It was November 29, 2016 when I saw a message in my email box named “RootsTech 2017 Contest Winner” from Renee’s Genealogy Blog. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that I won a full pass for RootsTech 2017!
Renee is one of the RootsTech Ambassadors who received tickets to give away and I was the lucky one!
Okay, I had the tickets, now I needed to organize the flight and the hotel. It took me a bit of time, but being the queen of reward programs, I could arrange it to use miles and hotelpoints for the flight and the hotel. Anyone who ever makes fun of me again for having bonus cards in my wallet?
I flew out on February 4, landing late in the evening local time. That helped me dealing with the jetlag. I went straight to bed and got up at around 6am the next morning. Actually my sleeping schedule sticked to 8ish pm to 6ish am.
I took the free day on Sunday to get known to the area, exploring downtown. Walking up to the temple square, a beautiful garden / park area. The weather was georgious by the way, sunny and really nice temperature.
Monday and Tuesday were blocked for the Family History Library. I tried to knock down a brick wall in my family. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that much success. But “whining” about it on twitter sparked some interest in fellow co-researchers. And wow.. next day, I had four emails in my mailbox with documents attached. Thank you so much, Chrissie!!
But the days at the library weren’t for nothing. I changed the scope of my research a bit and found information, I didn’t have before and confirmed assumptions. And I was able to help someone else sitting behind me at the computer aisle. I overheard a conversation about the town I live in, actually about a street I lived in, which was so wrong, I couldn’t resist to jump in. There wasn’t any information on that street available in English, but Auntie Google helped in German, so I translated. The young lady left with a huge smile on her face – loving it!
Wednesday was the first day of RootsTech – the Innovator Summit. For me, that start of the day was already the best part of it. Liz Wiseman’s key note speech. Very inspiring on why being a rookie wins against being a pro sometimes. And why we should let out or rookie inside more often.
I used the rest of the day to check out some of the innovator sessions and to get to know my way around. Lunch on the staircase with people passing by is the best way to get in touch and start communicating. I met so many fascinating people and “friends” I only knew in the virtual world so far.
Overall, I bet RootsTech became selfie capital of the world over the four days :)
The next three days were full of sessions and strolling through Expo Hall. I was very happy that I did that in full length Thursday and Friday as it was packed on Saturday. I loved the initiative to invite kids’ groups. I saw school classes, church groups and boy & girl scouts.
My highlight on Friday? No of all of the days? LeVar Burton‘s key note speech! What a voice, what a way to talk to his audience, I could listen to him forever. He was so inclusive. I loved how he spoke about his mother. With so much love and admiration in his voice. He kept mentioning her name as if he wanted to avoid that it gets forgotten, like so many female names we have in our family trees. Once he was finished and presented with his family’s findings, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room!
And of course I couldn’t visit RootsTech without meeting the person who made this experience possible for me: Renee Zamora! We just had to meet up. chat a bit and get in front of the RootsTech wall for a selfie.
Well, technically it is not a selfie as someone else took it, but you know what I mean.
Expo Hall was fantastic. The exhibitors really offered everything you could desire as a genealogist. Databases, how to get organized, how to digitize your documents, how to store them safely and efficiently. How to show and visualize your research results. And of course, the big thing: DNA in genealogy!
Almost every exhibitor had a small training area at their booth. Short classes of 20 minutes each throughout the day. Very interesting, sharp and to the point. And if it was boring? Well, you wasted 20 minutes :)
Let’s come to the sessions. I totally love the idea of streaming one session per hour and to provide audio recordings for some others. That way, people not being able to attend can be part of RootsTech, too. And even I who was there will have a look at what I missed.
I have to admit though, I expected a bit more content for the advanced and professional level. There was a beginner’s track, I bet it is also possible to include a pro track. Some of the sessions were so basic (and with that so boring) I stepped out of them, although they were not marked as beginners.
I think, RootsTech can be both: a conference for genealogists and a fair / conference to raise awareness and interest with the general audience.
And as someone who is organizing events myself in my job, I would love to meet the organization team. I was actually visiting looking at it from two different perspectives: the event organizer and the genealogist.
And I was deeply impressed with the organization. From the location to set up, technology, WiFi, volunteers, registration, lighting, content, exhibitors, branding – just great, chapeau!
Will I be back? You bet – maybe not next year, but I will return!