RootsTech is less than a week away. Here’s what you can expect this year

In less than a week, thousands will gather at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City — and even more will gather online — to participate in RootsTech, Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 26-29.

This year, the world’s largest genealogy and technology conference is celebrating its 10th event. Those already registered represent 35 countries.  

With daily keynote speakers and more than 300 breakout sessions and 180 vendors in the expo hall, FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood said the driving force behind the conference is one thing: “the Spirit of Elijah.” 

“We want them to have an inspiring experience,” Rockwood said. “The manifestation of the Holy Ghost that they’ll feel will undoubtedly be the Spirit of Elijah, which is the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family.”

RootsTech London attendees fill the London ExCel exhibition hall on Thursday, Oct 24, 2019.
RootsTech London attendees fill the London ExCel exhibition hall on Thursday, Oct 24, 2019. Credit: Scott Taylor

“The reason why we have 300 classes is because we want [attendees] to learn,” he continued. “We want them to learn more how to discover their families, how to gather their families, how to connect their families, and the Holy Ghost will help them.”

He also hopes people connect with each other. “That’s why we bring people together, both in person and online. We hope that they’ll connect to their homelands and others that share those homelands. We hope they’ll connect to their families. … When those two connections take place, then we know they’ll connect to the Spirit.”

‘Discover your story’

Tyler Stahle, RootsTech marketing manager, said the theme of this year’s conference will be different than the previous two years of “Connect. Belong.” 

“We’re really good at looking back at our grandparents and ancestors’ stories, but sometimes we miss or we forget the importance of recording and preserving our own story,” he said. 

That’s where this year’s theme comes in: “Discover your story. Discover yourself.”  

“We just hope we can inspire people to recognize the importance of their own story and that everyone has a story. Every story matters, even if you don’t think it does.” 

Attendees confer with staff at the FamilySearch booth in the RootsTech London exhibition area at London ExCel convention center on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.
Attendees confer with staff at the FamilySearch booth in the RootsTech London exhibition area at London ExCel convention center on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. Credit: Scott Taylor

For years, FamilySearch has looked at trying to discover, gather and connect family of the past, Rockwood said. 

“But the majority of people live in the ‘here and now,’” he explained. “What are we doing in the ‘here and now’ to really help people live their individual and family history as it unfolds?”

“We’re anxious to hone in and explore what it means to capture your present family and connect your present family, and what that does for you in the ‘here and now.’ And then what it will do that will follow you generations from now,” Rockwood said. 

Those who take time to connect with their families now and record their stories won’t have to be researched — their history will already be captured, he added. “There’s a real opportunity for us to honor everyone because we believe everyone deserves to be remembered.”

To go along with the theme, Stahle said there will be a number of classes on preserving one’s own history, including digital journaling, journaling through video, and bullet journaling.

Speakers and broadcast schedule

Rockwood will kick off RootsTech with a general session on Wednesday, Feb. 26, celebrating the 10th conference. Leigh Anne Tuohy, whose inspirational story was popularized by the book and film “The Blind Side,” will speak on Thursday. 

Friday’s keynote will be given by David Kennerly, a former White House photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner. Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith will speak on Saturday. 

For those who won’t be traveling to Salt Lake for RootsTech, several of the sessions will be streamed live on RootsTech.org. 

A virtual pass with access to 30 exclusive recorded classes is also available for purchase. A list of classes included with the virtual pass can be found on RootsTech.org

Family Discovery Day

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, will be the featured speakers on Saturday’s Family Discovery Day.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson. Credit: Screenshot Rootstech.org

Family Discovery Day is a free, one-day event geared toward families and members of the Church as part of RootsTech. In addition to hearing from speakers, families can participate in various activities and games while exploring the interactive expo hall. A selection of classes will also be available for attendees.

Other events

Other events planned for Church members throughout the week of RootsTech include:

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. FamilySearch is teaming up with American Ancestors and The Mayflower Society to commemorate this historic event with several activities at RootsTech and a special booth in the expo hall.

Many other interactive activities and demonstrations can be found in the expo hall throughout the four-day conference. The entrance fee for non-pass holders is $10 daily Wednesday through Friday and free on Saturday. 

Family history classes will be offered at the Family History Library during the week of RootsTech for those who are interested in practicing what they learn. 

For more information about RootsTech, visit RootsTech.org or download the RootsTech app