RootsTech: After the Party

Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega wraps up her experience at RootsTech by presenting some of her key take-aways from this year’s conference. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

Did you attend RootsTech 2023? Did you experience the largest genealogy event of the year in person or virtually? The benefit of this year’s conference was a hybrid, allowing everyone the opportunity to access education they needed in the format that worked best for them.

I chose to attend virtually this year, which gave me the opportunity to set my own schedule. In this article, I want to share some overall take-aways from my experience that will help me as I plan and continue working on my research projects for this year.

What Were Your Take-Aways?

RootsTech is about technology – obviously, it’s in the name – and there were plenty of talks that focused on technology and genealogy, but one of the underlying themes I took away from the conference was the importance of stories in family history.

One example of this was the Q+A session with actor Sean Astin. Best known for roles in movies such as Goonies and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he emphasized stories in his comments on day three of RootsTech. One way he connected genealogy and storytelling was in his description of author J.R.R. Tolkien as a “passionate faux genealogist” who spent time on species genealogies in his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Astin also talked about his family, and spent time talking about his personal history – including his middle school bid for class president (he lost). While it was a funny story about his non-celebrity status with his peers, I thought it was a good reminder that we need to not only trace our ancestors but we also need to document our stories, even the stories that we think are trivial. These stories need to be passed down to our descendants before they are lost.

He also talked about his daughter Allie’s interest in genealogy and their support of her as she traveled to interview family members and learn more about their shared family history. On stage, he read a text from Allie in response to his question “why do you love genealogy?” Her answer is one that many of us can relate to:

“It’s the way to learn about the ancestors that live on through me. We are the key to our ancestors’ eternal life and through my children, in a way, I’ll live forever. So, it’s important to honor that.”

We need to avail ourselves of the technology to help us achieve our family history goals, to document the stories of our ancestors.


This year’s conference theme was “Uniting.” For me that word describes how we are all united by our mutual passion for genealogy, no matter how we approach it. Let’s face it: RootsTech highlights technology, but there were plenty of talks and activities that stressed other aspects of genealogy including storytelling. Genealogy is a comprehensive pursuit that involves multiple approaches to better understanding and sharing our family histories.

My goal watching the presentations during the conference was to view presentations that I normally wouldn’t get the chance to see or hear. I decided to first focus on DNA. I’ve been reading a number of DNA books lately, and having access to experts in the field talking about how to use DNA and DNA technology was helpful to me. This is a difficult topic to absorb, so having access to presentations after the conference is over helps. I’m also glad that I can still catch those presentations I didn’t watch live, by perusing the OnDemand link on the RootsTech website.

What Will You Learn Next?

You can still benefit from presentations at RootsTech 2023. See the RootsTech website. Click the OnDemand link at the top right to browse or search the library of presentations. If you curated a playlist, you can still access that by clicking on Menu at the top right side and in the drop-down choose MyPlaylist.

What did you learn from RootsTech? I’d love to hear about your favorite presentations and take-aways in the comments below.

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Note on the header image: RootsTech genealogy conference. Credit:

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