The first official day of RootsTech 2016 was held today. (I am ignoring the “Innovation Summit” which was a somewhat separate activity held yesterday. While sponsored by the same FamilySearch organization, the Innovation Summit was intended for a different audience. Today was the first day of the “official” RootsTech aimed at all genealogists.)
Today’s RootsTech was sponsored by MyHeritage. The day started with several keynote speakers:
Steve Rockwood, managing director of the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offered opening remarks and invited everyone to create memories and family stories and to share them with TODAY’S family members. He offered a number of suggestions of how to get family members interested, even those that today have not expressed an interest in family history.
Steve then introduced a guest who was not listed in the Conference Guide or on the other schedules that I saw. In fact, he was a guest I have seen a number of times on television but never expected to see at a genealogy conference: Stan Ellsworth is the host of BYU-tv’s hit history series, American Ride. His appearance in the picture below may make you wonder if he is really interested in genealogy:
Stan Ellsworth made the most spectacular entrance I have ever seen at a genealogy conference. In a room full of thousands of genealogists, we first heard the roar of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with straight pipes, soon followed by the bright glare of headlights. Stan then rode his Harley through the audience inside the Salt Palace convention center (behind ropes that had been strategically placed to keep the audience out of the path of the motorcycle), missing my toes by a couple of feet, and rode the Harley up to the podium.
If you have a chance to watch today’s keynote session on streaming Internet video, you HAVE to watch Stan’s entrance!
Anyone who has watched American Ride will already know that Stan is a serious historian and storyteller. Ellsworth has described himself, or been described in press and publicity materials, as an ex-NFL linebacker, a former first sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, a defensive coordinator for the University of Arizona and University of Pennsylvania, a licensed high school teacher, and a history scholar with a PhD from the University of Utah. His talk was fascinating. Again, you need to watch that talk on streaming video.
At the end of Stan Ellsworth’s presentation, he introduced Paula Williams Madison, Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management, LLC, a retired NBCUniversal Executive, and producer and subject of Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China. She described her quest to find the complete life story of her grandfather, a man who lived in Harlem and then returned to China, leaving behind a wife in Harlem. You can read a lot more about her story on her web site at http://findingsamuellowe.com.
Aaron Godfrey, VP of Marketing at MyHeritage, offered welcoming remarks and talked a bit about how delighted MyHeritage is to sponsor the sessions today. He also invited everyone to see MyHeritage’s latest technology. You can learn more about Aaron at https://www.myheritage.com/management/aaron_godfrey.
At the end of the keynote talks, the Exhibits Hall opened to a mad rush of thousands of genealogists. I skipped the crowd and went elsewhere but was later told it looked like Bargain Monday at Filene’s Basement. (Anyone from Boston will understand that reference). A while later the first of 250+ presentations started. The Exhibits Hall crowd thinned out a bit and I then entered the hall safely.
The entire day was crowded as thousands of genealogists thronged the hallways, classrooms, and Exhibits Halls. Total paid attendance is now over 25,000 people. A friend of mine in the crowd had been to earlier RootsTech conferences but had missed the last year or two. She sent me a text message in mid-morning: “Where did all these people come from?”
I wandered the Exhibits Hall the rest of the and took a lot of pictures. A few of them are shown below. Click on any picture to view a larger version.
More pictures tomorrow!