according to the FamilySearch people in our speaker’s group, that’s not the case.

The official counter stopped updating at the beginning of RootsTech, so we don’t know how many people have actually signed up. I do know that my number of Relatives at RootsTech has increased from 44,337 on the first full day to 57,906 today.

That’s an increase of about 31%. If you extrapolate and multiply the 501,000 people registered when the counter stopped, that means there’s more than 650,000 registrants, 150,000 of whom who signed up during RootsTech.

That’s the approximate size of these US cities:

  • Nashville
  • Detroit
  • Oklahoma City
  • Portland
  • Las Vegas
  • Memphis

Put another way, that’s more than three times the size of Salt Lake City that has about 200,000 residents.

No one, but no one, expected anything like this.


So why do we do this?

It connects our souls.

I want to share with you this amazing, short video, here. This box of found pictures provided photos of ancestors long dead to descendants in an Alaska indigenous community that didn’t even have cameras in the 1950s and 1960s.

Like the man in the video said, genealogy connects our souls. That connection sustains us. Through tough times. Through pandemics. And bridges death. It connects us through the people we know or knew to the ones we didn’t.

That’s why genealogists seek ancestors. We carry part of them in us – their DNA, their eyes, their hands perhaps, their smile and yes, maybe even their souls.

Genealogy, and specifically, DNA helps us to find them. Genetics identifies what parts of us come from them.

DNA Learning Center Activities

Through the DNA Learning Center Activities at RootsTech, I discovered the fun Traits Tree. Check it out. You may learn something you didn’t know about genetic traits. Who else has them in your family?

Who doesn’t love the Jelly Bean (er, I mean Gene) Machine at RootsTech where you can learn about autosomal DNA inheritance?

You can’t eat them this year, but you can still learn about autosomal inheritance in this fun little Jelly Genes app.

You can also connect to Learn.Genetics.

If you want to learn about the science behind DNA, Learn Genetics at the University of Utah has provided this great reference, including classroom materials.

Winding Down

I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’ve only managed to watch 2 or 3 sessions and part of one keynote.

What have I been doing and what have I accomplished? I wonder the same thing.

  • I’ve answered literally hundreds of questions in the chat rooms from my sessions and other rooms where I volunteered. I’m not positive that being able to direct message speakers, especially without notification capability was a good idea. Most people are kind and patient, understanding that this is not a slumber party and speakers, even genealogy speakers, must sleep from time to time. 😊
  • I made a list of all of the Y and mtDNA lines that I need in the closest 7 generations, allowing me to make the best use of my time working with Relatives at RootsTech.
  • I was VERY disappointed to discover that I could only see how the top 300 Relatives at RootsTech were related to me. Personally, I think this is one of the best features. I would LOVE to be able to sort those relatives by ancestor. I was told that this app is better on the phone, so I would hope that the online version could be enhanced to provide what the phone app does for future conferences.
  • Using the app, I discovered a cousin in the Netherlands on my Dutch line that I didn’t know existed. I hope they answer.
  • I built a wonderful playlist for myself. If I watch just one presentation a day, every day, I’ll be done sometime around the first of August with individual sessions, and that’s before I watch the 16 series that have more than one session each.

This is a wonderful gift. Something every single day to look forward to. I can probably watch and listen to some while I’m quilting or cleaning or doing some other task that doesn’t require my full concentration.

I know RootsTech Connect 2021 was different and bumpy and sometimes difficult – for you and trust me, for the speakers too. But it has also been a growing experience.

We’re on the other side of it now. Warriors – and we survived. And you know what – it just might be the best RootsTech yet because it’s not really over.

I hope next year we can all be gathered back together again in Salt Lake City – in person but also incorporating the best of this year of forced change. By that I mean, inclusive so that RootsTech can again be a global event. Wouldn’t you love to actually be able to see the speakers live as they present?


I’ve been sharing my DNA garb with you this week. Today, I’m sharing something a bit different.


I ordered this absolutely stunning woven Kente cloth from Ghana. I’m sure you see the helix.

This cloth represents so much to me, personally.

First, we all descend from Africa.

We are all related.

We are all connected.

We are humankind.

This cloth represents hope to me – reaching into our common past – and extending into the future.

A future that hopefully includes a trip to Salt Lake City for RootsTech next year.

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA and love it so very much is because that is the only avenue we have to connect ourselves back into the distant past – beyond the mists of time. Crossing that veil into antiquity, before surnames and before genealogy as we know it. Yet, it’s there, within our reach and DNA opens that door.

Stretching back and informing us about our family in the distant past. Telling the story of their path, their journey and their struggles that led to us.

We are woven together by the tapestry of life, through our ancestors, both recent and distant. And yes, their DNA is interwoven in us as well. Individual threads of them that created each unique one of us.

Kente cloth at its best.

May your ancestors bring you hope and love and inspiration.

I’ll share with you next year what my ancestors inspire me to do with this wonderful hand-woven fabric that represents their collective lives. Yes, my ancestors walk with me in this way too.

Every. Single. Day.

In Closing

I actually did manage to watch the closing session with Steve Rockwood. He’s not only the FamilySearch CEO, but he’s an incredibly gifted speaker. I don’t want to say more, but I hope you will be able watch even though it’s lengthy.

If you like music and songwriting, this is definitely for you. Music reaches places that words cannot.

One last thing – you absolutely will not get through this final session dry-eyed. “Love me like it’s 1961…..” and that’s just the beginning. Just get the box of Kleenex.

Let me close these four days of RootsTech Connect 2021 by sharing these thoughts.

Give us hope.

We are not alone.

Let us heal.

Connect our souls.



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

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research


30 thoughts on “RootsTech 2021 Day 4: Connect Our Souls

  1. Roberta
    You may want to go back to in person, but that is not possible for most of us. I hope that future events keep this open session system in parallel. I only was able to watch four or five, but all top notch! And even Gerard Corcoran talkings about genetic genealogy in Ireland in French! And the best explanation of the centiMorgan and…

  2. Love the beautiful Kente Cloth that wraps you in warmth and History. Thank you for always keeping us “centered” and up to date on the importance of family and how the lives of our ancestors mattered and still “touch” us today.

  3. Have you tried working with x dna relatives on lines of interest, or is that too frustrating? I found a bunch at rootstech on one line of interest that I tried to recruit to gedmatch, which seems like the only tool for doing x research.

  4. I just updated the FamilySearch app on my Android phone. It now shows a banner to find Relatives at RootsTech. The Filters box on the right offers four choices:
    – All Relatives
    – Group by Ancestor
    – Maternal
    – Paternal

    Group by Ancestors DOES indeed work! It also seems limited to the 300 closest matches, based on the FamilySearch tree. Because three branches of my mother’s family represent much more recent immigration to the US than my other five branches, I see only a total of seven maternal matches, all connected through one pair of great-great-grandparents, and none on any other maternal branches. Of course, as my connections on those other branches are scarce, they’re the ones I would have been most interested in finding, alas.

    I updated the FamilySearch app on my iPad. It does not offer the “Group by Ancestor” filter.

    Thank you AGAIN for an insight I would not have otherwise found! I’ll spend time Monday adding some of the relatives with more obscure connections as “friends” and sending them messages.

    Very best regards,


  5. Some people have made comments to me that it is elitist to try to find your origins but for me the journey was initially just curiosity but the deeper I went the more connected I felt to millions of other people in other countries…so the opposite of elitist.

    I think in human history before the written word and before major, modern religion, we grew up listening to stories about our Ancestors, we celebrated them and were aware of our shared connection to them. I think I have recaptured a little of that.
    I did Ancestry which just seemed to scratch the surface, I got a deeper heritage with My Heritage and found ‘cousins’ all over Europe I shared a DNA link with, they must be way back because I don’t have any ethnicity from the countries where many of them live.

    The other thing I did was upload my Ancestry to FtDNA’s Family Finder and not only do they work out your ethnicity (not got results yet) I got my deeper ethnicity worked out, 44% Farmer, 43% Hunter Gatherer and 13% Metalluagist Invader. That has given me a connection to the various groups in Europe and now I get to think about all the other Ancestors who had different haplogroups than my own direct Maternal and Paternal links. It genuinely is about connecting to our Ancestors, celebrating their incredible survival and their journey’s.

  6. Roberta, you mentioned above that “I would LOVE to be able to sort those relatives by ancestor”…The slider icon to the right of the “all locations” search bar, if clicked, gives the option to sort by ancestor (and sorted maternal/paternal as a further option)… I see you there as 3d cousin 1x removed under descendants of Rachael Levine Hill and Antoine Lord. Thanks for all that you do…

  7. Roberta, if you filter the Find Relatives by location, e.g. by US state or Canadian province then by ancestors you will see some of those that don’t show on the first page.

  8. Thanks again for all your info on RootsTech 2021 — and for your other readers with their comments. (The app is way better than the web page for RAR!) The FamilySearch tree must skew towards colonial U.S. roots (?) — I don’t have a single RAR on my father’s side, and all my connections are through my mom’s maternal grandmother, the only one of my 8 great-grands whose parents were born in the U.S. Interesting, nevertheless.

  9. Thanks for pointing out some great things about RootsTech. Sadly, I have been lost all three days. I keep finding things but then can’t figure out how to get back to them and I have yet to find the DNA Learning Center other than to click thru your blog. I also did not understand why Steve Rockwood’s closing was on Friday instead of Saturday at least that was what I was watching on Friday night tho I did not watch the whole thing because, as you stated, it was long.

    I didn’t think I would like the short genealogy presentations, but I did.

    I found the Relatives at RootsTech frustrating because they would only show 300 at a time and there was no way to scroll thru the first 300 to the 2nd 300. Filters helped a little bit but if I clicked on a country or state/province, like Alberta, it showed there were 292 matches but would only list 280 both numbers being below 300 yet I could not view those last 12.

    I did finally figure out that I could click on their name in the map and then click on relationship. Strangely, for me, on my paternal side all but one person was related to me thru one line. I don’t see how that is even possible but for every match, the MRCA was born in Scotland in the 1700s, the same exact family thru only a handful of different descendants.

    It was also surprising to see how all my foreign matches on my mother’s 3/4 French Canadian side, were all descended from French ancestors, even people in Africa and South America. Guess we are more alike than we think.

    Again, thanks for your VERY informative blogs. i would have missed a whole lot more of RT if I had not read your blog.

    Now back to hunting for what I missed.

  10. Hi Roberta – thank you so much for all the pre- and during information. Your triangulation talk in particular was excellent!

    Unlike so many, I absolutely love the virtual format – no crowds, lines, interminable waits for food, etc. And surprisingly I enjoyed the shorter talks, too. Gave me more time to find others -I now have an enormous playlist. Although I never did find the Learning Center, or at least I don’t think so. Maybe I hit it inadvertently.

    The overall thing I missed was a decent index to all the talks, with times and places. And then links to the “rooms” or places for those talks. Trying to guess what category Family Search would put a particular speaker’s talks in was frustrating, to say the least. The chats were weird – no one ever answered my questions and I couldn’t see the point of most of them. Did enjoy some of the vendor”booths,” though others were confusing.

    Overall – I loved it and the ability to access the talks now for months. Would love to see it virtual again next year. I’d never go to the live one anyway – too croswded and expensive to get there and stay someplace.

    Have a rest – well done!

    • Hi Sandy,
      I had a similar reaction to you tho I missed the socialization that comes with attending an in person conference.
      I agree that the categories were confusing and I also never found the Learning Center or Tips and Tricks except by accident so finding them again proved futile.
      I liked the virtual classes because sometimes I miss something and would love to rewind to hear what I missed and this way I can.
      Not standing in line for lunch was not a problem, because I tended to find food outside the venue and really needed and enjoyed getting outside and exploring downtown Salt Lake.
      There were certainly plenty of positives to this kind of conference.

  11. I love all your blog posts and I even started my own on WP. about my 25 years of researching as well. Hope to get my own site looking beautiful as those of you I follow ! And chalked full of my own research too. Keep doing this wonderful blog of yours as I have moved into not just MY families DNA, but have taken it to the next level of Genetics as well ! 500 Kudos to you !!!

Leave a Reply to Roberta EstesCancel reply