Sunday, February 12, 2017

Report about Roots Tech 2017

This is a talk written for sacrament meeting in the West Jordan 4th Ward February 12, 2017. (following a talk by Susanne Hunsaker and an intermediate hymn “Family History – I Am Doing It” from the Children’s Song Book  -- This is the working copy of the talk actually, it turned out to be much too long so a lot was left out when the talk was given and it was not given word for word.)

I think it is marvelous what Susanne has done in creating this book about her husband Dale Hunsaker. And it is marvelous that he kept a journal and wrote so much about his life. It is really a priceless treasure for their family. It is really a big project to write and assemble a book like this. I have not yet assembled a book like this and I admire anyone who has.
Ron and I are Susanne’s home teachers and when we last visited her, she showed us the book and Ron decided then and there to ask her to share it with the rest of you.  He asked me to speak at the same time. I knew I would be going to Roots Tech and my first thought was that I would be just be like the Young Men and Young Women when they go to camp or youth conference and are asked to make a short report. How hard can that be? But it is probably better not to know before you go that you are going to be reporting about it.
Thank you Susanne for selecting that song, the family history song. I like it because it is a happy song and I think we should be happy when we are doing our family history.  We should feel joy whenever we are serving the Lord.
I have been interested in genealogy for a long time. It is probably genetic. I remember at least one time visiting my Hurst grandparents and every horizontal surface in their house was covered with genealogy family group sheets and other papers. My Grandma Hurst was so excited about some new discovery and wanted to show it to my Dad. The only thing I remember is how happy and excited she was. My Grandma Rollins loved genealogy and temple work too. Sometimes she would come and stay with us in Salt Lake so she could visit the Family History Library. My mother told me that once she and Grandma were looking at microfilms and they were excited to find a name. Grandma said, “It’s like catching a fish, isn’t it.” She is absolutely right. It is like catching a fish.
Both of my parents were avid genealogists. My father wrote several family history books. Just recently I put my father’s research into a tree on and made it public. I should have done this a long time ago. I received messages from other genealogists who are not members of the church. I learned that they already had read his Sanders book and had done further research. They wrote expressing appreciation for my Dad’s research and offering some good opportunities for further collaboration. And I personally have had some great experiences with doing family history and taking family names to the temple. I have a testimony of temple and family history work.
Well I guess I had better tell about Roots Tech. Roots Tech is an annual conference sponsored by FamilySearch and many other companies. It is held in the Salt Palace every year. There were about 25,000 people this year.  It is like Disneyland for genealogists, a happy place on earth. The happiest place on earth is the temple.  {Just like many people like to get a hotel right in the park so they can spend more time at Disneyland, someday I would like to get a hotel downtown by the Salt Palace.}
Wednesday was Innovator Summit day and it is mostly about technology and for the type of people who are entering the competition for developing new products to facilitate family history. It is a serious competition. The first prize is $90,000.
There are over 200 sessions for Roots Tech and a huge Expo Hall of exhibitors all trying to get your attention and many of the exhibitors have short classes and demonstrations, so like when you are going to Disneyland you need to make careful plans so you can get the most out of your experience and focus on what you really want to do. So I made four goals.
1.     Have fun.
2.     Focus on learning more about the FamilySearch Family Tree web site and the major partner sites (Ancestry, My Heritage and Find My Past). I decided to sacrifice learning about DNA, journaling, how to organize all my photos, other important stuff that would detract from what I really need to learn right now.
3.     Learn about new developments. I wanted to leave room for the possibility that there would be something that would appear that would be very helpful and that I would be inspired to pursue. I prayed that the Spirit would lead me to what I needed. I also prayed that I would be led to things that would help me in my own family history research.
4.     The fourth goal was to learn about things that would help me in my calling, especially since I was just recently sustained and set apart as stake family history leader and stake indexing director. And I am still ward family history consultant too. So I have been thinking and praying about how to fill these callings. I found this sentence in some training materials from the Riverton FamilySearch Library. It is a quote by Elder L. Whitney Clayton. “I encourage you to see yourself as someone who helps kindle the faith by which members do this work, not just as a person who teaches skills. Family history is a work of faith.” I will say right now that it was announced by the Family History Department a few days ago (on February 9 to be exact) that all family history callings at the area, stake, or ward level are now called temple and family history consultants.  I think this will help me get more clarity about my calling.
OK, those were the goals and here is what happened. {The night before RootsTech started we had five mother goats have their babies, 12 baby goats. So we were running late. But Ron drove me to the Salt Palace to save time. I thought I would miss the long registration lines. But this year they decided to be strict and not let people into the hall without their badges. So I waited in line for about an hour and missed all but the last 15 minutes of the first session with the Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott. I conversed with two women while I was in line. One woman was head of the Daughters of American Revolution for Utah. The other woman had gone on a mission to Laos with her husband and now she is learning Chinese symbols from genealogical records and translating them into our characters. I don’t really understand what she is doing, but it makes my calling sound a lot easier. Both women have ancestors who were accused of being witches in colonial New England.}
Regarding goal # 1: I had lots fun. Some of the speakers for our general sessions were HGTV’s Property Brothers, LeVar Burton from Roots, Star Trek, Reading Rainbow, Kenyatta Berry from Genealogy Roadshow, Cece Moore the Genetic Genealogist, Buddy Valastro TLC’s Cake Boss. Buddy helped judge a cake competition sponsored by Orson Gygi Company so I got to see all the decorated cakes and vote for the people’s choice award. There were four special events. Thursday night the Tabernacle Choir and orchestra and Oscar Hammerstein III and Dallin Vail Bayless had a special program in the conference center featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Friday night we had a cultural celebration with Burundi African Drummers, Irish Dancers and Luz de las Naciones (The Light of the Nations in English). Sister Lorena Black sings in this choir. It is a very large choir and they have an orchestra and dancers and soloists. They are really good. You can find them on You Tube. They have performed in the conference center. They are like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only in Spanish. Only part of their choir was able to perform for us and one of those selected was Lorena.
Also Friday My Heritage sponsored an after party at the Marriott for VIPs and invited guests. I am not sure why I was invited, but Ron and I went and had great time. Maybe I will put my whole talk on my blog. (There was Karaoke and dancing and games and food. A gentleman from Denmark joined us at our table and then a woman from Norway and her friend from Minnesota also joined us. Niels the Danish gentleman has come to Utah for RootsTech four times. I will share just one thing that I thought was very interesting. He told us that he had got to meet the children of Monte J. Brough and asked if we ever knew Monte J. Brough. We knew Elder Brough because he used to be our regional representative. He knew Monte J. Brough because he was the founder of FamilySearch and getting genealogy on the internet. So I have been thinking about how we view accomplishments like this versus how the world views them. It is kind of interesting.} Saturday the fun things were the cake competition and a concert by Vocal Point and Noteworthy from BYU. So goal #1 Have Fun was achieved spectacularly.
Goal #2 was to learn more about FamilySearch and the partner programs. Ron Tanner taught a class about FamilySearch Family Tree and new developments. The most exciting thing is that there is now a FamilySearch Lite which doesn’t have many of the features of the Internet based program, but it can run on a feature phone or flip phone and is part of a Facebook free package. Members of the church in less developed countries can enter names and reserve them for temple work using this simple FamilySearch Family Tree program on their phones. Ron Tanner is a very courageous man. He was one of the masterminds of New Family Search and he has had many genealogists mad at him, yet he has continued to keep working and facing the criticism and now things are getting much better. I was also impressed with a presentation by James Tanner about My Heritage. He said I am going to tell you what it is and what it does and I don’t really have time to teach much else. So I decided that in my calling I will teach what it is and what it does. Many of you are better equipped than I am to teach yourselves how to do it. Or Aleia Mason who is assistant stake temple and family history consultant can teach you. I read somewhere that it takes about four hours to learn a new software program. So how about this, I tell you what something is and what it does and you figure it out yourself or find someone more qualified to teach you.  Both Ron Tanner and James Tanner belong to the same Tanner family that Sister Masters and Sister Mason belong to. So I hope that is significant. I hope there is something genetic there. I look forward to working with Sister Masters and Sister Aleia Mason.
I learned that FamilySearch actually has 137 partners. You can find them in the app gallery on the FamilySearch home page. So for some of them I commit to teaching you what they are and what they can do. And that is where I am on my goal #2.
Goal #3 was to look for new things. Here are some new things I learned about.
·        Up until now in the Catholic Church it was up to the local parish priests whether church records were available for research and under what conditions. But the company FindMyPast  made a deal with the Vatican to digitize and index 50 billion Catholic records. They announced it at RootsTech and the records are starting to be online.
·        FamilySearch completed a project to index Freedman Bureau records a few months ago. These records are about emancipated slaves and will be very helpful for African Americans to find their families. Friday was African heritage day at Roots Tech. There was a full slate of classes about African American research.
·        I got to see the new indexing program. Sometime this Spring we will no longer have to download a program from the Internet when we index. It will be online and you can index using a tablet if you want.
·        Yesterday I thought I had lost my cell phone somewhere in the Salt Palace and by the time I found it in my bag where it was all the time, I was late getting to a class that I wanted to attend and it was full and so was the class next to it. So I was looking for another class and saw a sign for a class called “Tracing your Tracting Ancestors.” What do you think that was about? Any ideas? I went in and saw a screen with the words “Go Ye Into All the World” 1830-1930 Early Mormon Missionaries. So that class was about a fairly new database of missionaries on the Church History Library web site. Probably I was “pushed” into this class because I learned that I have at least one ancestor who is not on this site and he needs to be and I can see some other possibilities too. That’s all I will say about that.
·        Another serendipitous thing that happened was that I was just passing by the BYU Family History Technology booth and noticed a sign that said “How to use saturation to avoid duplication in FamilySearch.” {There was a BYU Student telling about an online game called Geneopardy that he had developed. It is like Jeopardy except the questions come from your own tree on FamilySearch. This is the same group that developed Relative Finder, if you have ever played around with that.} So next, the professor told about the saturation concept.  I learned that the saturation concept builds on the way we used to do name extraction. They pick one area and collect all the records in that area. Instead of just extracting names they do some additional research. Maybe in the future you will be able to volunteer for a project to take some names and find sources that prove that person’s birth date, or their marriage date or their death date, kind of like volunteer indexing but a step further. They are working on doing this in Ohio with another group and they mentioned they were going to do one county in North Carolina and I immediately suggested that they do Montgomery County and filled out a form and gave them my email address. So maybe I will be hearing from them. So goal #3 to learn some new things was accomplished for me and some of my prayers were answered.
My goal #4 was to learn about things that will help me in my calling. This happened mostly on Saturday at Family Discovery Day. I would like to tell you a few things I learned from President Russell M. Nelson and Sister Wendy Watson Nelson. When Elder Bradley introduced the Nelsons he told us that their presentation would be widely distributed throughout the church and we were just the “studio audience.” I called Sue Richards last night and asked her to put the web site for this talk in the program. I found it online but it was kind of complicated to get to it. But as of this morning there is a link to their talk on the home page of and it is available in 7-8 languages. I watched it again this morning. I strongly encourage everyone to watch it and that will be much better than anything I could say. They used the format of a scrabble game and these were the words: family, Elijah, hearts, stories, detours, sacrifice, missionary, sealing. Elder Nelson shared a sacred experience from his family when his great grandfather returned from the spirit world to visit his 27-year-old son, Elder Nelson’s grandfather on April 6, 1891. The Nelson Family has always considered this a sacred experience and only shared it with family and close friends, but now Elder Nelson has decided that since he is a general authority that all the members of the church are his friends and it is time to share. It tells some of the same things that Joseph F. Smith later saw in his vision of the redemption of the dead in 1918.
One other thing I will tell you is that Elder Nelson says that he always tells missionaries that if he were a missionary today his two best friends would be the ward mission leader and the ward temple and family history consultant. So, Sister Masters, Elder Masters, Elder Steed, Elder Gilchrist – I am your new best friend! I don’t know exactly what we are going to do, but I have faith that we can do it.
Three other Family Discovery Day sessions are also online including the presentation by Sherie Dew, Vai Sikahema, and Reno Mahe which I attended and one by Hank Smith about promoting family history in your home which I did not attend. Since I am the missionaries’ new best friend I decided to go to the breakout session about missionary work.

I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus is our Savior. I know that his church has been restored. I know that we can be together with our families for eternity. Lately my ancestors are bombarding me with things. As we get closer to the second coming the veil between earth and the spirit world is getting thinner and thinner. Family history is a work of faith. We will do it. We will be richly blessed. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I enjoyed learning from your talk Grandma. I need to get together with you on Skype sometime so that you can teach me how to do this work. Love, Megan