3-day RootsTech Connect was simply the ‘ribbon cutting’ for what’s to come

More than 1 million individuals from over 235 countries and territories participated in RootsTech Connect Feb. 25-27. 

Most of the sessions from the virtual, global family event will be available to watch on-demand throughout 2021 — which means RootsTech Connect’s impact has only just begun. 

“It’s just the opening weekend. This is the ribbon cutting,” said FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood at the close of the conference.

“We’re not reporting on a three-day event that just occurred. … What we did is we literally just had a ribbon cutting of a totally new way for people to connect with each other globally.” 

The goal of RootsTech Connect was to “globalize by hyper-localizing,” he said, which happened through 1,000-plus sessions in multiple languages and keynote speakers from around the globe. 

“And we’ve just now cut the ribbon, so now people can come back for more ways to globalize their learning by diving into the very localized content that will stay posted.”

The online RootsTech Connect portal has become what event director Jen Allen described as a free “learning library” — something that couldn’t have been done with an in-person event, she said.

Read 14 messages from RootsTech Connect keynote speakers

Rockwood said RootsTech Connect “cut the ribbon” in other ways as well. Genealogists, for example, who are the “heart specialists of the industry” now have a yearlong marketplace for others to learn about their work. 

“This is a ribbon cutting also in regards to the young adults and the youth, not just participating in this work but truly leading out. And we saw that invitation to lead out once again, and how they can do so,” he said in reference to the “Our Quest for Connection” experience. 

Several missionaries participated in session chat rooms to help those they invited and others, Rockwood added. “I think this will be exciting as these individual missionaries and their companionships make this part of the ‘divine reset’ that we’ve heard of, being able to share the gospel online and in person using the Spirit of Elijah [a manifestation of the spirit of the Holy Ghost].”

During their Family Discovery Day presentation on Saturday, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, modeled how to connect with one’s homeland. “We hope that many people go and watch and learn of those blessings and make it their own,” Rockwood said. 

After this three-day “opening weekend,” Rockwood said he is overcome with gratitude and amazement — and “a sweet confirmation” that no matter what is happening in the world, people want to feel connected. 

Hundreds of thousands of family history enthusiasts, many for the very first time, are participating in RootsTech Connect 2021 making this the largest gathering in the event’s 10-year history.
Hundreds of thousands of family history enthusiasts, many for the very first time, are participating in RootsTech Connect 2021 making this the largest gathering in the event’s 10-year history. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“There’s a reason why we said this is ‘RootsTech Connect.’ Connect was the main message and it is the main driver. We already see it in social media, but now you see it that they want not just quantity, they want quality. And that’s what RootsTech provides is quality, deep, abiding, meaningful connection.”

One surprise Rockwood noted was the success of “Relatives at RootsTech,” a feature in which participants could use the FamilySearch Family Tree to find out how they are related to other RootsTech attendees. This feature was widely shared on social media and drew in a large number of participants, he said. 

In an interview prior to RootsTech Connect, Allen said the website’s chat feature would be the “magic of the event.” Without the in-person interaction in the traditional Salt Palace setting in Salt Lake City, the chat feature was invaluable in connecting attendees with speakers and other participants. 

Though 1 million participants have been recorded so far, Rockwood believes the event’s influence has been much higher. “We know perfectly well that exponentially above that are the kitchen table conversations, and the texts going back and forth, and the phone calls going from grandma to the grandsons, and so on. …

“That’s why we’re not driven by numbers. We’re driven by creating inspiring experiences, one by one.”

Rockwood acknowledged that it is too soon to know what’s in store for RootsTech 2022. This virtual, global event has certainly been a learning experience. 

“We’ve always had an online way to attend RootsTech, but now we’ve really made that core versus ancillary. So I think it’s very safe to say that there will always be a core way for you to enjoy the learnings and the spirit and the excitement of RootsTech online.”

Throughout 2021, watch the keynote speakers, browse sessions and add them to your personal viewing playlist at RootsTech.org.