Why Do YOU Go to RootsTech?

Introduction: In this article, to help everyone get ready for next week’s RootsTech 2020, Gena Philibert-Ortega writes about the enthusiasm she and her friends share for this annual genealogy conference. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

Are you going to RootsTech 2020 next week (February 27-29, Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah)? If you are, you’re probably getting ready for a jam-packed genealogical feast of education, networking, and “a-ha!” moments. If you are not attending in person, remember that you can still partake in the excitement, education, and networking through the online opportunities (paid and free) and the social media posts (make sure to follow the Twitter hashtag #RootsTech and the RootsTech social media accounts @RootsTechConf on Twitter and @RootsTech on Facebook).

Photo: the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
Photo: the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Brandon Baird; Wikimedia Commons.

Not sure what all the hype is about this annual genealogy conference? I know that many of my friends see RootsTech as a must-attend conference year after year. I asked them why they think you should attend.

Location, Location, Location

There’s no doubt that location is a big consideration when you’re deciding on attending a conference or other genealogical event. Some locations are more popular than others. There are all kinds of reasons why a conference location is important to consider, including cost, weather, and surrounding attractions. It’s no surprise that genealogists want to attend a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah – especially when the conference is across the street from the Family History Library.

Let’s face it, the Family History Library is one of those bucket list destinations, a place that genealogists look forward to visiting. Do yourself a favor and schedule some time to be at the Library so that you can follow up on what you learn at the conference and research resources not easily available to you otherwise.

“That RootsTech takes place in Salt Lake City is huge for me. I always stay a week so that I can go to the Family History Library. The Exhibit Hall is fabulous and I spend way too much time there. Finally meeting, face to face, other bloggers and genealogists I’ve only spoken to online. Overall, just a wonderful experience.”
–Diane Gould Hall

Energy and Heart

One thing I hear my Facebook friends say over and over is how meaningful it is to be in a place where everyone “gets it.” Everyone there loves exactly the same thing you are passionate about: family history.

“The best part about attending RootsTech is having an entire building filled with like-minded individuals. There is ALWAYS someone who is just as excited to hear about the discovery of a 3rd great grandparent as you are!”
–Tierra Cotton-Kellow, Professional Genealogist

“There is something for everyone, at any stage of genealogy knowledge, from hobbyist to professionals. It also brings in many aspects of family history other than just research – family stories, entertainment, cultural events – like someone else mentioned, really emphasizing the Connect-Belong. This year’s theme is ‘The Story of You,’ which is pretty cool because we often forget that WE are a part of our own genealogy.”
–Tami Osmer Mize, ConferenceKeeper

“It’s the energy! I love being surrounded by that buzz of people chatting about all things genealogy. It’s so much more than excellent speakers and classes (which are phenomenal!), and the Expo Hall (I could and do spend a lot of time in there!). It’s the networking and the sharing and the inspiration.”
–Sue Thomas McNelly, Professional Genealogist

Meeting and Networking

Part of the benefit of attending a conference is the educational presentations – but don’t forget the importance of networking and meeting your favorite genealogy speakers, authors, and social media friends. This is your chance to ask questions, network, and get energized.

One genealogy friend recently told me how she loved the FamilySearch app because of its “Relatives around Me” feature which allows you to find nearby cousins. RootsTech is the perfect place to use the app, so consider downloading it before your arrival at RootsTech.

“First, there’s the ‘roots’: connecting with others, networking, finding cousins, making new friends. So much positive energy in every room… you can feel it as soon as you walk into the conference center. And then there’s the ‘tech,’ of course. Seeing what’s new in the Expo Hall, trying out new products, getting new ideas. Not attending RootsTech can cause a serious case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), for me, at least!”
–Elizabeth Swanay O’Neal, Professional Genealogist

“It’s like coming home: a wonderful place where you meet your ‘family’ to talk about what is happening in our (business) lives, to share experiences, learn from each other and on top of that all… have fun with all those who understand why genealogy is our passion and why it is so important for us all.”
–John Boeren, Professional Genealogist

“Connecting with my #RootsTechFamily after 10 years, many strong friendships have been made. It is the most popular genealogy conference of the year. The speakers, the vendors and the chance to connect with so many wonderful people in our field is a priceless opportunity.”
–David Allen Lambert, New England Historic Genealogical Society

“RootsTech is a great place to meet folks on journeys of self-discovery. You get a first-hand view at how people leverage genealogy and DNA testing tools to learn about their family history.”
–David Mittelman, DNASolves.com

Sure, There Are Great Talks, but Don’t Miss the Expo Hall

The Expo Hall is your chance to ask questions, learn about new genealogy tools, and get ideas. Make a point to take the time to slowly stroll the Hall, talk to vendors, and try new-to-you products and services. In addition to vendors there are professional genealogists to help you in the Trace.com Coaches’ Corner. Other things to do in the Expo Hall include the Demo Theatre, Heirloom Show-and-Tell, and the Discovery Zone.

Don’t forget to stop by the GenealogyBank booth (#827) and ask questions about how to better search for and find your ancestors.

“The vendor hall! All of our friends are in there, plus it’s great to check out all the different companies.”
–Terri O’Connell, Finding Our Ancestors

“Personally, for me it is the vendor floor, which is huge! In addition, the opportunity to network more than usual, plus I love the ‘here is what’s new’ announcements from all the companies!”
–Kristi Sexton, Professional Genealogist

“To have all of the vendors in one place is the best for me. I make a point to seek out the smaller ones, for they often have just what I am looking for. Plus, it’s nice to talk to people about genealogy without their eyes rolling back into their head.”
–Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, Professional Genealogist

“I love all the vendors. It’s nice to see so many talented people making new apps and software for the genealogical industry.”
–J. Paul Hawthorne, GeneaSpy

“The vendors on the show floor. It’s really about inspiration.”
–Roberta Estes, Genetic Genealogist-DNAeXplained

“I attended for the first time in 2019 and I loved it. The app created for RootsTech is fantastic, the Exhibit Hall filled with so many products and ideas, the ease of getting around the Salt Palace, the laid-back atmosphere to learn and be exposed to new and different topics, makes RootsTech a favorite of mine!”
–Sydney Shaffner Gabel, Genealogist

See You at RootsTech!

Have to skip this year’s RootsTech? That’s ok, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the conference from home. But if you think you may want to go next year, now’s the time to start planning. Hotels within walking distance of the Salt Palace (where RootsTech is held) or just beyond fill up early. Participants often plan a year in advance to attend. If 2021 is like previous years, look around the end of 2020 to the beginning of 2021 for RootsTech Ambassadors to give away passes to the event. A compilation of those giveaways can be found on the ConferenceKeeper website. Winning a pass can help you save some money.

In the meantime, download the RootsTech app and watch previous years’ videos on the RootsTech website.

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