First impressions of RootsTech 2013

We are half way through the first day of the RootsTech conference 2013 (http://rootstech.org) and I am seeing that it is a sort of hybrid event encompassing large elements of Who Do You Think Your Are? Live and the IAJGS international conferences.  WDYTYA? Live is mostly about the exhibitors and the very many Family History Society stands and has a small lecture content and the IAJGS Conference is mostly lectures with a small exhibition content.  Walking round the exhibition hall here it is easy to feel as if you are back at WDYTYA? Live but without the local societies and archives being there.  Looking at the schedule of lectures feels like being back at the IAJGS conferences, lots of different topic strands, lots of talks at the same time making choices difficult to make.  The type of talks I am interested in are mainly about the underlying architecture and techniques of genealogy and ethical issues.  It is not a place to come and expect to hear a talk about how to find Aunt Bessie in Poland but about how to discover and consider new tools for making that discovery.  The technology and on-line networking opportunities that genealogy still has to embrace are massive.  How we manage to develop those opportunities and come about is not immediately evident.  By pulling so many developers together along with the end-users, RootsTech may go some way to achieving this.  We have to wait and see over the coming months and years.

Like all conferences of this nature though, the one-on-one networking element remains the same.  People are meeting old friends and making new ones.  They are also exchanging their research and discoveries.

The Keynote session this morning looked at the main themes of the conference, finding, organising, preserving and sharing family histories and stories.  For those that missed the live streaming of the session on the internet, the keynote speakers presented a compelling case for the last theme of sharing stories.  There were excellent examples of the types of stories that can and should be told.  The message was that, to leave knowledge about ourselves and our forebears for posterity, we need to consider what our descendants would really want to know about us.  This is true for many of us about what we would have liked to know about our ancestors.  What were their lives really like? What sort of individuals were they? How did they deal with life? And so on.  It has made me feel a little guilty about not having put down in writing or on video much of what I know and have learned about my family.

We are also posting short messages about the conference on our JGSGB Facebook page if you want to pick up odd bits and pieces – www.facebook.com/#!/groups/51853921646/

Mark Nicholls

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