Saturday, February 25, 2017

FHL and RootsTech 2017 Report

It’s been two weeks since my husband and I returned home from Salt Lake City and RootsTech 2017. I planned on writing about our experience soon after we arrived, but I was sidelined with a head cold. Two days later, Michael also came down with a cold, so neither of us was in any shape to put our thoughts on paper.

Part I – Family History Library

Holiday Inn Express Downtown Salt Lake City
View of our hotel from the Salt Palace looking south

Ah… the calm before the storm… Michael and I arrived in Salt Lake City in the late afternoon on Sunday February 5. We checked into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Downtown, across the street from the Salt Palace.

Salt Lake City
View of Salt Lake City from our hotel room looking north

I wanted to spend 2-3 days at the Family History Library before attending RootsTech. I came prepared with my research binder/tote. It contained my 8-page spreadsheet showing all the books, serials, maps, and microfilms I intended to locate. (Back home, my friend Salli showed me how to create an efficient plan to keep track of my research needs and this pre-preparation paid off.) I also had printed maps of the FHL and knew which floor held what resources.

As soon as we got to the Library on Monday morning, my husband and I were greeted enthusiastically by volunteer staff, who gave us directions to the US & Canada Books floor. Once there, on the third floor, I stood for a moment and scanned the large room. There were staff desks nearby, long tables to work at beyond them, computers off to one side, and at the far end of the room, rows and rows of shelving filled to the brim with BOOKS! I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry – I was that impressed with the amount of books those shelves held. The best part (for me) was discovering the large quantity of material on French Canada (Quebec). I don’t think I’ve seen so many books about Quebec outside of a Canadian library or archive. I set my research tote on a table and then walked towards the 971.4 books. I looked at one, then another, and then one more. It was overwhelming! I wanted to take them all back to the table. Instead, I took a deep breath and chose 3-4 books to start with.

FHL microfilm cabinet
Michael at a microfilm cabinet

Michael and I worked until almost noon and then took a lunch break in the snack room on the ground floor. A fellow genealogist, Lark, joined us there. Lark and I met online recently during a Mondays with Myrt session, a weekly genealogy hangout-on-air. After lunch, it was back to work on the third floor, getting as much done as possible before the Library closed at 5 p.m.

Family History Library
Yvonne (right) with Lark at the FHL

The next day, Tuesday, Michael and I returned to the FHL. We met up with Lark for lunch and then worked for the next few hours. My 7-page spreadsheet grew to eight pages, because I found 14 other books that I hadn’t thought of while back home.

Holiday Inn Express Downtown Salt Lake City
Michael and Yvonne in our hotel lobby

Wednesday was a short day at the Library. We spent the morning catching up on last minute items. After lunch, we walked to the Salt Palace and made our way to Room 155A to hear a panel discussion on “How will DNA continue to disrupt our industry”. It was a good session, but it’s too bad that the speakers – Angie Bush, CeCe Moore and Scott Woodward – weren’t visible to most of the audience because they sat at a table at floor level instead of on a platform or stage.

Part II – RootsTech 2017

RootsTech 2017 sponsors
RootsTech 2017 sponsors above entrance/exit doors of Expo Hall

How would I describe RootsTech in one word? EXCITING! From the moment we entered the Salt Palace and walked past the registration desk, there was so much to take in. There were the food vendors, the endless rooms where the sessions would take place, the Expo Hall, and people everywhere. I wanted to do it all and not miss a thing. It was my first time in Salt Lake City, at RootsTech and at the Family History Library, so I was geared up for a great time. Unfortunately, my energy level didn’t match my enthusiasm level, and I was soon exhausted. I had to scale back my expectations and my schedule. The expression “pace yourself” really applied here.

RootsTech 2017 attendees
Attendees going to and from sessions

There were some hiccups during the four days of RootsTech. For example, I missed out on two sessions, because the small rooms were filled to capacity 20 minutes before the start time. On Thursday morning, I had a bit of an anxiety attack during the keynote address with the Scott Brothers (aka the Property Brothers of tv fame) and had to leave the hall to find some fresh air. I didn’t feel well on Saturday morning and stayed in my hotel room, which meant I missed that morning’s keynote speakers CeCe Moore and Buddy Valastro. I had scheduled an appointment with Coaches’ Corner for Friday afternoon, but it got cancelled because the system double booked people. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have a chance to ask questions about my 18th century ancestor (Francis Durgey) from New Hampshire. While walking around in the Expo Hall on the day of my cancelled appointment, I decided to drop by the Coaches’ Corner booth to see if there was any chance I could still get to speak to someone. One of the women at the desk was a New Hampshire expert and since no one was in line, she agreed to see me. How cool is that?

Jonathan and Drew Scott the Property Brothers
Jonathan and Drew Scott, the Property Brothers

On the plus side, I really enjoyed all the guest speakers, but was thrilled beyond words to see LeVar Burton on Friday morning. I’ve been such a fan of his since I first saw him in Roots (the tv miniseries) in 1977 when I was a high school student. Forty years later, Mr. Burton proved to be an eloquent, powerful and unforgettable speaker. There must have been more than 10,000 people gathered in the hall that morning. As for the daily class sessions, it was great to hear speakers like Angie Bush, Angela McGhie, Thomas Jones and Joshua Taylor. It was also fun to sit-in on the short talks the vendors gave in the Expo Hall. I particularly liked the ones put on by Ancestry, MyHeritageDNA and Family Tree Maker. Russ Worthington gave such a good talk about the new features of FTM 2017 that I bought FTM 2014.1 and the upgrade to 2017 (available in a few weeks). While at the FTM booth, I won a copy of “Charting Companion 6” (by Progeny Genealogy) which works with FTM.

Chart Companion 6
Pierre Clouthier demonstrating "Chart Companion 6"

The Expo Hall was often full of people, but it had its quieter moments. Some vendors were crazy-busy keeping up with the crowds. Despite the crush of people, I found the company reps gave me their full attention and answered my questions without hurrying me along. While here, my husband and I bought MyHeritageDNA’s test kits and submitted our samples on site. There were also great show specials to take advantage of, so I bought Genetic Genealogy in Practice, by Blaine Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne (at the American Ancestors booth) and Legacy 8.0 Deluxe (at the Legacy FamilyTree booth). I managed to visit many of the vendor booths, including the ‘big’ ones (like Ancestry), but I also enjoyed dropping by other booths like Drouin Institute (I chatted with Sébastien Robert, V-P of the DI), Geneanet, Maia’s Genealogy & History Book, Moorshead Magazines, National Institute for Genealogical Studies, and ShotBox.

RootsTech 2017 Expo Hall
View inside Expo Hall

Part III – Evening Events

Monday – Michael and I joined Jill Ball (GeniAus blogger) at the Blue Lemon restaurant. Jill organized a get-together for attendees from the British Commonwealth. Australia seemed to have the largest contingent, but Canada, England, and, I believe, New Zealand were also represented.

Tuesday – Michael and I researched at the FHL.

Wednesday – We attended the RootsTech Welcome Party at the Marriott.

Thursday – We didn’t go to the RootsTech Opening Event (Rodgers and Hammerstein music at the Conference Center), because fatigue had set in and we wanted a quiet night.

Friday – We were back at the Marriott for the MyHeritageDNA After-Party. Lots of people, great games, door prizes, music, karaoke, and even a couple of illusionists who amazed us! Here are some pictures:

RootsTech 2017 MyHeritageDNA After-Party
Welcome sign to MyHeritageDNA After-Party

RootsTech 2017 MyHeritageDNA After-Party
David Lambert (center) and other genealogists performing to karaoke

RootsTech 2017 MyHeritageDNA After-Party
Daniel Schaffer (Master Mentalist) demonstrating an illusion

Saturday – Michael, myself and about 30 or so guests descended on Dear Myrtle’s home for a couple of hours that evening. Got to meet more genealogists, had good food (soup, salad, desserts), and have a chance to relax and talk genealogy one last time before we left for home the next morning.


Peggy Lauritzen and Cheri Passey
Peggy Clemens Lauritzen (left) and Cheri Hudson Passey

Daniel Horowitz and Randy Seaver
Daniel Horowitz (floor) and Randy Seaver (behind, in chair)
Group photo at home of Dear Myrtle
Group photo at Myrt's home

Thank you for your hospitality in your beautiful home, Myrt!


Michael and Yvonne with Dear Myrtle
Michael and Yvonne with 'Dear Myrtle'

Copyright © 2017, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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