The Innovation Summit and the First Day of the FGS Conference in Salt Lake City

The long-awaited combined conferences of RootsTech and of the Federation of Genealogical Societies started today. I have been to a lot of genealogy conferences in the past 27 years but this was an event I will not soon forget. And that’s after only one day!

Total attendance at these combined events is expected to be about 20,000 people. That will break down into about 12,000 paid attendees at the RootsTech and FGS conferences plus an additional 8,000 or so adolescents and their family members who are expected to attend a one-day Family Discovery Day on Saturday. In addition, many of the sessions are being videotaped and will later be shown to about 200,000 more people at various family history events around the world. The presentations are being translated into ten different languages.

I heard a lot of numbers today, often given in rapid-fire succession. I didn’t get a chance to write all of them down. I believe the numbers included more than 400 presentations over four days by the leading genealogy lecturers of our time plus more than 170 vendors demonstrating a wide variety of products and services in the exhibits hall.

Now THAT’S a family history conference!

The Federation of Genealogical Societies’ conference started this morning (Wednesday) with FGS awards presentations, followed by a keynote speech by Deena Coutant entitled Applying TLC to Create New Growth. The focus of her talk was on “how to grow your local genealogy society.” One of her statements struck me as true: ” It depends on the age and type of the society amd its current development.” Another of her statements that I will remember for a long time was “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.”

You can find more of Deena’s work on her blog at

Jen Baldwin, a specialist in social media uses for genealogy, followed with an equally impressive talk. She described how and why genealogy societies need to use social media to reach present and future members. She advised, “Don’t simply jump on the bandwagon and do what everyone else is doing.” Instead, find your own niche. She talked a lot about brand exposure and focused objectives.

The final presentation at the opening session was made by Curt Witcher, Senior Manager for Special Collections at Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana and a long-time active member, officer, and board member of several national genealogy organizations. The theme of his talk was loosely similar to the two previous presentations except that Curt provided a “hands on” approach. Some of his memorable lines included:

“The thing we need to change is our outlook.”

A bad start for any conversation is: “If only we could…”

Many societies specialize in lethargy.

We are in the people biz: We are helping living people find dead ones. It’s all about the experience.

Don’t ask “Why?” Instead, ask “Why not?”

All in all, it was a great start for the 4-day FGS conference.

In contrast, RootsTech is a 3-day conference, scheduled to start tomorrow (Thursday). However, a one-day Innovator Summit sponsored by RootsTech was held today. It offered developers, business leaders, and entrepreneur’s access to the latest content and resources that provide insight on family history data, services and inspiration for current and future projects.

The keynote speech at the Innovator Summit was delivered by Nathan Furr, PhD, a. He has a PhD from Stanford University. His new book, The Innovator’s Method (Harvard Business Review Press, September 2014) combines innovation and entrepreneurship, bringing the radical “lean start-up” approach to innovation into established organizations. His previous book, Nail It Then Scale It (NISI Institute, 2011), shows how the seeds of entrepreneurial success are sown before you build anything.

Other speakers included Harrison Tang, cofounder and chief executive officer of; Mike Davis, cofounder and chief executive officer of StoryPress; and Robert Charles Anderson, FASG, director of the Great Migration Study Project at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

This year’s RootsTech Innovator Challenge offered a new, and improved challenge for developers and entrepreneurs, with $25,000 in prizes. The judging and wrap-up is still ongoing with final announcements expected in a couple of days. You can read more at

Whew! It was a busy day! However, the next three days promise to be even busier. With an event this large, I find it impossible to see and experience everything and to write about all the new things in this newsletter. However, I will make an attempt to cover as much as I can in each of the next three days.

You can also read more at and at

Stay tuned!


You sound like a kid in a well-stocked, dreamland candy shop. Enjoy! I’m enjoying your excitement as well as the summary.


How can we see the livestreaming?


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