Imagine – 6,700 genealogists (and that’s just those who pre-registered) in one building for a conference! The RootsTech conference is the largest of its kind held in the United States, with attendees from forty-nine states (what’s wrong with Delaware and why didn’t even one person attend from the “first state?”) and seventeen countries, with another 10,000 participating through streaming video of selected programs. Not only that, an additional 2,000 young people will be attending the conference on Saturday.
The day began with an atmosphere of heightened expectations, and proved to be an enjoyable day despite the early morning snow that greeted us on our walk from the hotel to the Salt Lake Conference Center – the Salt Palace. First, the eighty-five genealogy bloggers in attendance were treated to a quick orientation to the exhibit hall before its official opening and then were escorted to VIP seating for the opening keynote sessions. It was a nice feeling to be so recognized!
Hosted by FamilySearch, and cosponsored by such well-known companies, societies, and educational institutions as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, Findmypast.com, Archives.com, Mocavo, Backblaze, Dell, APG, FGS, NEHGS, NGS, BYU, and several more, the conference, now in its third year, offered a clear vision of the future: 1) every individual has a right to exist, but cannot do so unless his or her story is discovered, preserved, and shared; 2) as the profession seeks to broaden its appeal and attract a younger generation, it recognizes that technology is the mechanism by which that growth will be successful; 3) it is our obligation to present “Gen-Y” with an accessible, affordable adventure; to use technology to engage their interest instantaneously; and 4) we must constantly ask ourselves, “what will our great-great-grandchildren wish we could have done?” We must record the “richness and fabric” of our lives and be the “pioneers of today for researchers of tomorrow.” Finally, speakers emphasized the power of the crowd, emphasizing the fact that we cannot accomplish all there is to do by ourselves. A compelling example is seen in the following: the Family History Library/FamilySearch has been collecting records since 1894. It took eighty-five years for the first billion records to be acquired; it has only taken since 2,006 to add the next billion records thanks to the generous time and effort donated, in large part, by volunteers such as the 200,000 (equivalent to the city of Des Moines, Iowa) who accomplished the indexing of the 1940 census in four months! The community must come together with a common purpose. Definitely food for thought!
I used the rest of the day to take a first look at the exhibit hall (with 50% more space than last year), taking in a few demonstrations and beginning to identify those products which warranted a more detailed look. In addition, I attended three sessions, although I was disappointed that the room, in which the one I really wanted to attend was scheduled, was full before the sessions before it were completed. I guess that’s what happens when so many people are in attendance, but it was a disappointment. I’ll share more about session and exhibit hall highlights between now and Saturday.
The day ended with a social at the Leonardo Museum and then a mini-concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the Tabernacle in Temple Square – a lovely way to end the day. Time now to recharge the batteries and be ready for more RootsTech 2013 adventures tomorrow. Be sure to read the story of Day 2 coming tomorrow!