SALT LAKE CITY — With several prominent LDS Church leaders, notable speakers and entertainers, numerous classes and the latest technology on display, the fifth annual RootsTech conference convenes this week at the Salt Palace Convention Center. More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the largest family history gathering in the world.
"We’re excited to welcome people coming from 49 states and 36 countries to RootsTech and Family Discovery Day 2015," said Dan Martinez, a marketing specialist at FamilySearch International and one of the event's organizers. "Our hope is that attendees will be inspired to discover and share their family stories and connections through general keynote sessions, over 200 classes and entertaining events throughout. This will be an exciting few days all about celebrating families across generations."
The theme of the conference, which is hosted by FamilySearch International, is "Celebrating Families Across Generations."
When the first RootsTech conference opened in 2010, there was a narrow focus targeting family history enthusiasts and technologists, and fewer than 3,000 people attended the inaugural event, Martinez said.
In 2013, the third day of the conference, a Saturday, was designated as Family Discovery Day, with a focus on members young and old in The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That year, RootsTech drew an overall crowd of nearly 7,000, with others viewing sessions of the conference via online videos.
Since then, RootsTech has grown to become a top industry event, according to Martinez.
"The response to the conference has been exciting," he said. "Each year, we have increased the type of content to make it more relevant to the average individual who wants to discover their family. Everyone can relate to celebrating their family, and everybody has a story to tell. You don't have to be a family history enthusiast to come and have a great experience at RootsTech. It's for everybody."
Thursday's lineup consists of general sessions that include keynote speakers Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch.org; Mike Mallin, CPO (chief product officer) of MyHeritage.com; and Tan Le, a technology innovator and the founder of Emotiv.
Friday continues with Joshua D. Taylor, the director of family history at FindMyPast.com; former first lady Laura W. Bush and her daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, an NBC "Today Show" correspondent.
Donny Osmond, singer and entertainer, will be a keynote speakers on Saturday, along with New York Times best-selling author and journalist A.J. Jacobs.
In connection with the conference theme, each keynote speaker has been asked to speak about who in their family inspires them.
Martinez said 15 general interest sessions and classes will be streamed live on RootsTech.org. More videos will also be available for viewing on the website following the conference.
Organizers are anticipating more than 13,000 people will attend the free Family Discovery Day on Saturday, which will feature the most live instruction from LDS Church leadership outside of general conference, Martinez said.
"You will be hard-pressed to find any other single event that involves so many church leaders," he said. "It's quite a gathering of general authorities and church leaders. We're excited about that aspect. It gives you a sense of the magnitude of the conference. Due to the overwhelming interest, we had to shut down registration early."
The list of LDS Church leaders speaking includes Elders Quentin L. Cook and Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elders L. Whitney Clayton and Allan F. Packer of the First Quorum of the Seventy; Elders Kent F. Richards and Bradley D. Foster of the Second Quorum of the Seventy; Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president; and Brother Tad R. Callister, Sunday School general president.
Other Family Discovery Day speakers include Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace and popular blogger Al Fox Carraway. Singer David Archuleta and cast members from BYUtv's "Studio C" will perform at the closing event.
Five of the Family Discovery Day sessions will be streamed on LDS.org. Following the conference, various clips and highlights will be posted for viewing.
After RootsTech 2014, the LDS Church and FamilySearch provided online tools and resources for stakes around the world to host their own family history day, and more than 1,000 stakes (roughly one-third of the global church) signed up. Martinez said those resources will be available again this year in 10 different languages.
If patrons need a break from classes, the expo hall will be packed with hundreds of technology and family history exhibitions, including a demo theater, a cyber cafe and a family discovery zone.
RootsTech 2015 includes a few welcome announcements for LDS Church members. As it did last year, FamilySearch has negotiated with its partners to provide more resources for church members.
- FindMyPast has agreed to offer church members a 75-percent discount for an upgrade to the full World subscription (type in the code "FSROOTSTECH15" until Feb. 21).
- FamilySearch Family Tree database is now accessible on MyHeritage.com.
- The New England Historic Genealogical Society will give church members free access to AmericanAncestors.org.
- Family.me is also granting free access to LDS Church members.
- Puzzilla.org, BillionGraves and RootsMagic are also offering benefits to church members. More information on these new resources will be forthcoming.
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