RootsTech London 2019 in Review
Nearly 10,000 people from 42 countries flocked to the RootsTech London conference to discover ancestors, connect with living relatives, and celebrate family heritage. Another 1,300 tuned into the international conference through its livestream online. Celebrities Dan Snow, Kadeena Cox, and Donny Osmond, and FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood keynoted the 3-day event held at the ExCeL London. Fun, new family history-related DNA services, and other discovery technologies were highlighted, along with hundreds of how-to classes for beginners, enthusiasts and families.
“We were extremely pleased,” said Jen Allen, RootsTech event director. “There is truly a thriving genealogy community in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe that we were grateful and humbled to be a part of. RootsTech is here to serve the industry and the incredible people who are doing this work. It’s inspiring to see so many people and organizations dedicated to finding and preserving family stories.”
More than 60 exhibitors demonstrated their products and services in the exciting exhibition hall. Platinum sponsors of the show included Ancestry and findmypast. Other sponsors were also present, including: Trace, Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, Cutot Reohrig, Genealogy Wall Charts, BYUtv’s Relative Race, the TV series Who Do You Think You Are?, the British Library, Federation of Family History Societies, NEHGS, and the Society of Genealogists were also present.
In his keynote, FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood spoke of the importance of each individual in the work of genealogy. Rockwood stated that this work cannot be done alone. He recounted the history of FamilySearch, beginning as a small community searching for their ancestors and developing into a large nonprofit with important partners and over 5,000 family history centers around the world. Rockwood noted that it's all about connection, and not just for us, but for the next generation.
“At FamilySearch International, our mission is very, very simple. We will help—all of us—reconstruct the family tree of mankind. It is possible, as long as we do it together.”
Dan Snow, popular British historian, shared stories of his youth, growing up listening to history and stories shared by his parents and grandparents. Snow also shared vulnerable and painful stories about his own family history. Particularly poignant was the story of his grandfather’s disappointing role in the Battle of Sommes. Snow’s comments focused on the reality of finding imperfections in our ancestors as we build our family tree and realizing that each of us has the opportunity to learn from our family's mistakes and improve.
“We are all humans, deeply imperfect, and we are all going to find deeply imperfect people in our family tree. . . . So there’s no shame in whatever you turn up among your ancestors. And I urge you to be honest and face it. And talk about it, and learn from it.”
Kadeena Cox, decorated British Paralympic athlete, talked about her journey as an active athlete who experienced a stroke and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014. Cox’s story is one of unrelenting determination, courage, and hard work. Her family story has deep roots in Jamaica, where her mother’s side of the family resides. Her mother was born in Jamaica, in the poorest parish in the country. Her grandmother was the first to leave the island for Leeds England, where she set up shop and eventually brought her children to the United Kingdom. Cox’s family has left her a legacy of hard work and courage.
“I’ve been able to show people that setbacks don’t have to define you. And I just used everything I’ve built from kind of my upbringing and where I’ve come from, to help me to get to that point.”
World-renowned entertainer, Donny Osmond, spoke and performed in front of an enthusiastic audience on the final day of the event. He recounted a number of his personal favorite songs, shared personal stories and video clips, and told anecdotes about his own ancestors while inviting RootsTech participants to record their own stories for posterity.
“Everyone has a story. And they may not realize how important their stories are. They may think, ‘I’m just so insignificant,'” said Osmond. “Well, ‘just me’ is good enough. Because what you think is insignificant in your life, to your posterity is very significant. . . . Everyone has a compelling story, and it’s important for their posterity to know who they were, what they did, the decisions they made in life, and how they overcame adversity.”
RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, is a global conference celebrating families across generations, where people of all ages are inspired to discover and share their memories and connections. The annual event in Salt Lake City has become the largest of its kind in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants worldwide.