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My Week in Salt Lake City – part 2 (RootsTech)

My visit to Salt Lake City was an incredible experience. How I got to know the city, the people and the LDS church better, was the topic of an earlier post. This time I will focus on RootsTech, the biggest genealogy event in the world!

It all started on Tuesday February 26th, the day registration for the conference opened. Last year the registration process caused a lot of frustration. This year, it all went very smoothly. Within a few minutes I was registered and I had received my badge. Maybe this is a good moment to say something about ribbons. It is custom at US conferences to hand out ribbons, in bright colors with catchy texts or references to companies or websites. Each ribbon has a gluey side that enables you to stick the ribbon on the bottom of your badge. Ribbon after ribbon, thus creating a long tail of shiny ribbons. Competition time: who can get the most ribbons?

Drew Smith and I showing our collection of conference ribbons

The next day I arrived at the convention center just before 9.00am. People everywhere, trying to find their way in the large building. Main stage, Ruby Room, Ballroom A, Ballroom B, Ballroom G, Ballroom J, class rooms 150, 155E, 251A and 355. Fortunately the RootsTech app not only gave the full program and a list of classes, but also a map.

Almost immediately after I entered the large central hall, I was spotted by a fellow genealogist. Christopher White from New York had recognized me. We spoke for a short while about his Dutch ancestors, who lived in Tilburg (my hometown) and Oosterhout (not far from Tilburg).

After this pleasant start of the day, I attended my first class: ‘Deeper Analysis: Techniques for Successful Problem-Solving’ by Elissa Scalise Powell. Later that day I attended ‘Jumping off a cliff: How to pursue your dreams’ by Kenyatta Berry and ‘Use an Ancestor’s FAN Club to Get Past Brick Walls’ by Drew Smith. I had followed these three genealogists online for quite some years, but this was the first time I actually heard them speak.

Devon Noel and Andy Lee from Family History Fanatics

In the morning I had my first interview. Andy Lee from Family History Fanatics and I spoke about genealogical research in the Netherlands. At noon it was time to meet with Julianne Binkhurst Trotter. She invited me for lunch to get to know each other and to welcome me to RootsTech. How kind of her! It turned out that her father has Dutch/Indonesian origins.

The first day of RootsTech ended – for me at least – with the grand opening of the conference. Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, elder David Bednar, and Martin Luther King III addressed the thousands of attendees. The LDS church donated 2 million dollar to the new family history center in the International African American Museum, soon to be established in Charleston. Music was brought to us by The Edge Effect, an a cappella band from Florida.

This was only the first day of RootsTech!

The next day I had to wake up early. This year RootsTech introduced Power Hour sessions: classes at 8.00am! I wanted to hear Luana Darby, Valerie Elkins and Anne Teerlink speak about ‘Making the Leap – Becoming a Professional Genealogist.’ I could relate to many of the aspects of being a professional genealogist they spoke about, including the question whether to get CG or AG credentials.

After this first class of the day, I visited the vendor hall with booths of companies and organizations. All demonstrating their products and services, talking about developments or future plans. At the booth of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies I met Louise St Denis and Angie Rodesky. After four years of taking their courses it was great to finally meet staff members of the institute. Angie interviewed me, asking why I had chosen the institute’s courses and what I liked best about their program.

Angie Rodesky and Louise St Denis, of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies

Special guest at the General Session of this day was Patricia Heaton, an American actress who played in the TV show ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’. The afternoon was reserved for two more classes: ‘One Touch Genealogy Research: Handle a Record Once’ by Thomas MacEntee and ‘You Need Both! Uniting DNA & Traditional Research’ by Angie Bush, D. Joshua Taylor.

I ended this day with a very pleasant dinner with the Trotter and Vandenberg families in the Chile Tepin restaurant. We spoke about genealogy, of course, but most of all about the Netherlands.

Dinner with the Vandenberg and Trotter families

When I arrived in my hotel room that evening, I knew that attending RootsTech was already a big success for me.

On Friday I started with ‘Chromosome mapping for absolute beginners’ by Jonny Perl. In the General Session of day 3, Saroo Brierly spoke about his very emotional life story that stood example for the Oscar winning movie Lion.

At noon I met John de Jong, who is born in the Netherlands, emigrated to the US as a young boy and now works for FamilySearch. We spoke about genealogy in the Netherlands, about ancestral travelling, and about his and my family history.

In the afternoon I attended the class ‘From Namur to Namur: Belgian immigration to the USA in the 19th century’ by Marie Cappart. Later I listened to Steve Rockwood and other FamilySearch officers. They spoke about new developments at FamilySearch, including the possibility to enter same sex relationships in their online family tree. It should be possible by the end of 2019!

Marie Cappart about Belgian emigrants

The afternoon ended with meeting Rob van Drie, who works at the Netherlands Center for Family History in The Hague. Time to catch up on our work, upcoming events and our experiences in Salt Lake City.

That evening, everything changed. All excitement about the conference disappeared. I became sick, probably food poisoning. For two days I had to stay in my hotel room. I could not attend the fourth day of RootsTech (Family Discovery Day). I could not listen to ‘Going Dutch: Finding Families in Online Records of the Netherlands’, a class by Daniel Jones.

Fortunately I was feeling better by Monday. It was time to fly back to the Netherlands. Looking back on these days, I can only say that I enjoyed every part of it. (Okay, not the last two days when I had to stay in bed.) It was a wonderful experience to be in Salt Lake City and to be at RootsTech!