A recap of all the happenings of RootsTech 2020.
There was a lot to celebrate this year at RootsTech 2020, and Legacy Tree Genealogists was there for it all. We discovered great stories, connected with friends new and old, shared our genealogy knowledge, and helped commemorate the conference’s 10th anniversary.
The theme of RootsTech 2020 was “Discover the Story of YOU.” The story of each of us is made up of an intricate mix of not only our own experiences, but the trials, traditions, and adventures of the ancestors that came before us. This year’s theme resonated with us, since helping people discover their own stories and celebrate their family history is what we do best.
Legacy Tree Genealogists team members could be found throughout the conference, fielding questions, giving out prizes, and of course greeting attendees at our booth in the Expo Hall. It was great to see all those who stopped by to say hello!
With more than 300 classes to choose from, RootsTech 2020 featured educational opportunities for everyone. Conference attendees had two opportunities to catch the popular presentation, “DNA & Facebook: Finding Your Ancestral Community,” taught by Legacy Tree Genealogists’ team lead, Michelle Chubenko. Legacy Tree DNA Team Lead also gave several presentations in the Expo Hall, including, “Tips and Tricks for MyHeritage DNA,” and “Mitochondrial DNA Testing Plans.” Legacy Tree president, Jessica Taylor, also joined in on the presentation fun, offering a class titled, “Find Your Ancestors with MyHeritage SuperSearch.” RootsTech organizers have also made a selection of sessions available to watch for free in their Video Archive, including keynote and general sessions.
Wednesday’s keynote session opened the conference on a nostalgic note with reminiscences of RootsTech over the years. The dream of bringing together technologists and genealogists began a decade ago with a gathering of only 3000 and has grown to over 30,000 attendees, with many times that amount joining the conference virtually. Audience members were reminded of some of the incredible achievements in the industry since RootsTech began, including over 15,000 gallons of spit collected for DNA analysis! A giant digital scrapbook showed pictures of some of the inspiring speakers who have taken to the RootsTech stage during the past ten years, including Donny Osmond, Laura Bush, LeVar Burton, Buddy Valastro, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Scott Hamilton. Check out some of our recaps from previous years: RootsTech 2019, RootsTech 2018.
Joy was the theme of the keynote speech by Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, on Wednesday, specifically the joy of discovering the story of us. Rockwood’s sons have recently been documenting their 88-year-old grandmother’s life by sharing her past experiences and pictures on Instagram. They handle the technology, she tells the stories, and each is doing what is natural and comfortable for them. Rockwood encouraged audience members to rescue the stories at risk of being forgotten, our own stories and our ancestor’s stories.
The session came to an end with a reminder of a big reason why we do what we do. A group of the rising generation, the “YOU’s of tomorrow,” were introduced on stage among confetti and fireworks. The children and teens then traveled among the audience handing out 10th anniversary commemorative pins.
On Wednesday night as the conference wound down for adult attendees, over 20,000 youth between ages 11 and 18 flooded the convention center for a night of games and interactive activities, designed to motivate and excite them to discover their own history. Meanwhile, the Genealogy Business Alliance, co-founded by Family ChartMasters owner, Janet Hovorka, and Legacy Tree Genealogists president, Jessica Taylor, held their annual RootsTech Get-Together. The event was well-attended by industry professionals interested in networking and growing the genealogy sphere.
Thursday marked Eastern European Day at the Legacy Tree Genealogists booth in the Expo Hall. The morning started with a Live Q&A featuring European Research Team Lead, Michelle Chubenko. Michelle answered questions users submitted about tracing their Eastern European ancestry, and provided research strategies and advice for viewers. If you missed the Live broadcast, you can watch the replay of the broadcast on the Legacy Tree Genealogists Facebook page. The video replay will also be available on our YouTube channel.
Adoption advocate Leigh Anne Tuohy gave a humorous and heartwarming address at the conference’s second keynote session. Tuohy may be best known as the woman portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the movie The Blind Side, telling the story of the Tuohy family’s adoption of Michael Oher, who eventually became an all-American NFL player. Michael was mired in the foster-care system and “society had deemed [him] valueless” when the Tuohys took him in. Tuohy stated that sometimes “all [people] need is a chance. They need someone that believes in them.” She illustrated the power of one person making a difference with the tale of a child on the beach throwing starfish into the ocean, one-by-one. We may not be able to help everyone, but we can help someone. She related this idea to family history research: “the one name you find can be the difference-maker.”
Capturing stories through photographs was a main theme of Friday’s keynote session as Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Hume Kennerly took to the stage. This “witness to history” shared many of his incredible photos taken over 55 years, including his first, of the family cat. Kennerly described the stories behind each photograph, inspiring us to look more closely at photos of our own families to discover the deeper narrative. Despite witnessing some dark moments in history, Kennerly remains optimistic that “human nature and spirit prevail over adversity.”
On Friday night, RootsTech hosted a Young Adult After-Party. Attendees enjoyed dancing, cultural experiences, and other activities to celebrate their unique stories. They also joined the regular RootsTech crowd for Friday’s evening event, where family-friendly comedian Ryan Hamilton had the crowd laughing.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was an exciting one for fans of both football and ballroom dance. Emmitt Smith, NFL Super Bowl champion and former Dancing with the Stars contestant, shared some of the stories he has recently discovered about his family history. An ancestor named Mariah was from West Africa, enslaved as a teenager, and spent her life in Burnt Corn, Alabama. She became a stalwart family matriarch, keeping her loved ones together as best as she could “with the strength of a thousand people.” Finding his ancestors made Smith feel as if “their souls were released from heaven.” Smith talked about other ancestors, coaches, mentors, and family members who have influenced his life, claiming he stood “on the shoulders of giants” to accomplish his dreams.
RootsTech 2020 did more than ever before to inspire the rising generation, the “YOU’s of tomorrow.” Saturday was Family Discovery Day at RootsTech where genealogy enthusiasts of all ages and families of all kinds came to the conference together for speakers, classes, and fun crafts, games, and exhibits in the Expo Hall.
Our team enjoyed celebrating the “Story of You” with so many of our followers. With RootsTech 2020 in the books, we look forward to connecting with many of you at one of our other scheduled conferences for 2020.
The experts at Legacy Tree Genealogists are here to help you connect with your ancestors and preserve your legacy for generations to come. Get started today by requesting your free quote.
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