Photo by R. Scott Lloyd, Deseret News Archives
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s time once again to upgrade your family history.
The fourth annual RootsTech Family History and Technology Conference is scheduled to begin Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Salt Palace Convention Center — and this year’s session promises to be bigger and more advanced than ever.
The conference, hosted by the nonprofit organization FamilySearch, teaches ways to engage in family history by using modern methods. The 2014 program lineup reflects core objectives of linking past, present and future together through the use of photos, stories and emerging technology.
Aimed at family history enthusiasts and novices alike, RootsTech is designed with all ages and skill levels in mind.
“Beginners would be hard-pressed to find a myriad of things not interesting to them,” said Paul Nauta, public affairs manager for Family Search. “This conference is perfect for someone like that. If you have a bug about how to connect or preserve for untold future generations, this is the place for you.”
The conference focuses on integrating technology into the preservation of family records and memories — a process Nauta believes is much easier than people often realize.
“Anyone who has a smartphone is engaged in family history,” Nauta said. “Family history moments are in abundance. With social platforms, we communicate with rapid fire and we don’t give much thought to what it is we are preserving.”
The belief that anyone can keep family records helped inspire content for the RootsTech conference — everything from speakers to classes to demos.
In addition to the 200-plus sessions offered during the conference, RootsTech participants will also have the opportunity to talk with technology developers, visit interactive stations in the free Expo Hall and listen to keynote speakers from various professional fields. They include Spencer Wells, leader of the worldwide Genographic Project, and popular blogger Ree Drummond, also known as “The Pioneer Woman.”
This year’s conference will once again feature the “Innovator Summit” (formerly known as “Developer Day”) specifically for technology business leaders and developers. The Innovator Summit, which will be held Feb. 5 before the official start of RootsTech, is designed to focus exclusively on how technology innovations can further the reach of family history branches. The program will feature the annual “Developer Challenge,” as well as keynote speaker Chris Dancy, director in the chief technology officer’s office at BMC Software and data exhaust cartographer.
As the largest family history conference on the continent, RootsTech consistently attracts a diverse enrollment group. As of Jan. 14, participants from 49 states and 26 countries had registered. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend.
Saturday, Feb. 8, will be a free "Family Discovery Day." Events and classes will be tailored specifically to LDS RootsTech guests, with speakers including Elder Neil. L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve and John Bytheway. Fourteen youth-only classes are available that day, and people of all skill levels are welcome. Those wishing to attend only Saturday’s sessions should begin registration online as normal, and choose “Family Discovery Day” as the pass option.
Regular conference passes start at $19 and can be purchased ahead of time or at the door. Select sessions will be broadcast online at rootstech.org for those who are unable to attend the conference in person. Participants are encouraged to download the mobile RootsTech app and customize their schedule ahead of time, as many classes will fill up quickly.
“One of the difficult challenges of family history can be, of all the technology (resources) out there, how do you weed through it to find the ones that best meet your interests and needs?” Nauta said. “(Even) those who have been in the industry for decades are always surprised at the things technology can do. People here have the advantage of getting answers to common problems and hands-on experience.”
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