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RootsTech 2016 features classes, LDS Family Discovery Day, LDS leaders as speakers

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 27 2016 6:30 p.m. MST

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, will be the featured speakers at Family Discovery Day event at RootsTech in February 2016.

Welden Anderson, Provided by FamilySearch.org

SALT LAKE CITY — Allison Kimball does not see herself as a genealogist, yet attending last year's RootsTech Conference changed her.

"Genealogy is for old people (my grandparents), and although my children consider me old … I am still quite young," Kimball wrote in a November blog post at allisonkimball.com. "I have never felt a push to do genealogy in a traditional sense. … So how did RootsTech change me?"

Kimball realized that by sharing family stories, she was preserving records and linking generations, she wrote. The past also led her to consider the future.

"I find myself thinking more about what I want to leave future generations and what is important for them to know," Kimball wrote.

It's the type of message that RootsTech organizers hope patrons will take away in 2016 as well.

The largest family history event in the world, sponsored by FamilySearch International, will take place Wednesday, Feb. 3, through Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Salt Palace Convention Center. As in years past, RootsTech will feature prominent keynote speakers, more than 200 classes for all ages and levels of family history skill, an expo hall, entertainment, and a day specifically designated for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with messages from LDS Church leaders. For those unable to attend, video streaming of some events and classes will be made available online at RootsTech.org.

Keynote speakers

The list of keynote speakers includes a variety of people with different experiences and backgrounds.

Ken Krogue, the founder of InsideSales.com and a former director of sales at FranklinCovey, will be the keynote speaker on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

Stephen T. Rockwood, the managing director of the LDS Church's Family History Department and president/CEO of FamilySearch International; Bruce Feiler, a popular columnist and best-selling author; and Paula Williams Madison, chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management and a former NBCUniversal executive, will speak Thursday, Feb. 4.

In her remarks, Madison will recount an experience in which she and other family members tracked her maternal grandfather from New York to Jamaica and back to his homeland in China, where they connected with around 300 other descendants. Her journey was first made into a documentary and later published as a memoir, "Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China."

"While searching for your family, don't give up. My brother was told he wouldn't find any information," said Madison, who recently helped a friend find her grandfather's birth certificate after the friend had scoured records for years. "And yet in 2012, I found an unbelievable amount of information, even in the time period he was told documents had been destroyed. … New things are coming up all the time. Don't give up."

The lineup on Friday, Feb. 3, includes David Isay, an author, documentarian and founder of StoryCorps, as well as Josh and Naomi Davis. Naomi Davis, known by millions as "Taza," started a blog/digital diary in 2007 that has grown into a global business and is online at lovetaza.com.

Former Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and secretary of health and human services under President George W. Bush, and presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin will speak on Saturday, Feb. 6.

Leavitt, a native of Cedar City, said he will talk about his own family history and perhaps share experiences and lessons he has learned in public service. Growing up as the oldest of six children, Leavitt said he benefitted from a close association with both sets of grandparents. He was also inspired by reading the personal history of an ancestor named Sarah Sturtevant Leavitt.

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