A Preview of RootsTech 2016

Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega previews some of the speakers, classes and events for the upcoming RootsTech 2016 genealogy conference. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.

Are you going to RootsTech 2016, the genealogy conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 3-6? It can feel intimidating to go to a conference whose attendance last year included 23,000 people from 49 states and 39 countries. If this is your first time at the yearly genealogy conference, you may want to start making some plans now, before you step foot into the Salt Palace. With the crowds of people and all kinds of presentations, events, and activities planned, where do you start?

Photo: Expo Hall at RootsTech
Photo: Expo Hall at RootsTech. Credit: FamilySearch; RootsTech.

Keynote Presentations

Keynote presentations at conferences are different than classes or lectures. Keynotes are meant to start or end the conference. They are meant to provide inspiration and motivation. The overall idea is to take that energy and knowledge you’ve experienced at the conference and maintain it as you travel home and go back to the routine of everyday life.

Inspiration and motivation can be found in the seven keynote presentations provided during the three days of RootsTech. This year’s keynotes feature authors, innovators, and experts. You can look forward to presentations all three days by:

  • Steve Rockwood. Managing Director of the Family History Department and President/CEO of FamilySearch.
  • Paula Madison. Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management, LLC in Los Angeles.
  • Bruce Feiler. Author of “This Life” column for the Sunday New York Times and six New York Times bestselling books.
  • Josh and Naomi Davis (Taza). Naomi Davis, also known as Taza, is the blogger behind “Love Taza” who shares information about her family’s New York City life and “life’s simple joys.”
  • David Isay. Broadcaster, author, and founder of StoryCorps, an “organization that provides people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve their life stories.”
  • Michael O. Leavitt. Previous three-time elected governor of Utah and current founder and chairman of Leavitt Partners.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin. Presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winner. Her latest book is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.

When you are at a conference, it can be tempting to sleep in and miss the keynotes. These presentations set the tone for the day. Make plans to be in attendance – you’ll be glad you did.


During RootsTech 2016, 213 speakers will be presenting 288 sessions on a number of family history and technology topics. Sessions center on using websites such as FamilySearch and WorldCat, or they may focus on mobile technology and apps. Some sessions concentrate on genealogy methodology such as naming patterns, geography, and DNA.

Don’t forget to schedule some time to learn more about newspapers and genealogy from GenealogyBank. Come visit us at booth #523 to discuss genealogy in general, or any specific questions you have about your own family history research. Staff member Scott Spencer will be presenting on “Facts, Photos & Fugitives: Using Online Newspapers,” and staff member Ross Allred will present on “Researching Newspaper Obituaries.”

You can read more about these sessions and speaker bios on the RootsTech website at https://rootstech2016.smarteventscloud.com/connect/search.ww.

Expo Hall

There are many reasons to attend a conference and invest in your genealogical education. Attending classes and networking with other researchers are just a few reasons. Visiting the Expo Hall during RootsTech 2016 is another. The Expo Hall is where exhibitors come together to promote new products, answer questions, and teach small classes. In the Expo Hall at RootsTech you can expect to see booths from familiar genealogy subscription websites, publishers, archives and libraries, booksellers, technology companies, and more. In addition to exhibitors’ booths you will also find a Demo Theatre, Cyber Café, Family Discovery Zone, and the new Innovation Alley where you can check out the latest technology and tools for genealogy.

Carve out some time to stroll the entire Expo Hall. (I recommend visiting the Hall at least several times during the conference.) If you own a smartphone or mobile device, consider using the camera to take photos of booths or information you want to check out later. In some cases you may also come across QR codes (short for Quick Response codes) at booths which you can scan with your device for more information (you will need to download a special QR reading app first from you device’s app store).


There’s more to RootsTech than just classes and learning experiences: there’s also fun. Several different events are scheduled featuring music by the groups Crescent Super Band and Lower Lights.

If you’re into the technology side of genealogy, don’t forget to check on Friday’s Innovators Summit Events. There’s the annual Innovator Showdown where 6 of 12 semi-finalists will take home a cash prize. This is a great opportunity to see what new creative products genealogists will be using in the not-so-distant future. On Wednesday you have the opportunity to take part in a new event. A hackathon sponsored by FamilySearch invites everyone to “Come participate in a unique social coding and brain-storming event where you will have the opportunity to discuss and solve industry problems as you network with the best entrepreneurial minds the genealogical industry has to offer.” You bring your laptop – and Wi-Fi, food and a meeting room are provided.

The Countdown Begins!

RootsTech is an excellent opportunity to energize your genealogy passion. The conference will be here before you know it and there’s a lot to look forward to. While you’re waiting, plan out your schedule, download the app, and start making plans.

GenealogyBank is helping to sponsor the upcoming RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, 3-6 February, 2016. If you’re attending, come visit us at booth #523 to discuss genealogy in general, or any specific questions you have about your own family history research.

For more information about RootsTech, visit the website at: http://www.rootstech.org/?lang=eng

We look forward to meeting you at RootsTech!

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