Genealogy Insider: Trend-Setting

By Sunny Jane Morton Premium

To keep abreast of new resources and technology in the genealogy world, follow what happens at FamilySearch’s RootsTech genealogy conference, held each winter in Salt Lake City. Not only is its attendance—upwards of 20,000 people over five days—unprecedented for US family history events, it’s also the largest trade show for the $2 billion genealogy industry. Businesses big and small show off their genealogy offerings in the exhibit hall, and technology startups compete for prizes in the Innovator Showdown.

Some industry trends and new products are born at RootsTech; others gain exposure and take off. Keep an eye on these blossoming genealogy trends: 



FamilySearch has blazed wide trails for collaboration across the industry. The public release of the FamilySearch programming interface in 2013 encouraged developers to create apps that work with data and family trees on the site. FamilySearch partnerships with for-profits, Findmypast and MyHeritage have led to record-sharing across the sites. 

For example, in conjunction with the 2016 conference in February, Findmypast and each announced the impending release of a searchable index to the National Library of Ireland’s Catholic parish records; this was a quiet joint effort. Another collaboration announced there was the initiative to sync trees and records with RootsMagic genealogy software. 

Streaming online

Since its inaugural conference in 2011, RootsTech has offered a selection of free livestreamed sessions that genealogists back home could watch online in real time. That event registered more attendees online than in person (4,500 vs. 3,000), effectively pioneering large-scale online genealogy conference participation. In 2016, livestreamed sessions drew 105,715 webcast views. 
This trend immediately transcended RootsTech. A few months after the first RootsTech, the Southern California Genealogical Society offered free real-time viewing of five classes at its annual Jamboree

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) began offering fee-based live-streaming sessions of its annual family history conference in 2014, the same year sponsored live viewing of selected Jamboree sessions. The 2016 annual conferences of NGS and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies offer live-streaming registration that includes follow-up access to recorded classes.


Family health tracking

TapGenes, the winner of the RootsTech 2016 Innovator Showdown, developed a platform to help users track health conditions that run in their families (see an interview with the company’s Heather Holmes on this page). It brings to the forefront services such as AncestryHealth, launched in July 2015. Look for tools like these to eventually integrate with genetic genealogy test results and when users opt to participate, serve as a rich source of data for medical research.


Digital archiving products

FamilySearch’s emphasis on sharing family stories makes RootsTech the ideal marketing venue for digital archiving services, which back up scanned documents online. For example, Forever, a major conference sponsor in 2016, offers online photo storage for 100 years past the customer’s lifetime. It includes migration of file formats, which may be necessary to allow future generations to open the files. Because long-term online photo archiving is a tough sell in a dynamic marketplace where websites merge and go out of business, Forever invests subscription fees in a sort of trust fund to finance the site in the future. 


Innovator Showdown entrepreneurs also offered new spins on digital archiving products, including Studio by Legacy Republic, with a portable digitization service for scanning photo albums, and the History Project, a platform to help family archivists unify various media and memories into a “living time capsule.” 

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