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RootsTech 2024: Organizers offer sneak peek of what to expect at world’s largest family history celebration

Organizers Jen Allen and Jonathan Wing talk about this year’s theme, ‘Remember,’ and why the late President M. Russell Ballard will be featured at Family Discovery Day

Conversations about this year’s RootsTech theme, “Remember,” started three years ago.

As the biggest annual family history event gained a more global audience during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers realized the need to select a more localized theme that could also resonate with a worldwide audience.

An international committee of 30 people put their heads together, and “Remember” was the theme that rose to the top.

“Remember” is more than just looking to the past; it’s an expanded vision of past, present and future — a “beautiful connection to what I would say is a core motivation for most people when it comes to engagement in family history,” said Jonathan Wing, RootsTech senior product manager.

“In the lead-up to RootsTech 2024, I’ve had multiple instances where the Spirit has confirmed to me that every individual in this world is worth remembering. They’re important to our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Each of them has a story that’s worth remembering. I know that personally because of my experiences that I’ve had with my parents,” Wing said.

Jonathan H. Wing, RootsTech, senior product manager at FamilySearch International, speaks during RootsTech in Feb. 2020.
Jonathan H. Wing, RootsTech, senior product manager at FamilySearch International, speaks during RootsTech in Feb. 2020. | Screenshot from YouTube

“I know that as we seek out those who have gone before, as we strive to understand their stories and their life experiences, and especially their testimonies, the things that they knew about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His gospel, their words and their stories can be like scripture to us.”

Wing and Jen Allen, FamilySearch director of events, discussed the theme for RootsTech 2024, as well as other plans for the event — scheduled for Feb. 29 through March 2 — in the Church News podcast.

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Episode 174: RootsTech 2024 theme ‘Remember’ reaches across nationalities, religions and generations

What is RootsTech?

RootsTech started out as an experiment in 2011, with the idea to combine genealogy and technology. The event in Salt Lake City, featured a few keynote speakers and 40 classes. More than 3,000 attended the first-time event in person from across the United States and 15 countries. Another 4,700 tuned in remotely, according to FamilySearch.

From those humble beginnings, RootsTech has become the largest family history gathering in the world. More than 3 million participants attended the 2023 event in person and online from nearly 240 countries and territories. RootsTech also hosted an event in London, England, in 2019.

Jen Allen, FamilySearch director of events, is interviewed about her work with RootsTech 2023.
Jen Allen, FamilySearch director of events, is interviewed about her work with RootsTech 2023 at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“RootsTech is the premier family history family celebration conference that we hold in Salt Lake City, but it is worldwide now. Everyone from all over the world can join,” Allen said.

The three-day global event provides something for everyone of all ages and interest levels, from the hardcore genealogist to people who are just getting started.

“Wherever anyone is on that spectrum, the desire is universal; a desire to connect, that desire to remember, that desire to be remembered is universal,” Wing said. “So what’s beautiful about RootsTech is that there is something for everyone, no matter where you are on that spectrum.”

RootsTech is organized by FamilySearch, an international family history website sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Family Discovery Day

The final day of RootsTech — March 2 this year — is referred to as Family Discovery Day and designed specifically for Latter-day Saints.

This year’s Family Discovery Day will feature never-before-seen video of the late President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which was recorded prior to his death on Nov. 12, 2023.

President Ballard was a grandson of the Apostle Melvin J. Ballard through his father, a grandson of Apostle Hyrum Mack Smith through his mother, and a descendant of Church President Joseph F. Smith and Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, also through his mother. He cared deeply about his family history and Latter-day Saint heritage.

Over the last several years, President Ballard — as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — had assigned an Apostle to present at Family Discovery Day:

As President Ballard considered last year the request for RootsTech 2024, Allen said he surprised her by asking if he could do it.

“We thought, ‘Oh, well, we didn’t even know that was an option. Yes, of course, we would love to film with you and capture your story,’” she said.

President M. Russell Ballard sits inside the Kirtland Temple during an interview with RootsTech film crews.
President M. Russell Ballard, then acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks while being filmed by RootsTech crews in the Kirtland Temple, in Kirtland, Ohio, on June 2, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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Video: A behind-the-scenes look at the late President Ballard recording experiences for 2024 Family Discovery Day

Allen said it was a “remarkable experience” to film President Ballard at various Church history sites, including Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo and Carthage, Illinois, last summer.

“It was such a moving experience for us even, because he raised his hand and wanted to have this experience and to film his story,” she said. “We can’t wait for everybody to see this incredible tribute. We loved it, and then even more when it’s just so much more touching even now that he has passed and to see those incredible stories come to life.”

Wing agreed.

“Within the context of the theme ‘Remember,’ here’s an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the sunset of his life. He misses his spouse. He thinks of her often. There’s lots that he remembers and can pull from. There was no question that this was the direction that we should go,” he said. “It was an experience that I’ll never forget.”

Leadership instruction

Each year at RootsTech, Church leaders provide instruction for members who serve in leadership and callings related to temple and family history work.

This year’s leadership instruction features discussions and counsel for how to help first-time temple attendees have a positive and spiritual experience in the temple as well as find strength in the temple, Allen said.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong speaks during the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership instruction.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, second from the left, relates “the Lehi experience” from 1 Nephi 5 during the 2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction, while Church leaders on the panel listen and follow along with the verses. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Participating in the leadership instruction will be:

The leadership instruction will feature a model for a council discussion and introduce a new tool to help leaders find a temple name for a new member to take to the temple, Allen said.

Previous temple and family history leadership instruction is available on Gospel Library.

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2023 Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction offers council example, personal application

Keynote speakers and forums

FamilySearch has already announced three keynote speakers:

Former BYU basketball star Jimmer Fredette and his wife, Whitney, will teach a beginner genealogy class on Family Discovery Day. Some young attendees will have the chance to test their shooting skills against Jimmer.

This year’s RootsTech will also feature four new main-stage sessions called RootsTech Forums:

  1. FamilySearch Tech forum, where the newest innovations on FamilySearch will be shared.
  2. The innovation and tech forum, where the industry will highlight the newest artificial intelligence innovations within the industry.
  3. Jared Spataro, a vice president from Microsoft, will share a message about how Microsoft has adapted to AI.
  4. The impact forum will be hosted by Robyn Fivush, who worked with Marshall Duke to research how knowing one’s family history leads to better behavior, lower anxiety, better family relations. Their groundbreaking research was highlighted in the New York Times a decade ago.

FamilySearch is also planning a session for Saturday’s final day that will highlight what’s happening globally through FamilySearch’s efforts to meet the needs of its audiences, Wing said.

How to register for RootsTech 2024

Registration for RootsTech is available at RootsTech.org.

The online event is free and offers hundreds of on-demand classes and sessions, chat support and online research consultations, connection with cousins using Relatives at RootsTech and messaging, as well as a virtual expo hall, to help attendees discover more about their family heritage. Learn more at RootsTech.org.

Related Story
Former BYU basketball star Jimmer Fredette joins Family Discovery Day lineup at RootsTech 2024
A look back at FamilySearch events and milestones in 2023
RootsTech launches video and social media campaign to promote 2024 theme ‘Remember’
RootsTech introduces new session scheduler, mobile app features to enhance user experience
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