A look back at the RootsTech 2024 keynote addresses and other Family Discovery Day notables

Plus, see the dates for RootsTech 2025

Thousands of people from around the globe gathered in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City — with millions more worldwide joining online — to participate in RootsTech from Feb. 29 to March 2.

The three-day family history conference featured several engaging keynote speakers, a variety of genealogical activities, new technological advancements and hundreds of classes, both available online and in person. The conference was also broadcast in more than 20 languages to RootsTech’s growing global audience.

Here is a summary of the keynote messages and other interesting notes from RootsTech 2024.

Steve Rockwood

FamilySearch President and CEO Steve Rockwood opened RootsTech by emphasizing the 2024 theme, “Remember,” and shared with the audience “Your Story Is Worth Remembering,” a new FamilySearch video.

In the video, grandparents are shown a short film of their descendants saying what they will always remember about their relative’s legacy. “It made me feel like my story was worth remembering,” said one grandparent in the video.

“Who do you know who needs to feel what you just felt?” Rockwood asked after the video. “Who needs the reminder that their story is worth remembering? Who comes to mind? Who’s coming to your heart right now?”

FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood speaks at RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

He encouraged listeners to reach out to loved ones and express how much they truly mean.

Rockwood said “family history — like Legos — is where families, young and old, build their family story together, one brick at a time. And as you build, our job at FamilySearch is to simply ask one question: ‘How can we help?’ Our passion is to help you find your missing bricks, no matter what they are and no matter where they are.

“We just want to help you find them,” he said. “... Whatever you need to build your family story. Whatever you need to bless your family.”

After the keynote talk, attendees were each given a single Lego brick with the RootsTech logo, a physical reminder that home and family are never too far away.

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Family history is building a family story ‘one brick at a time,’ says CEO of FamilySearch

Henry Cho

In his speech, Henry Cho, the self-labeled “Asian with a Southern accent,” told a lot of jokes and talked about his family.

The 62-year-old was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was part of the only Asian family in the area. He grew up not knowing much about his heritage but decided to never use low-level comedy to make fun of Asian people using stereotypes. “I never want to do anything derogatory toward the Korean community and Asians as a whole. There’s some easy laughs I could get, but I’ve always steered away from them.”

A family-centered individual, Cho set a rule that his comedy schedule would work around his family schedule.

Comedian Henry Cho speaks at RootsTech 2024 in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“If I didn’t want to be a father or husband, I’d have never gotten married. I knew once I made that commitment — I had kids — [I decided] I’m trying to do this right. There were many times I did a show on a Friday night and drove home for hours, coached the game or saw my daughter’s horse show in the morning Saturday. And then I drove back for hours to do two more shows and then drove back to go to church on Sunday, to make sure they were there — that kind of stuff.”

Cho, a 37-year comic veteran, said he intends to continue comedy for a long time and to remain clean and funny while doing so.

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Lynne M. Jackson

Lynne M. Jackson, a great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott, two Black slaves at the center of a landmark 1857 United States Supreme Court decision, spoke on March 1 about her experience of researching, commemorating and making peace with her family history.

Her journey started in 1995 when she heard her Heavenly Father tell her that she should study Dred Scott. As she embarked on her research, she began to discover for herself the significance of her ancestors’ experiences.

Keynote speaker Lynne M. Jackson, president and founder of The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation, presents at RootsTech in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 1, 2024. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

She said the privilege to tell their story was “beyond compare” and has brought her feelings of reconciliation.

“We will remember things that are hard to hear,” Jackson said. “But we will be inspired by so many things that will bring you to tears and let you know that there is hope for the future. To share the story of my ancestor Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, is a privilege beyond compare.”

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Nancy Borowick

Nancy Borowick, world-renowned photographer, author, teacher and speaker, walked the RootsTech audience through her parents’ lives, from their wedding to her own wedding, documenting the highs, lows and nuances of her family story with photography as a form of healing.

“Love, joy and laughter” were pillars of the Borowick parents’ lives long before their journey with terminal illness. “The Family Imprint” is a record of the reality Borowick and her family went through as her parents were diagnosed with cancer and passed away within one year of each other.

“Our story isn’t about cancer, it’s about living,” said Borowick, speaking to in-person and online audience members of RootsTech on Friday, March 1.

Keynote speaker Nancy Borowick, a Sony ambassador, presents at RootsTech in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 1, 2024. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News

The mission Borowick aims to achieve is to reframe the narrative around end of life and terminal illnesses. She believes that family is everything and remembering is everything.

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Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth, an Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer, spoke about her three mothers.

There’s the woman who gave birth to her and placed her for adoption. There’s the woman who almost adopted her, then learned she was pregnant and chose to give another family the chance to adopt. And there’s the woman who, along with her husband, adopted and raised Chenoweth.

Chenoweth is grateful to all three women for the roles they played in giving her the wonderful life she has now, she said during her RootsTech keynote address on Saturday, March 2.

Kristin Chenoweth waves to the crowd during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2024.
Kristin Chenoweth waves to the crowd during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

In addition to personal stories, Chenoweth delighted the audience with four songs: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” from “The Wizard of Oz”; “For Good,” from the Broadway musical “Wicked,” in which Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch; “I Could Have Danced All Night,” from the musical “My Fair Lady”; and “I Was Here,” written by her friend Victoria Shaw and recorded by the band Lady Antebellum.

She recalled how, as a child, God gave her the impression that she’d someday be a missionary. And she has been a missionary — through the entertainment industry, she said.

“One of the reasons I know I’m in this particular business is for people,” Chenoweth said. “I want people to see God through me.”

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RootsTech 2024 keynote speaker Kristin Chenoweth on music, family and how she wants to be remembered

Sports, food and RootsTech 2025

As part of RootsTech’s Family Discovery Day on March 2, former BYU and professional basketball player Jimmer Fredette and his wife, Whitney Fredette, related meaningful memories and how they can be easily preserved using the FamilySearch app.

“It was a lot of fun to talk about the things that we have gone through in our lives — important things that we felt like would be great to share with the rest of the world,” Jimmer Fredette said.

Emcee Tyler Stahle talks with Jimmer Fredette and his wife Whitney during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

Whitney Fredette agreed.

“It was a neat opportunity to share memories as your family tree grows and expands. It’s a really cool concept,” she said, describing how simple it is to post a photo and include the story behind it using the Memory feature on the FamilySearch app. “It was a good learning experience to see how it actually works.”

Other Family Discovery Day sessions focused on family traditions in sports and food. Professional pickleball player Callie Jo Smith and others played pickleball, while Si Foster, a cookbook author and blogger, told stories of food.

Professional pickleball player Callie Jo Smith, right, and her teammate Allyce Jones celebrate a point in an exhibition match during day three of RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2024. | Brian Nicholson

“I think there are so many stories that get lost in our history that have to do with food. It is such a great connector. I want people to understand that it is not difficult to record your food story, and there are so many ways to do it,” Foster said.

The conference closed with the announcement of the dates for next year’s — March 6-8, 2025.

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Former BYU basketball star Jimmer Fredette and his wife show ease of preserving memories on FamilySearch with stories at RootsTech
Sports, food, and family: Making memories and sharing traditions at RootsTech
The priceless family history gift FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood received at RootsTech
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