Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Gabriel and Jenny Lynn Campbell of get their booth ready as RootsTech opens at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018.

RootsTech descends on Utah this week, and Salt Lake City should be proud to host the world’s largest genealogical conference.

The setting makes sense — not only is the city home to the Family History Library on Temple Square, the most extensive of such repositories around the globe, Utah has a strong heritage of connecting family stories. FamilySearch and Ancestry, two leading online programs that have brought genealogical research into the 21st century, are both based in the state.

For attendees, the conference presents an exciting opportunity for networking, learning and sharing the latest innovations in the field. Most importantly, however, the annual gathering serves as a reminder of the rich value of ancestral knowledge and a nudge to rediscover the power of family.

As is often recounted, genealogy has exploded to become one of the top hobbies in the country, no doubt because it’s thrilling to piece together bits of information to tell a broader story. It also seems humans have an innate desire to understand their past.

But a growing body of research from the past decade offers a new look into the benefits of genealogical research: Ancestral knowledge can make you happier, healthier and more intelligent, some academics say. Psychologists have proven that understanding where we come from provides a sense of belonging and boosts confidence in our capacity for resilience. It’s a reminder that ancestors survived threats to mortality for millennia before their posterity arrived.

Most interestingly, researchers at Universities of Graz, Berlin and Munich have proven that learning about family history makes people smarter, increasing scores on intelligence tests by up to 4 points. “We showed that an easy reminder about our ancestors can significantly increase intellectual performance,” the researchers told Research Digest. “Hence, whenever people are in a situation where intellectual performance is extraordinarily important, for example in exams or job interviews, they have an easy technique to increase their success.”

Comment on this story

Unfortunately, the field is too often construed as the domain of the geriatric, something grandparents do in retirement. Instead, it should be more closely associated with the burgeoning field of self-help and wellness, a quick and easy way to change brain circuitry for healthier outcomes. RootsTech shows all demographics and ages the benefits of taking the time to dive into genealogical study.

It's inspiring to see an emerging push for this change, especially from the entrepreneurs and inventions making the field of genealogy more accessible and relevant to younger generations. Conferences and events like RootsTech allow attendees to benefit from technology and innovations that make it easier than ever to preserve or discover family stories that can connect generations. We hope everyone can engage with their past and uncover strength to guide them through the future.