News From FamilySearch’s RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City

By Diane Haddad

FamilySearch held a dinner Wednesday for members of the media attending the RootsTech conference, happening in Salt Lake City through Saturday. Outreach director and chief marketing officer Shipley Munson shared an overview of the upcoming conference, news, and background on RootsTech’s “Who Inspires You?” theme.

Munson gave an estimate of 20,000 registered attendees here, and said that’s a conservative number. Every US state except West Virginia is represented, and attendees have come from 35 countries. Saturday will be Family Discovery Day, when members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attend special classes with their children.

RootsTech’s selection of some keynote speakers and themes focused on topics such as storytelling and family togetherness has drawn criticism for the departure from the event’s original purpose to unite genealogy and technology. Munson seemed to acknowledge this by referring to the “lifestyle” and the “genealogy” audience members at the media dinner.

He explained the conference’s “Who Inspires You?” theme by talking about a book called The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler, a psychology professor at Emory University. His research team found that family history knowledge is an important component to family health and confident children.

“Family history is more than genealogy. It’s about the collection of stories and photos that give meaning to families,” Munson said. “The highest form of family history is the story, and you are the storytellers.”

The FamilySearch Family Tree has about 1.1 billion people. The hints that match records to people in the trees is 98 percent accurate. FamilySearch is testing a new indexing system using character recognition software to create the “A-run” index for printed records, with a second pass by human indexers.

Next, FamilySearch’s David Pugmire gave an overview of the FamilySearch Innovator Showdown, a competition among those who’ve introduced new genealogy technology tools and apps. Four finalists, chosen at Tuesday’s Innovator Summit, will compete for $25,000 in prize money:

  • ArgusSearch: A Google-like search engine that allows any user to search within any documetn, even most handwritten ones
  • GenMarketplace: A place where you can post a genealogy lookup or other job, and the price goes up (to a maximum price you choose) until someone claims it and does it for you.
  • Lucidpress: An app that lets you create publications for print, digital presentations and video
  • Storyworth: A tool that lets you record family stories a bit at a time, via your responses to regular emailed prompts

A live audience and judges will choose the winner after Friday morning’s keynote presentation by former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager.