RootsTech 2018 made me sad. I mostly missed the opportunity to visit with friends and make new friends on the Exhibit Floor. Being on a full-time mission for FamilySearch and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has ushered in a new phase in my life. I very much appreciate the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind." Since I wasn't physically present at the Conference, it is like putting your hand in a bucket of water. Once, you take your hand out, you cannot tell you were there. It has been interesting observing the changes to the RootsTech Conferences over the years.
From afar, it seems that the "tech" portion of RootsTech has almost disappeared by being reduced to a panel discussion. It also seems to me that the "genealogy" part of the Conference is also being marginalized. The topics highlighted talked more about the present than the past: DNA, Photos, Tools, Stories, Organizing and Discovery. All of these now seem so far from spending time sitting in front of a stream of old documents and records, searching page by page for information about my ancestors.
My core activities in doing genealogical research involve searching endless record sources for information. Granted, I use the most advanced available technology and spend far less time on some activities than I did in the past, but the real news from RootsTech came from the advances made by MyHeritage.com's announcements which are hardly mentioned or glossed over by the commentary published online by the "bloggers" at the Conference. Although the Keynote presentations were impressive, there was no mention of anything having to do with the actual work of finding historical records or discovering your ancestors. The developments initiated by MyHeritage will impact what I do more than anything else I have heard so far from the Conference.
I spend a considerable amount of time talking to and teaching individuals about how to find their ancestors. The most common questions are "how do I begin?" and "where do I go from here?" The answers to these questions are highly personal. This past week, I spent hours helping one person understand how to find ancestral records in North Carolina in the 1700s and more time with helping to research a family in England in the 1800s. I have also talked to people about records in the Cameroon in Africa and in Korea.
There is a lot of talk about stories. My question is: "Where do the stories come from?" I also spent some more time this week helping a volunteer at the Maryland State Archives, put her father's World War II experiences into a book that could be published. These stories will shortly become available to her father's family.
I am not sure how attending RootsTech would have helped me or them with these activities.
I think that attending RootsTech is a fabulous experience but from the perspective of spending hours a day digitizing historical records, it seems like what I am doing here in Maryland is more directly involved in providing genealogical opportunities than what I might have done by being at the Conference.