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We can’t say enough how much we love going to RootsTech each year. It’s incredibly uplifting and fulfilling and we are truly grateful for each experience we have there. Our sweet friend, Camille W. was a RootsTech First-Timer this year with her mom. She had some amazing first timer experiences and we just knew we wanted to have her share those with all our followers! Take it away Camille!
10 Tips and Tricks from a RootsTech First-Timer
I’d heard about Roots Tech, a family history and technology conference put on by FamilySearch, over the years, so when I had the opportunity to attend this year I jumped at the chance! I’m so glad I did, because it was an amazing and educational experience.
Here are ten takeaways from my first time attending RootsTech:
1. Go with a relative or find one at RootsTech. Like most experiences in life, it’s better to have someone to share them with. My mom and her friend invited me to attend with them, and I was glad to have people to share and process what I learned with.
However, it was also easy to make friends and discover relatives at RootsTech. Less than five minutes after entering the venue on my first day, a man in a pink shirt RootsTech Crew shirt approached me and struck up a conversation about where I was from and how I was enjoying RootsTech. He proceeded to give me a pair of RootsTech earbuds and wish me a good time at the conference!
One of the coolest features of the conference was the “Relatives at RootsTech” feature in the Family Tree mobile app. After opting in, it showed you which conference attendees you were related to and how. I was related to more than 4,000 people! The app also let you message these relatives to make connections or collaborate while at the conference.
2. Plan ahead. Because it was my first time attending RootsTech, I downloaded the mobile app in advance to learn more. I read through the descriptions of the various sessions and starred the ones that looked most interesting or applicable to me. I’m glad I did, because there was so much to do and see that I needed some semblance of a game plan each day. There’s plenty of time to transition between sessions, but it was nice to have a narrowed set of sessions to choose from so that the number of options in the moment didn’t overwhelm me.
3. Bring comfortable shoes, snacks, a water bottle, and a portable power bank. If you choose to start each day with the Power Hour and stay until the end of the general session, it can make for a long day. Comfortable shoes for all the walking between sessions and around the exhibit were a must. Snacks and a portable power bank kept my brain and my electronic devices powered. And a water bottle came in handy, as there were water filling stations scattered throughout the venue.
4. Family history has really modernized. Too often we relegate family history to a hobby of the retired who have the time and interest. However, FamilySearch has done a great job of making family history exciting and relatable to all generations. Not only are many records now searchable online, FamilySearch has also released a series of family history activities to interest people in new and exciting ways, like the compare-a-face feature. I look most like my second and third great-grandmothers on my mother’s side. Looking at our pictures side-by-side is probably an insight into what I’ll look like in my older years!
5. The importance of intergenerational self. I’d never heard the term “intergenerational self” before RootsTech. A theme of the sessions I went to began to emerge—the importance of telling stories so that our descendants are able to make sense of their self in their family narrative. This really resonated with me, and then one of the presenters finally put a name to it: intergenerational self. Research on this concept shows that the language of family memories is how children develop strength, security, and the ability to bounce back from difficult situations.
6. Your family history is never as “done” as you think it is. I’d heard for years that our family history was done; we knew the names and vital dates and places of all of our ancestors for generations back. No more research was needed. But with minimal effort, my Mom and I found stories about our ancestors we’d never heard before. These people were more than just birth dates or places of burial. My mom was surprised to discover that one of her great-grandfathers had murdered his wife! I was surprised to discover that one of my grandfathers had a previous marriage I was unaware of. There’s always more to learn about your ancestors!
7. Be open to whatever you may find. Just like no person is perfect, no family is either. You might find some startling facts about your relatives along the way, but don’t let that stop or discourage you!
8. Absorb what you can. There is so much information at RootsTech that it’s impossible to take it all in. Just do your best and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t understand or can’t remember it all!
9. Write down your thoughts and impressions. I had many thoughts and impressions as I listened to various presenters, and I’m glad I wrote them down. Otherwise, I’m not sure I would have remembered them or what prompted them by the end of each day. Having written them down will make it much easier to go back and act on those thoughts and impressions.
10. Make an action plan. At the end of RootsTech, I took some time to write down the three things I wanted to work on as a result of the things I’d learned at the conference. I decided I would be more diligent in keeping my personal journal, take the next step in preserving my ancestor’s photos by uploading them to the memories section of FamilySearch, and use some of the Swedish genealogy tips and tricks I learned to look for additional documentation about that branch of my family. I shared my goals with those I attended RootsTech with to help keep me accountable in accomplishing them!
I hope these takeaways are helpful if you’re considering attending RootsTech for the first time. I would highly recommend it and know I’ll be back again!
Thanks for sharing Camille! We hope that this has inspired you to dive into your family history and definitely make sure you attend RootsTech the first chance you get!!