This year's RootsTech was only the third edition, and it has grown exponentially every year. Some 7,000 attendees - plus nearly 2,000 young people (ages 12-18) on Saturday - flocked to the Salt Palace Convention Center. It is now the largest such event in the US.
While the weather ranged from near-blizzard conditions to rain to sunshine, the halls - with some 100 exhibitors - and classrooms housing some 250 programs, drew excited crowds. According to organizer FamilySearch, attendees came from 49 states and 17 countries.
Additionally, FamilySearch announced that some 10,000 people viewed programs and keynotes via live streaming video online, while remote satellite broadcasts took place at 17 Family History centers in seven countries, attended by another 4,000 participated by remote satellite broadcast at Family History centers in 17 locations in seven countries.
Mark your calenders for RootsTech 2014 (February 6-8, 2014). FamilySearch said that they plan to export the event to some 600 locations worldwide (16 US locations and several other countries).
Not content with the local edition of the conference, organizers said they planned to export RootsTech to 16 US and several additional countries. several countries later this year.
A major emphasis at RootsTech 2013 - new this year - was storytelling, as evidenced by both programming and exhibitors. Mere names and dates are not enough - and can be quite dry - while adding in context and the personalities of our ancestors makes our projects much more interesting. Many exhibitors in the hall focused on story telling in some way, including various software designed to make it easier to record, organize, tell these stories, while preserving them and transmitting them to future generations.
Throughout each day, MyHeritage offered mini-demos of features at our booth, while both chief genealogist Daniel Horowitz and business development manager Mark Olsen presented well-attended conference programs and demonstrations. I was pleased to have been interviewed on genealogy by a local radio station, and had the opportunity to interview several major bloggers, including James Tanner, Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver and DearMyrtle.
MyHeritage's booth was crowded every day but - following our keynote on Saturday morning - we were mobbed by huge crowds of attendees clamoring to register at our computers.
The opening act to our keynote was the very funny and talented David Pogue, weekly personal technology columnist for The New York Times, who offered a comical look at today's technology, including an iPhone app for the ocarina, a simple musical instrument.
The MyHeritage keynote presentation was delivered by marketing officer Ori Soen and major geneablogger James Tanner, an enthusiastic long-term user of MyHeritage. as a last-minute replacement for our founder and CEO Gilad Japhet. He could not be with us due to the recent death of his father, Gideon. Our presentation was dedicated to his memory.
The large geneabloggers group enjoyed the birthday party of blogger guru Thomas Macentee and we shared breakfasts and dinners, while catching up on each day's events. At least 50 geneabloggers, including those from Spain, Germany and other countries, attended the conference. We are linked through our enthusiastic shared interest in family history.
Ori shared the following MyHeritage statistics: We now have 150 employees in several locations, 75 million worldwide users who use the site in 40 languages, and we add 1 million new profiles each day. He added that we have a global focus with records from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the East, in addition to the British Isles, Scandinavia, Western Europe and North America.
James talked about MyHeritage's “genealogy elves” and described some of our features as “pure magic.” He said SmartMatching may be the most sophisticated matching service available - with 97% accuracy. The technology discovers potential records of your ancestors in traditional genealogy records, local papers and in other collections.
Another interesting program focused on “The Future of Genealogy;" participants included MyHeritage chief genealogist Daniel Horowitz. The video is available at the link above.
Genealogy education - especially for the younger generations - is a particular interest of mine, and I was pleased to see Janet Havorka of Family ChartMasters with her new book, Zap the Grandma Gap Power Up Workbook: The Particulars About How To Connect With Your Family by Connecting Them To Their Family History. If you are wondering how to interest the next generation in their heritage, this book is for you. It is filled with all sorts of ideas and activities, games, interview questions. Check it out here and download the 35-page children's fill-in-the-blanks activity book and other useful information, as well as two excerpts from the book with even more ideas and activities.
Most presentations were packed, and attendees reported that they often had to get a seat at the program prior to the one they really wanted to attend to make sure they had a seat!
The MyHeritage team is already looking forward to RootsTech 2014!