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Episode 71: RootsTech 2022 organizers on what it means to ‘Choose Connection’ in a divided world


After attracting more than 1 million visitors from 240 countries and territories for last year’s online event, RootsTech will be completely virtual again in 2022. The three-day global family history event is happening March 3-5; registration is free. Participants will hear from international keynote speakers and have access to on-demand, livestream and interactive sessions where they can connect with one another, ask questions and learn from experts.

This episode of the Church News podcast features Jen Allen, director of events at FamilySearch, and Jonathan H. Wing, RootsTech manager, who offer a peek behind the scenes of RootsTech 2022 and talk about this year’s theme, “Choose Connection.” They are joined by guest host and Church News reporter Sydney Walker.

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Transcript

Sydney Walker: And I think to add to that, Jonathan, about what “Choose Connection” means to you.

Jonathan H. Wing: If I were to look at it within the context of family history — connection to the stories of the past, the stories of my ancestors, were extremely impactful on me. I moved to the United States when I was 8 years old, and I remember being in a school and feeling very different. But my parents, I don’t know if they did this deliberately or not, but, you know, they shared the stories of my ancestors. My great-grandfather Housu Wang, he left China and moved to the U.K. when he was younger. My own parents left their countries where they were born and moved, and to know of that strength, even though in a time when I felt so alone and disconnected from those around me, I felt strength. And for me, being able to inspire and help people discover those stories from their own family history is a way that I can kind of pay it forward, for my job. It’s my job. It’s so great.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News — welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After attracting more than 1 million visitors from 240 countries and territories in its online event last year, RootsTech is going completely virtual again in 2022. The three-day global family history event is happening March 3-5, and registration is free. Participants will hear from international keynote speakers, and have access to on-demand, livestream and interactive sessions where they can connect with each other, ask questions and learn from experts. This episode of the Church News podcast features Jen Allen, the director of events at Family Search and Jonathan H. Wing, RootsTech manager, who will give us a peek behind the scenes of RootsTech 2022 and talk to us about this year’s theme: “Choose Connection.” They will be joined by guest host, Church News reporter Sydney Walker. Jen, Jonathan and Sydney, it’s a thrill to welcome you to the Church News podcast.

Jen Allen: Thanks for having us.

Jonathan H. Wing: We’re excited to be here.

Sydney Walker: Yeah, thanks, Jen and Jonathan, for being here. And before we jump into RootsTech questions, we’d love to get to know you a little bit. So tell us who you are, some of your background, how you got involved with RootsTech and Family Search and why you love family history.

RootsTech 2022 will be held online March 3–5, 2022.

Registration is now open for RootsTech 2022, which will be held online is being held online March 3–5, 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

2:47  

Jen Allen: Yeah, so my name is Jen Allen. I am a mom of three boys, almost all teenagers. So it’s an interesting life that we have at home, but I have been working at the Church and with RootsTech for almost 10 years. We were doing the math the other day, Jonathan and I, on how many events we’ve planned or been at least a part of with the Church, but it’s been an incredible ride. Luckily, my kids think it’s pretty cool that I have an important job, they say, and they have all done family history in their own way and love to connect really with the stories and pictures in their own right.

3:28  

Jonathan H. Wing: I haven’t been around as long as Jen. I’ve only been here six years in Church employment in different capacities, but I’ve been working for the RootsTech team for two years. What’s so crazy to me is just how much genealogy has played a role in my life since the very beginning. I mean, my parents, everything was about family stories, culture tradition. My mom’s from the Philippines. My father is from the Netherlands, and so my home was always a mix of different cultures and traditions. And I remember recently, I found this video of me that I made a home video where I was just saying, “Welcome to genealogy news,” and I was sharing my whole family history. For some reason, I thought that was really entertaining. But it’s funny that, you know, fast forward 30 years, here I am sharing genealogies and the message of connecting to family, from a production standpoint. It’s kind of funny, I never imagined that I’d be here.

Sydney Walker: Thanks for telling us a little about yourself, and I’ve loved working with both of you in the past as I’ve covered RootsTech, and you both bring so much fun and energy to this topic. And so let’s give our listeners some background about what RootsTech is. It’s traditionally been an in-person event held in the Salt Palace. How has it evolved since its beginning?

4:45  

Jen Allen: Yeah, well, RootsTech started in 2011 and was very focused on the industry, on genealogists who were professionals, and also the people who were creating and developing either websites at the time or new techniques to help in family history, but it quickly after just two years evolved to where we really were involving anybody who was interested in family history and genealogy. And it very quickly grew from there. We were generally always on site at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. And towards the end, before pandemic world, we were inviting and welcoming 30,000 to 60,000 people in the Salt Palace. It was incredible, and it’s so fun to see the people all over the world who are interested. By the way, there are a lot of people who like family history. It doesn’t have to be as boring as what some of us might think, when we first hear the words.  

Jonathan H. Wing: Yeah, you know, 2020 happened, and we feel very fortunate that we were able to hold that event, because it was the week after RootsTech 2020 that the world shut down. And we knew already at that point that we would have to think differently about 2021, and it’s amazing because it was a huge learning curve for us, and anyone in the events industry, to figure out a way to create an event that’s still engaging and exciting for audiences in a virtual setting only. But what we didn’t anticipate was the global response that we would receive, and that — we planned for it, we hoped for it, but we never anticipated that over a million folks from over 240 countries around the world would be tuning in, because as Jen said, lots of people are interested in family history. Lots of people around the world, that’s a universal desire for people to connect with, where they came from, and the people who came before.

Sydney Walker: And tell us more about what that was like, planning this virtual event. In a conversation earlier this week, Jen, you talked about, it was “building a plane while it was in flight,” or you used some analogy like that about how crazy it was. Tell us more about that.

6:58  

Jen Allen: Well, first of all, let’s just admit we didn’t know what we were doing. I mean, and like Jonathan said, the whole event industry had to reinvent and think about, “How are we going to do this in the future?” So it was a lot of whiteboards, a lot of brainstorm sessions, and we went big. There were a lot of people who thought we were a little crazy, and maybe we were. I mean, let’s be honest, I have a few more gray hairs and lots more wrinkles. But as you start looking at an event that, again, attracted people here in Salt Lake City, but now we’re going to take it to the world. That means languages that we never had to worry about before we launched that first virtual event in 11 languages, and that’s the only reason really that people came from all over the world, that those 240 countries were tuning in.

The Relatives at RootsTech 2022 experience opened Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in advance of RootsTech 2022, which is March 3-5.

The Relatives at RootsTech 2022 experience opened Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in advance of RootsTech 2022, which is March 3-5.

Credit: Screenshot from FamilySearch.org

Read more: Relatives at RootsTech 2022 experience opens with new features

Sydney Walker: Yeah. Anything to add to that, Jonathan? 

Jonathan H. Wing: I think of my own upbringing, growing up in a home with different cultures, different traditions, and the sensitivity that I had towards that, and the appreciation of the beauty of those differences, and that was at the forefront of my mind and so many of the members of the RootsTech planning team, was “How do we celebrate and highlight the culture and traditions from around the world? How do we make this a global event?” Because even though we had visitors and participants in Salt Lake who came from different parts of the world, we were never really planning for an international audience, and so to have that new challenge was exciting for us, and exciting for me personally, to be able to highlight and celebrate the traditions from around the world.

Jen Allen: Do you remember — so we held our event in Salt Lake City in 2020, and literally, that was the last event held at the Salt Palace, everything shut down afterwards. And we were all, by the way, trying to figure out how to be at home with our children and spouses everywhere. None of us really knew — you know how to use Zoom, but you don’t really know how to do that all day long. And here we are meeting all the time, trying to figure out — in fact, so Jonathan loves whiteboards. I don’t know if you know that. He loves to tackle a problem with a marker and a whiteboard, but we didn’t have that, and we were like, “How do we do this? How do we plan?” And it’s crazy to think back to that. 2020, again, was an incredible event. We feel so blessed we were able to still have it. But we had, I don’t know, about 700 of the family history department employees all gathered in the Salt Palace. We took this huge picture together. And then to imagine, two weeks later, the world shut down. It was just crazy.

Jonathan H. Wing: I eventually got myself a whiteboard, so it worked out. Another thing that was extremely helpful to us — Family Search has a presence all over the world. We have employees who work in various parts of the world who are now our best friends. You know, when we expanded the audience base for RootsTech, we knew that there was a lot of learning that needed to happen on our end. Not just the innovation of figuring out how to reach these audiences and keep them engaged in a virtual setting, it was, “What do we need to know about individuals all over the world so that we’re creating content that helps them learn?” Because learning is one of the main pillars of RootsTech. People come there to learn how to do research, and so there was a lot that we had to figure out when it came to the type of content that we would create the lessons and classes that we would provide, but also entertainment. “How can we provide that wide sampling of content from around the world and highlight and celebrate that, but still be sensitive to whatever nuances we need to be aware of?” So our friends all over the world became our best friends.  

Jen Allen: Yeah, that’s so true. Well, we’re pretty darn good hosting an event, planning the chairs, figuring out where the lines are going to be, working with the fire marshal. But all of that went to the wayside, and then we had to learn how to be really good at setting up our convention center online. And we’re not developers, we don’t know how to speak web speak, and working with our engineers all the sudden, and helping them become event managers, and our event managers become website developers. That was a huge learning curve and continues to be. Yeah, that was fun, and challenging. 

Jonathan H. Wing: You know how when you go through a painful experience, it’s really painful, but then you fast forward, and you’re like, ”I remember it was painful, but I don’t really remember the pain.” That’s what it feels like, but it was amazing. I mean, it was amazing the response that we received, which was really just so incredible to come out of a really hard planning year, and with all the unknowns, with all the ambiguity, not knowing whether this was gonna sink or thrive. It was very humbling for us to get to the end of that and to realize that that response was there, that the interest was there, and it forever changed the way that we view RootsTech.

Sydney Walker: Yeah. I remember talking with Steve Rockwood, who’s the CEO of Family Search after RootsTech last year, and he talked about how those three days it was just opening weekend, it was the ribbon-cutting for what was to come, it was just the beginning. And now here we are, still in the pandemic another year later, and we’re going virtual again. So what did you learn last year, during that ribbon-cutting opening weekend, that is now going to help this event be even better?

FamilySearch announced RootsTech Connect 2022 will take place on March 3–5, 2022, as a fully virtual family history event.

FamilySearch announced RootsTech Connect 2022 will take place on March 3–5, 2022, as a fully virtual family history event.

Credit: FamilySearch

12:34  

Jen Allen: Well, the thing I always go to first is how hard it is to create energy when everyone’s just sitting at home in their living room with their slippers on. You can’t see them, we’re not in the same room cheering for each other. So, one of our biggest goals coming out of 2021 was to increase the energy, and a lot of that was done through kind of the production value. And that’s where Jonathan really thrives and came in and really came with some incredible fresh ideas for this year. So why don’t you tell them about some of the sneak peek opportunities?

Read more: Learn about RootsTech 2022’s new and improved features that promise to bring more energy to the screen

Jonathan H. Wing: Yeah, I will get to that. One thing — I want to answer your question, because for me, I wish everyone could see what happens after RootsTech. People get to experience the event, but it’s just as incredible to see what happens after the event when all of us get together and we learn. There’s so much that we learn from our audience base. There are surveys that are sent out and we read every word, and we listen to our audience because we want to create events that will resonate and content that will resonate with them. 

When it comes to the changes from 2021 to 2022, just as Jen said: The content, we were limited because we were still in the thick of the pandemic, our keynote speakers were all Zoom calls, it was a very different experience. And because we are coming out of that a little bit more, we knew that we would be able to do a lot more on the production side, that we would be able to film keynote speakers in different ways, And we can talk about that in just a minute. But we learned a lot about the way that people consume media. It’s different and it’s ever changing. In a virtual setting, people want shorter content, it’s a lot easier for somebody to just get distracted and stop listening to something on the screen than it is for somebody to get up out of an auditorium and walk out of a keynote. So, we knew that our content needs to be shorter and more engaging. With our keynote specifically, we made a change where we moved away from the Zoom calls, and we decided to do what we call a documentary style piece with them, we’re there in their home, in their space, getting to know them and hearing their message about family and connection, and it was really special to do that, to be in their hometown. It was a very different feeling to be there, which I’m excited for our audiences to see. Not just these individuals in their own space, but when they’re surrounded by all the stories, and the memories that influence them, it just creates a different environment for them. 

And there’s a lot more that’s happening. We’re bringing family history back in a very real way, with genealogy reveals with these keynote speakers where that heart comes there too. And where these individuals are going to — I don’t want to give anything away. 

Jen Allen: Oh, give them a small sneak peek. Or a little teaser.

15:33  

Jonathan H. Wing: Well, with Matthew Modine, one of our keynote speakers, he’s on the hit show “Stranger Things,” and we filmed him in New York in a small studio there. He grew up in California and Utah, but he eventually made his way to New York, where he pursued an acting career, and he shares that incredible story. But what he didn’t know is that his ties to New York go way back, and in an incredible way, and so I’m not going to tease it because it’s good, but he got emotional as he discovered these stories from his own family history. And we know that, as members of the Church, as the spirit of Elijah, he was touched, and it was so neat to see that happen. And I’m excited for the audiences to see that happen for him, because they’ll get inspired by it. They’ll want to know those stories within their own lives, and that’s what we hope. What we hope to do is inspire individuals, with these stories, to go out and discover their own. Because that can strengthen them, that can help them understand who they are, and it’s a powerful thing.

Sydney Walker: Yeah. I love that. I’m so excited for these keynotes, and I think this new style will help bring this energy that Jen has talked about. Another thing that I’m really excited for is this “Choose Connection” theme, and we heard there’s a music video coming, there’s a song. Tell us a little bit about that. 

16:57  

Jen Allen: Well, yeah, we don’t hold anything back. I mean, we’re going all in, right? This theme of “Choose Connection” really was inspired by a few different things. One, some of the feedback we received after our first virtual event from the First Presidency was that this event brings light and joy to the world that can’t be felt in other ways. And so as we started looking at that, and thinking, “How can we do that more? How can we bring light to the world?” We were also given a challenge to help the rising generation through RootsTech as well. So with those two things, specifically — again, I think a white board was involved, and we started looking at what ways could we do that. So we came up with “Choose Connection,” which is a really positive message full of light that we think is resonating with a lot of people, and one of our biggest goals with that is to take that message to where they are, not necessarily require everybody to come and discover and learn right there at RootsTech.org, but take the message out to them. So, Jonathan, share just a little bit, and then I can’t wait to talk about the music video.

RootsTech attendees fill the expo hall in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

RootsTech attendees fill the expo hall in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

Credit: Courtesy RootsTech

Jonathan H. Wing: Yeah, “Choose Connection.” Connection has always been a part of RootsTech. We’ve had different themes that involve that word, but adding that additional word of “choose” really highlights the choice that each of us has, to focus on that good and that positive. And we wanted that to be able to resonate with younger generations, and so we have a plan to reach them on social media, meet them where they are. We’re partnering with influencers who will be sharing content along those lines, but we also knew that a lot of what’s happening on TikTok, on Instagram reels, they all rally kind of around these sound bites. And so we decided, “Let’s create a song,” but I remember how it all happened. My creative team, we were just sitting around and we were saying, “Oh, gosh, I think we need a song.” I said, “OK, guys, let’s just sit on it tonight. See what happens.” I sat down in my living room and words just kind of flowed right in. 

Jen Allen: So in other words: Sit on it for a night, but Jonathan came back with something totally prepared and ready to go. 

Jonathan H. Wing: There was no whiteboard, but there was a piece of paper and pen,

Jen Allen: And white keys?

Jonathan H. Wing: There were white keys. Sat down on the piano, this melody just came, and I remember being a little bit embarrassed because I got together with the team. I’m like, “OK, guys, I’m not really a singer, but I’m gonna play this. You guys tell me what you think.” And I remember we all sat there after playing through it the first time and they said, “I think this might work.” So it was this, you know, we’ve never done that before. We’ve never had a theme song for RootsTech, but we were lucky to work with some incredibly talented musicians to produce the piece. We worked with Alia Rose who was on “The Voice” to record the vocals, and then again, it was just sitting on an airplane on our way to Brazil to film a segment for RootsTech, and this idea popped in our minds to create the music video to open the whole thing. So we’re so excited for people to see it, but it’s really just a way to creatively introduce this theme of choosing connection, and then allowing that to just permeate all of the messaging that people will hear throughout the conference.

Jen Allen: I’m the least musical person in the planet. So I’m just in awe of Jonathan that he’s able to do something like that, but when he played it, I got out of my seat and started dancing. I can dance.

Jonathan H. Wing: And people don’t know this, but Jen used to be a ballroom dancer at BYU. And now she’s giving me the eyes, so I shouldn’t be saying this, but when we put together this music video concept, there is dancing. We worked with talented dancers at BYU, and Jen choreographed it. So we’re excited to share that with everyone.

Sydney Walker: I saw her when I went to the filming. It was great. It was so awesome.

21:01  

Jen Allen: It was a lot of fun. There was a lot of help from our friends at BYU, and yes, “used to be” a dancer is probably the best word. That was 20 years ago, and definitely 40 pounds for sure.

Sydney Walker: Well, and when I went to the filming of the music video, it was so neat to see and — can I talk about the set? 

Jonathan H. Wing: Yeah, of course. 

Sydney Walker: Yeah, this incredible 1950 set, and I’ve heard the song and it’s beautiful, and so I’m really excited for this aspect. I really do think it’s going to bring this energy that you’re talking about and add a whole new element; and having this social media campaign, it’s going to reach people who want to connect. One million people last year, but how many people are going to come this year? We’ll see.

Attendees smile during Light Keepers, a RootsTech event for Latter-day Saint women at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Feb. 28, 2020.

Attendees smile during Light Keepers, a RootsTech event for Latter-day Saint women at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Feb. 28, 2020.

Credit: Cherie Mask

21:41  

Jen Allen: Oh, no pressure, we’re really nervous about it. But you know, what’s great about “choose connection” is in a world today where we are kind of being told that we’re more divided than we are united, it’s really this invitation for people to choose, which is why I love that word in it, that you can make that choice to change that narrative in your own life, to share with your influence, your friends, your family, whoever it might be, how and why you choose connection. And with that, again, we just hope that the light will penetrate in a world where, again, it feels divisive sometimes, and bringing that light to the world will be key here.

Sydney Walker: Yeah. And I think to add to that, Jonathan, about what “Choose Connection” means to you.

Jonathan H. Wing: Oh, goodness, I think connection. I mean, you can look at connection in so many different ways. If I were to look at it within the context of family history, connection to the stories of the past, stories of my ancestors, were extremely impactful on me. I moved to the United States when I was eight years old, and I remember being in a school and feeling very different from those around me. But my parents, I don’t know if they did this deliberately or not, but they shared these stories of my ancestors. My great-grandfather, Housu Wang, he left China and moved to the U.K. when he was younger. My own parents left their countries where they were born and moved. And to know of that strength even though in a time when I felt so alone and disconnected from those around me, I felt strength through that connection to the stories of those who came before. And for me, being able to inspire and help people discover those stories from their own family history is a way that I can kind of pay it forward, I guess. My parents, thankfully, did that to me and engendered that love of those stories, and that heritage in me, and so I’m just so grateful that I have the opportunity to do this for my job. It’s my job. It’s so great.

Sydney Walker: So we’ve talked a little bit about Matthew Modine being one of the keynote speakers. We have some others that have been announced. There’s Diego Torres from Argentina.

24:07  

Jen Allen: Yeah. Have you seen him? He’s hunky.

Jonathan H. Wing: He’s an incredible singer, and it was so cool to be in that space. So we talked about documentary style keynotes. But we also tried something new as well, with small studio audiences, and we had the opportunity to do that in Paris, near Versailles; in Accra, Ghana; and then in Buenos Aires with Diego Torres, and Diego will be singing four really amazing songs. And so I’m excited for people to hear the music that he’ll be sharing along with the stories of his career and his mother who was also a very famous entertainer. 

When I think of the studio audiences, I was so touched by what happened in Accra. Azumah Nelson is a national hero and in Ghana. Individuals stayed up so late to watch him box and represent his country, and to see the respect and admiration that the people in that small audience had for him and his story was so touching. And he spoke of the power of knowing your heritage, and how that buoyed him up through his career, where he felt like he was this lone ranger, you know, it’s incredible. His story was fantastic, and having that energy of that room, even though was a small audience,

Jen Allen: Socially-distanced audience, right? 

Jonathan H. Wing: Exactly. Masks and everything.

Jen Allen: So hard to have energy like that. But those mini events — that was kind of an innovation this year, a test for Family Search, to go into these areas, hold a smaller event, to get that in-person crowd, film a keynote speaker on a stage, even if it was just 100 people. But Family Search and the Church was really able to influence people and relationships in those areas by holding this mini-event. Again, we held three of them, we had five planned, but pandemic had to cancel a couple of them. But we’ve already learned that they’ve been very successful for the Church, moving those relationships forward to help in whatever way. That Area Presidency is working so hard in that area to make things work, and these events really did bring some success there, both for Family Search, and the Church. So we’re excited to continue to test those out and try them some more this year.

Sydney Walker: It’ll be so neat to see some of those on-site experiences, that’ll just be really incredible. And I also understand there’s some onsite filming with Elder [Ulisses Soares] and Sister [Rosana] Soares for Family Discovery Day. Tell us about Rio and Brazil.

From left: Jonathan H. Wing, RootsTech manager; Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Jen Allen, director of events at Family Search, and her husband pose for a photo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

From left: Jonathan H. Wing, RootsTech manager; Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Jen Allen, director of events at Family Search, and her husband pose for a photo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Credit: Provided by Jen Allen

26:44  

Jen Allen: First, let’s just shout out to Brazil because it is a beautiful country. 

Jonathan H. Wing: It’s so pretty. 

Jen Allen: It was so fun. And Elder Soares was so excited to be there again and with his wife. We were just privileged to be a part of it and to witness their road down memory lane.

Jonathan H. Wing: Yes, they share a message of the power and the importance of discovery. And, just as Jen said, being down there with them, seeing the way that their faces lit up as they were back in their home country and able to relive some of the memories of their past. We were able to go with them to the street where Elder Soares grew up, to the school where he went that really changed the course of his life, to the building where he and Sister Soares reconnected after their missions. And when, I guess, sparks flew. 

Jen Allen: Oh, yeah. No, sparks flew, you can even see as they are reenacting a little bit, it’s where they fell in love. It’s so cute to see their stories come to life, as they visited each of those locations and shared the stories with all of you. We can’t wait to share it.

Read more: Sister Soares’ life story exemplifies trusting in the Lord and ‘doing our part’

Jonathan H. Wing: And you have to see it to just understand what Jen was saying about it being so beautiful. Towards the end, Elder Soares was standing there with the Cristo Redentor behind him, and as he’s sharing his testimony of the Savior, it was so memorable, 

Jen Allen: Incredible, 

Jonathan H. Wing: And meaningful, and I can’t wait for people to see it. 

Something else that was unique to that experience is that the Rio (de Janeiro Brazil) Temple was not yet dedicated, and we were able to film some segments there, where they shared some personal stories within the walls of the temple. And so that will be a unique part of that address as well. 

Jen Allen: Yeah, they both served in Rio, and so they tell stories about — obviously, the temple wasn’t there when they were serving and teaching — but how impactful it is for the Saints there now; and, again, they continue to remind us that they did not fall in love on their mission. 

Jonathan H. Wing: Right. 

Jen Allen: But they did know each other, and then later connected in São Paulo when they returned home for their missions, but just incredible stories. I loved it. We went to his school, I know Jonathan mentioned it, but the school where he was a little boy and he literally sits in the desk in the same room where he went to school, and reminisces. You know, as tears are free-flowing, as he’s remembering his childhood and the impact that all of those memories and experiences had on him to help him be who he is today. Just an incredible example of just, again, that moment of connecting with your past and helping you see that sense of belonging throughout the course of your life.

Sydney Walker: And what a powerful message that is, and I think how much more you can learn about an individual when they’re in their own setting, when they’re in their homeland, and so to have this with Elder and Sister Soares for Family Discovery Day and also with their keynotes, I think it’s going to help a lot of people watching from wherever they are feel more connected and be able to resonate and identify themselves in whatever that story may be. 

29:51  

Jen Allen: Well with today’s technology, even if you can’t travel back home to Brazil or Russia or wherever it might be, there’s so many tools right now to discover where you came from, and the stories, even just on the internet and going and finding those locations where your family lived, or where the stories began. So there’s so many ways to connect with your own story. It’s okay if you can’t travel there, especially during pandemic world, right? 

30:17  

Jonathan H. Wing: Yeah, that reminds me of another one of our keynotes, an experience that we had with Molly Yeh, who’s on the Food Network, but she now lives in somewhere in the border of North Dakota and Minnesota,

Jen Allen: It was just — I mean, I don’t want to offend anyone, but it was like desolation land over there. Right? 

Jonathan H. Wing: It was cold. I had two heated jackets on and my Arctic boots while we were there, but when we were with her, we shared another genealogy reveal with her, and we were able to find the home of her grandfather who immigrated from China. And we were able to just Google Image it and she could see it and her response to just seeing that was so powerful, where she felt like, “Oh, my goodness, this is where they lived. This is where they were.” And it made her think of, “One day my kids, they’re gonna look at this farm and think about us and that we were here.” It’s cool what technology does to connect us.

Jen Allen, middle, director of events at FamilySearch, and Jonathan H. Wing, left, RootsTech manager, are pictured at RootsTech Connect in February 2021.

Jen Allen, middle, director of events at FamilySearch, and Jonathan H. Wing, left, RootsTech manager, are pictured at RootsTech Connect in February 2021.

Credit: Provided by Jen Allen

Jen Allen: From China to farm.

Jonathan H. Wing: Yes.

Jen Allen:  It’s incredible. She’s so cute. She was a lot of fun to get to know.

Sydney Walker: What else are you excited about for RootsTech? Anything else you want to highlight?

31:20  

Jonathan H. Wing: We talked about the keynote speakers on the main stage, but there’s so much more that’s on there. We want to give people a wide sampling of what family history has to offer. So there are pieces that talk about preservation. There are pieces that talk about innovation. There are pieces that talk about storytelling and the power of storytelling. And there are pieces that highlight discovery, whether it’s dance, or food, and those pieces will come from all over the world and have personal stories from individuals all over the world, and I’m excited for people to see that, to learn from one another. I mean, we talk about connection and that individual connection, but sometimes its connection with people who are seemingly different, and learning more about their culture and heritage helps us, universally, feel more connected as well, and so we’ve got some great entertainment on the main stage that I’m excited to share. But that’s just the main stage. We’ve got the expo hall, we have learning opportunities that are a part of RootsTech as well. 

Jen Allen: Yeah. So to discover all those companies who have products and features that are there to help you discover your family. The expo hall is a thriving place. If you ever came to one of our events in-person, you know that the expo is the heartbeat of the conference, and it still is virtually, it’s a place for you to go and learn, Ancestry, My Heritage, all those products out there that are there to help you. They are there ready and willing to help you during the conference. 

Another thing that we’re really excited about that we’ve been filming for a few years is the leadership instruction, and this brings training and helpful aids and resources for those who have callings involved with family history. And we know sometimes that can feel daunting, but this session is going to be a lot of fun this year. We actually filmed a handful of videos about 10 years ago as a family history department, and we are bringing some of those people back 10 years later to talk to them about what life has been like. The theme of the session is “Joyfully Bound to the Savior through Covenants and Ordinances,” and we’re specifically focusing on the power and protection that comes from those covenants and ordinances. So these people who we bring back 10 years later are sharing stories about what 10 years has brought specifically to their own personal conversion to the covenants and ordinances in the temple. Let’s not forget that everything that we do in family history is to help members be led to the temple.

Sydney Walker: Yeah, thank you for bringing that up, Jen. And something that I love about RootsTech, and also bringing up this leadership session, is that there’s something for everyone.

Jen Allen: Yes. 

Sydney Walker: And the word “family history” can maybe seem daunting for some people, but it’s so much more than just the names, dates and records; and there’s over 900 sessions, I think, at RootsTech this year.

34:13  

Jen Allen: That’s right. Yeah, again, we don’t go small around here. And 11 languages, even more languages, there are classes in about 40 languages. And so it’s just incredible to see even those from Mongolia joining to learn how to do family history at a very basic level, or sometimes a very advanced level, depending on where they are.

Sydney Walker: So there truly is something for everyone, no matter where you are in the world, no matter how old you are. There’s something for everyone. So Jen, tell us where we can find more information about RootsTech. Where can we sign up?

Register for RootsTech 2022, a free global family history event

34:45  

Jen Allen: Yeah, so go to RootsTech.org today even and register for the event, even starting March 3, if you haven’t registered, join us at RootsTech.org and you can join in. It’s completely free, and 100% virtual. We’re excited to welcome people from all over the world, but follow us on our social channels as well. We’re on all of the social channels under RootsTech. You can also follow Family Search and get the latest information.

Sydney Walker: And we have a tradition at the Church News podcast, and we usually end with a question, which is, “What do you know now?” So, Jen and Jonathan, what do you know now after participating in RootsTech being the brains behind RootsTech, the creative elements. What have you learned after taking it virtual not once but now twice?

35:39  

Jen Allen: Well, for me, I absolutely know that our Heavenly Father loves every single person on this earth, and wants them to feel a sense of connection, of belonging, and to understand their potential, and RootsTech is just one place where we try to share that message, and bring it to everybody. But everyone, regardless, if you think you’re interested in family history, we’re all taking pictures every single day. We’re all sharing stories in our own way, even if it’s just a text, and that is family history. We are capturing the moments of our everyday, regardless if it seems awesome, or not so awesome, and it’s how we will remember those stories, preserve those stories and share them with our children or our friends who are in our influence that will help bring that connection to light.

Jonathan H. Wing: I know even more now than I did before, that first and foremost, the Lord is in charge. What happened in 2020 and what followed in the change and the evolution of RootsTech, is further evidence of the acceleration of the Lord’s work. Another thing that I know now is that family history is universal, the message of family history. There are so many people around the world who are interested and who are hungry to know their stories and who want to know how we are connected, and this adjustment to a virtual event just opened the floodgates for all of these individuals to participate and for us to connect globally.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.

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